Last week, President Biden announced he would be going to court to prolong the pandemic over masks, while Democrats in Florida screamed and cried when a multinational conglomerate was stripped of special perks almost no other company has. What could possibly explain this reflexive desire to take the wrong side over and over again except ongoing Trump Derangement?
Former President Donald Trump left office over a year ago, is banned from social media, and hasn’t officially announced any future plans to seek the Presidency a second time, but the Democrat party remains captive to his thrall, continuing their reflexive habit of opposing any position he has or they believe he might have whether or not it makes any moral, logical, or political sense. It’s as if they can no longer rationally judge an issue on its merits, and reach a conclusion consistent with either the current will of the people or their own recently held positions. Instead, none of it matters while pursuing the latest anti-Trumpian political crusade, whether or not the former President is involved in the first place given he occupies no political office whatsoever and his only influence is via his continuing popularity in Republican circles. I understand some may find this an exaggeration or even a preposterous proposition. How can one man have done this to almost an entire political party? To that I ask, how else can you explain why President Joe Biden is going to court to intentionally prolong the pandemic and force people to wear masks again, or the sight of state representatives in Florida literally screaming and crying because one of the world’s largest and most powerful companies is losing special privileges almost no other company has?
Let’s begin in Florida, where Republicans were infuriated after Disney, the state’s largest employer, committed to funding a repeal of a new parental rights law perjoratively known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, though the bill itself doesn’t actually mention the word gay or homosexual even once. At first, Disney CEO Bob Chapek resisted calls to get his company involved, but ultimately he caved to pressure from the media and a segment of his own employees who staged a walkout. The company quickly reversed course, issuing a statement last month decrying the law and vowing to fight against it. “Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law. Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country.” Of course, Disney is entitled to its opinion. They can take whatever position they like, but perhaps they should consider their own record and the largesse granted to them by lawmakers before wading into a political battle. After all, this is a company that currently operates in China and other countries where homosexuality is decried as an aberration. Most recently, Disney edited a scene from the Marvel movie, The Eternals, removing references to a character’s homosexuality to appease the censors in China, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. Apparently, Mickey Mouse can’t say “gay” in those countries, but that is somewhat beside the point.
More relevant now is that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis chose to retaliate for the company meddling in the state’s affairs by pushing to strip Disney of their status as an “independent special district.” This special district status had allowed the company to operate as its own government across a 40 square mile stretch outside of Orlando. In this domain, Mickey was essentially king, collecting taxes and performing the duties normally associated with a local government like electricity, water and roads, plus police and fire. The king will now lose his crown next July, as well as being stripped of an exemption from an online censorship bill, but something incredibly odd happened before the law’s final passage and signature: Democrats, including the President of the United States, were suddenly arguing that special perks for large, multinational companies were a good thing. They went straight from decrying the original “don’t say gay bill” to defending a multinational conglomerate that rakes in billions a year around the world. “I respect conservatives,” President Biden said last Thursday. “There’s nothing conservative about deciding you’re going to throw Disney out of its present posture because, Mickey Mouse? In fact, do you think we should not be able to say, you know, ‘gay?’ I mean, what’s going on here? What the hell is going on? And it’s just, it’s so, I don’t believe it’s where the vast majority of the American people are,” apparently under the belief that there is majority support for deep pocketed special interest carve outs.
Likewise, progressive commentator and former Press Secretary for the Bernie Sander’s campaign, Symone Sanders, was outright rooting for the lobbyists and special interests, telling a panel on MSNBC that “My money is on the Disney lobbyists, honey.” Jim Newell from the liberal website Slate.com, argued that “No One Punches the Mouse in the Face,” noting that “Disney’s reputation as omnipotent in Tallahassee is almost the stuff of folklore. It brings billions of dollars to the state and employs tens of thousands of people. It donates millions to Florida politicians, with the bulk of it going to the Republicans that control Florida and Republican-leaning groups. It plays a leading role in state business lobbies, like Associated Industries of Florida, and rarely has much trouble securing new tax breaks. It further wields its influence, and spends its money, to beat back would-be competitors to its resort empire. A couple of the political operatives I first wanted to speak with about Disney’s influence had to decline because Disney was a client. The Mouse is everywhere.” Mr. Newell quotes Richard Fogelsong, a professor of political science at Rollins College who wrote a book on the history of Disney and Florida. “I’m still shocked that this is occurring. There was a saying, locally, at the county level, in Orange County, that you don’t get ahead politically by going against Disney,” he said. “It’d be like attacking Mother Teresa.”
Mickey, mighty as he was, has now been cut down to size by Governor DeSantis and his fellow Republicans. In other words, they took on a special interest directly and eliminated their perks and privileges. Under normal circumstances, one might think Democrats would be enthused, having taken to heart Senator Bernie Sanders’ long running crusade to “Get Corporate Money Out of Politics.” Instead, Florida Democrats were literally screaming and crying as the law passed, apparently now arguing that “dark money” is good and the corrosive influence of “corporations are people” on political debate is no longer corrosive. How else do you explain this except as a reflex of anything that even remotely smacks of Trumpism?
