Mask Wearing Is No Political Theater

Kevin Drum

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Over at National Review, David Harsanyi points out that the federal government probably doesn’t have the authority to force everyone in the country to wear masks. Fair enough. But then he goes further:

Mask wearing has become just another stupid front in our partisan war. The fact is that whenever Donald Trump fails to engage the federal government in ways that Democrats demand, they claim he is negligent; and whenever he uses the federal government in ways they oppose, they rediscover the Tenth Amendment and accuse him of being a dictator. Trump could no more declare a no-mask mandate than Biden could force the entire country to wear masks. It’s all just political theater.

No, no, no. Maybe Trump can’t mandate mask wearing, but this is the farthest thing in the world from political theater. It might be the most important thing in the country right now, and Trump’s bully pulpit is, by far, the most effective way of promoting it. He’s the one who made this into a culture war issue, and he’s the one who can stop it. If Trump declared that masks were important, Fox News would follow along, talk radio would follow along, and red-state governors would start putting in place mask mandates at the local level. On a personal level, the people who are refusing to wear masks are precisely the people who would be most swayed by hearing from Trump himself that mask wearing is important.

If Trump did this, thousands of lives would be saved. That’s no political theater.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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