The Pandemic that Keeps on Giving

With very rare exceptions now on display in the Senate, congressional Democrats are a mass movement worthy of a few aphorisms from the late, great Eric Hoffer. Wholly disinclined to individualism, their tendency to cohesion is blatantly undemocratic, whether when voting en masse and on cue or looking the other way when it comes to street violence, criticism of China, goodwill to Israel, and any slur to race or religion coming from within their ranks. Republicans, on the other hand, seem a bit discombobulated, preferring to take potshots at themselves and reluctant to build unanimity against the careless governing, blatant hypocrisy, and double standards of their opponents. As a result, the body politic that harbors the socialist Left, progressive, or insurgent bloc has matured as a powerful covenant in ways antithetical to the loose allegiances of the Grand Old Party.

At no time has the ideological goosestep among the Democrat leadership been more apparent than during the pandemic. Generating fear and uncertainty in the midst of a presidential campaign, it opened the door for innumerable and abusive federal and state regulations that shredded the Constitution and force-fed the American public a heaping portion of socialism.

SARS-CoV-2, or by its household name COVID-19, is a China-formulated, sticky microorganism engineered to superglue itself to the human lung and vents most of its lethality on the old and infirm. Nonetheless, all Americans, regardless of age, low risk, and high rate of recovery, hid themselves behind ineffective designer masks, cut themselves off from the human race, and were ordered to follow the foibles of a science bent more to the politics of control than reduction of harm. State political leaders had their way with the body politic, used it to disrupt the electoral process, and put a laughingstock in the Oval Office.

Democrat governors, particularly those East Coast headliners in New York and New Jersey, created state monocracies through health emergency powers unwrapped from vintage statutes dating back to the Second World War. Beyond the reach of legislatures, those powers were swollen by executive orders issued month after month for more than a year, effectively kneecapping the occupational, social, educational, and religious routines of daily life.

On March 2, 2020, and for a hundred days thereafter, Andrew Cuomo gave in-person COVID briefings that captured the hearts and minds of a frightened nation and hijacked the airtime of afternoon soap operas. The country was bewitched by a Democrat with the bullish charisma of a Mafia don who exploited a love-hate relationship with President Trump and seemed to make sense even to those hardheaded Republicans. Voices rose over a presidential run, a book contract worth millions, and, after Joe Biden’s installation in the Oval Office, perhaps a cabinet berth as attorney general.

South of the border in New Jersey, in February 2020 Governor Phil Murphy’s poll numbers were tanking, his re-election hopes imperiled by a forty-one percent approval rating. Soft-spoken in public, with a crooked, toothy smile and an odd habit of mixing formal wear with sneakers, Murphy was a contradiction to the brawling persona of Chris Christie. Three years into his first term, he was still wrestling with his own party over a progressive agenda that included signature marijuana legalization and tax hikes on the wealthy. One in five Jerseyans had no opinion of him and he was stuck on the image of a Wall Street millionaire clueless to the issues of Main Street.

Then came the pandemic. On March 9, after a week of holding media briefings by phone, Murphy followed Cuomo’s lead. Accompanied by his health commissioner, daily socially distant and in-person public briefings began in one of the ornate anterooms of the Trenton War Memorial.

A pandemic bromance was brewing between Albany and Trenton, with Murphy as protégé. A week after Cuomo began repatriating more than 6,000 hospitalized COVID patients to nursing homes, Murphy acted in kind. He ordered his health commissioner, a registered nurse who earned her stripes as a hospital system administrator, to issue a decree to New Jersey’s 400 assisted-living facilities that was nearly identical in language and punctuation to the New York directive. In so doing, the two governors cut short the lifespans of well over 10,000 elderly residents and staff members.

By early May Murphy had issued a record-breaking 33 pandemic executive orders in eight weeks, 15 of which extended the health emergency at 30-day intervals. His popularity jumped to almost 70 percent. Dozens of other companion directives were unleashed in waves by the Health Department and other state agencies. Murphy was now ruling the roost completely by executive fiat, casting lots on what was and wasn’t an essential business and promising a recovery process using highly subjective goals and metrics. Big box outlets, liquor stores, and marijuana shops were open; fitness centers and mom and pop retailers were shuttered. Dust gathered on church altars. Family gatherings and holiday dinners were scrutinized, with window curtains lowered against Murphy’s encouragement of neighborhood snitches.

New Jersey was on a war footing, with its chief executive baking in a new recipe for human behavior and altering the conventional routines of movement and speech in a free society. Those who didn’t bend to Murphy’s will triggered punitive swipes of state power in the form of summons, fines, liquor license suspensions, and lawsuits. Scofflaws to his diktats were called out in his press briefings, reduced to knuckleheads, putzes, fools, and bozos.

Away from the friendly and scripted tabletop briefings, Murphy’s public appearances were often missteps. He famously admitted to a stunned Tucker Carlson that the Bill of Rights was “above his pay grade” and didn’t factor into his COVID restrictions. His vindictiveness gave conservative media a pretext to make a folk hero of a South Jersey gym owner who defied a business lockdown order enforced with padlocked doors and police visits.

Although cast as the COVID autocrat, Murphy was still following close in Cuomo’s footsteps. In July, a couple of weeks after the New York governor scaled back from daily briefings, Murphy parroted the move.

For months after the vaccines became available in late December, Jersey seniors were plagued by irksome registration protocols that forced many into the wee hours to compete for online appointments and drove others to backroom deals that cut the line. Notwithstanding, by June six in ten of the state’s adults were immunized, putting Murphy within weeks of his goal of seventy percent. The Garden State was beginning to stir, with some looking about the country and sensing that there may have been better state solutions than outright despotism.

By the Spring of 2021, Cuomo’s coattails were in tatters from sex scandals and nursing home deaths. Feeling the heat of a similar scandal in New Jersey, Murphy finally distanced himself from his teacher.

The CDC unmasked America in mid-May, another bit of political bad timing that risked putting Murphy at odds with New Jersey’s powerhouse teacher and food service unions. Big Labor had largely funded Murphy’s 2017 campaign, angling for lockdowns that would keep members at full pay and kids out of schools. Murphy caved, rebuffed CDC advice, doubled down on indoor masks, and opened the spigot for the next round of campaign contributions.

With the honeymoon of COVID leadership now waning for Murphy, his May poll numbers slid to 57 percent. State Democrats understood that an election year is no time to let up on the reins, and their majorities in the Senate and Assembly agreed to play along.

While the New York and Pennsylvania legislatures are reeling in gubernatorial excesses of authority, the Soprano State has taken a different and dangerous path. Senate Bill 3820 will end the health emergency but allow the governor unfettered power through the election year to reinstate executive and agency directives that launched the draconian lockdowns and closures. In so doing, they will set a precedent for anarchic Democrat misrule in years to come.

Image: Siegeljulia

To comment, you can find the MeWe post for this article here.