Also last week, Americans on planes literally cheered when a US District Court Judge struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s over two year mask mandate on public transportation systems, but rather than view this as another sign that the pandemic is over, progressives plan to prolong it even further, expressing their outrage on social media. Boston-area Emergency Room Physician, Dr. Jeremy Faust, took to Twitter to claim the move will kill children. “The odd thing about my being disappointed in @United dropping its mask mandate is how many people who claim to love kids are totally cool with this meaning that a small number of babies will die of Covid, when we’re weeks away from a vaccinate for all ages over 6 months,” he wrote. Another doctor, Eric Fiegl-Ding, based in DC, claimed, “Smoking and nonsmoking parts of the plane? Peeing and nonpeeing parts of the swimming pool? That’s like the coronavirus on an airplane,” adding “I will not be flying @AlaskaAir until they reinstate public safety measures against #COVID19. #BoycottAlaskaAir.” “I am literally begging companies to make all mask flights and cars, if they won’t mandate a full masking policy,” tweeted Rotem Rusak, a journalist in New York. “Like a smoking room or car or something. You don’t want to wear a mask great, you can be on the non masked flights.” Author and podcaster Mary O’Hara, chimed in with, “Has anyone suggested to airlines that they offer some flights only for people who wish to retain mask use? Is this feasible? If not, why not? What about on busy routes with multiple flights per day? I would actively look for and book those flights.”
Progressive legal scholars immediately jumped into the fray as well, decrying the 33-year old female judge who issued the decision, Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, as too young and inexperienced, and in fact confused about the law. She simply didn’t understand what she was doing in their mind even though her decision was based on the actual text of the 1944 Public Health Service Act, which authorizes the government to prevent the spread of diseases via the following measures, “provide for such inspection, fumigation, disinfection, sanitation, pest extermination, destruction of animals or articles found to be so infected or contaminated as to be sources of dangerous infection to human beings, and other measures, as in his judgment may be necessary.” The Biden Administration had argued that masks can be mandated under the “sanitation” clause, but Judge Mizelle disagreed. She wrote, “Wearing a mask cleans nothing. At most, it traps virus droplets. But it neither ‘sanitizes’ the person wearing the mask nor ‘sanitizes’ the conveyances.” She found additional support in the other clauses, “fumigation,” “disinfection,” and “pest extermination,” all refer to the act of cleansing or removing something to reduce the risk of disease. These are actions the government performs on a physical space, not upon people in the space, and nothing in the bill remotely refers to mandating passengers wear protective gear or indeed do anything at all. Putting this another way, can the government mandate that all passengers take a shower before boarding a flight and check your relative level of body odor to be sure? Can they delouse you or fumigate you personally?
These considerations didn’t prevent Erin Fuse Brown, a law professor at Georgia State, from claiming, “If one of my students turned in this opinion as their final exam, I don’t know if I would agree that they had gotten the analysis correct. It reads like someone who had decided the case and then tried to dress it up as legal reasoning without actually doing the legal reasoning.” Of course, none of the critics are really disputing the reasoning. You might disagree with her interpretation, but to suggest it’s not an actual interpretation is merely misdirection because the language of the law does not refer to masks in any way shape or form, especially when the federal government has never issued a mask mandate in all of US history. Ms. Fuse Brown might claim that “Sanitation was just the old way in public health parlance of taking traditional public health steps to prevent the spread of disease,” but what does that even mean? The old way in public health parlance of taking public health steps? Isn’t the real question what those steps can be? Ms. Fuse Brown also points out that masks were worn in some areas during the 1918 pandemic, but fails to acknowledge there was no federal mandate back then either. If that’s the case, and the writers of the public health bill knew about masking 30 years later, why wouldn’t they include it specifically if this was standard operating procedure? Ms. Fuse Brown and others also bemoan that this decision will make it harder for the Biden Administration to control the spread of coronavirus, without noting the irony that they have been completely incapable of doing so, even with these mandates in place. What is the point of a Federal mask mandate two years after the pandemic has defied any and all attempts to quell it, with cases spiking to unseen highs earlier this year even after the majority of Americans were vaccinated if not boosted? Finally, she declares, “The reasoning is poor, but it also has really drastic and dire consequences for public health, which is the part that makes it not just a joke, but it actually makes it really frightening.”
In my opinion, the only thing frightening is that the Biden Administration agrees with this line of reasoning because they are planning to appeal the decision, going to court to put the mandate back in place. In other words, they are intentionally hoping to prolong the pandemic, demanding people mask back up until they say otherwise. This as even some Democratic strategists believe Judge Mizelle gave President Biden a political gift by ending the mandate. He can now argue that he would’ve preferred to see it in place, rail against Trump appointed judges, and not have to deal with a public that has grown increasingly tired of the never ending battle against the virus, as evidenced by the collective cheers once the mandate was struck down.
At the same time, it is difficult not to see this as more reflexive anti-Trumpism. If you recall, President Trump was rather lukewarm about masks in general, rarely wearing one himself, and not exactly keen on mandates. This turned masking into a sign of the resistance, a way to virtue signal that you are not a Trump Republican, and it seems obvious to me this feeling lingers to this day. They’re fighting to mask you back up because once upon a time they thought Trump was against them, regardless of the current political climate or the state of the pandemic. Ultimately, it is also difficult to see how this ends. Conventional wisdom suggests Democrats are heading for an epic defeat in the midterm elections. The much-maligned Ron DeSantis is expected to win handily in Florida. Conceivably, Democrats could change course afterwards, but I’m not sure anyone truly believes they will actually do so. Trump derangement regardless of the issue appears to be a permanent feature of the party now.