Throughout the seemingly interminable coronavirus crisis, the majority of public criticism for our collective bungling of the pandemic has rightfully been leveled at President Donald Trump, who deliberately concealed the severity of the disease from the nation and actively undermined the efforts of public health officials to instill a sense of urgency in the public. But we are nearly a year into the pandemic with higher death tolls — over 3,000 people a day, or one 9/11 — than we’ve ever seen before, and the behavior of certain Democratic leaders should not be allowed to go without chastisement for their irresponsibility and displays of counter-productive arrogance.
It has been a Heculeanean task to get a very suspicious American public to comply with the social distancing protocols, mask mandates, and quarantines that medical experts say are the key to stopping the spread of the COVID-19 virus, especially when they’ve had to actively fight against White House’s selfish and depraved efforts to get people to sacrifice their lives and those of their families to feed the hunger of capital.
So it’s not very helpful when California’s Governor Gavin Newsom, who was just forced to issue his strongest lockdown order yet due to skyrocketing COVID-19 infection rates, is busted attending parties at the very expensive French Laundry restaurant — as did the mayor of San Francisco, London Breed.
Nor is it helpful for the Mayor of Denver, Michael Hancock, to fly home for Thanksgiving after banning his entire staff from doing so.
And it’s just insulting to see the Mayor of Austin, Steve Adler, take a family vacation to Cabo, Mexico, and then have the nerve to film a Facebook video there telling his city’s residents that “We need to stay home if you can. This is not the time to relax. We are going to be looking really closely. … We may have to close things down if we are not careful.”
What kind of message is this supposed to send to people?
As the coronavirus crisis drastically exacerbates all the other simmering crises facing the American people — housing, employment, income inequality, healthcare — we have also been told for months and months to restrict ourselves from social contact and cut ourselves off from the people we love.
Millions of people have done so dutifully, some at great cost to their mental and emotional health, with no end in sight beyond vague hopes of a vaccine sometime in the next year, and it is infuriating to see our political elite flout the rules that they themselves have imposed upon us. Not only is it wildly counterproductive and a disgraceful abdication of their responsibility to the public, but it also is a sharp reminder of just how unequal things are in this country.
While Newsom and Adler flitter around the country, they know that if they fall sick they have access to the advanced medical technology — paid for by taxpayers! — that somehow kept decaying cholesterol sacks like Donald Trump and Chris Christie from dying from the COVID-19 virus.
But the vast majority of us are not so lucky and will have to say goodbye to our loved ones via iPad to avoid infecting them too.
These are iPad stations being prepared for virtual ICU end of life visits by a palliative care doc I know. Jesus. pic.twitter.com/lIgbg0FhaL
— i cant drive, n95 (@roto_tudor) December 3, 2020
For regular people who do survive, they can expect to spend the next month or so on the phone attempting to navigate a deliberately byzantine health insurance payment bureaucracy that pulls out all the stops to deny them coverage and end up in crippling debt for the foreseeable future. This debt is expected to be paid off in an economy that has lost millions of jobs that will likely never come back and paid heartlessly low wages before the pandemic even hit!
I’m sure the rest of us would love to fly to Mexico and go out to dinner at a nice restaurant, but we don’t because we have been ordered not to.
So I don’t think it’s too much to ask that our elected officials practice what they preach and at least make a cursory attempt to show that they care about the lives of their constituents. Getting this pandemic under control has been hard enough as it is, and we have nearly 300,000 dead Americans to show for it. It wouldn’t kill our political elites to shoulder one-tenth of the burden that the rest of us have had to, and if they are incapable of not going to fancy dinners with billionaires or skipping a vacation here or there, then perhaps its time for new leaders who don’t see pandemic restrictions as something that only applies to the plebs.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.