It’s not surprising that Democrats and independents say he should wear a mask in public. It is a little surprising that a majority of Republicans say so too given the insufferably stupid arguments from some populists that mask-wearing is a form of cowardice or “social control” or whatever today’s nihilistic grievance du jour is.
In reality, mask-wearing could be a key weapon in making it safe for more parts of the country to reopen soon. In fact, I wonder if part of the reason the tentative reopenings in Georgia and Florida have gone better than expected is because most Americans (not all, but most) are taking sensible precautions when venturing out and limiting the spread.
Which leaves Trump in an awkward position. If he sticks to his guns and refuses to wear a mask, more Republicans are bound to follow his lead — which could lead to more spread and slow down the economic recovery. Whereas if he gives in and starts wearing a mask, we might beat back the disease and revive the economy — at the price of him having to look a tiny bit silly.
Probably 50/50 in his mind.
On the issue of masks, however, more than 70 percent of respondents in a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll to be published Wednesday say that when Trump and Pence travel, they should wear face coverings in public places. Concurring with that position are 82 percent of Democrats, 70 percent of independents and 58 percent of Republicans.
Only 12 percent say the president and vice president should not wear masks in public places, and 17 percent say they do not know or have no opinion.
“When it comes to President Trump and Vice President Pence, there is a rare, bipartisan consensus among voters that they should be wearing masks when in public. This issue is sure to remain center-stage as the White House deals with its own outbreak of COVID-19,” said Tyler Sinclair, vice president at Morning Consult.
Pence has worn a mask recently. Jared wore one at a press conference on Monday. It’s only a matter of time before the big guy gives in. Once he does, maybe we can dispense with nonsense virtue-signaling like this:
U.S. troops forced to cope with a pandemic have in fact worn masks before:
“The U.S. Army 39th regiment wear masks to prevent influenza in Seattle in December of 1918. The soldiers are on their way to France.”
— Ari Schulman (@AriSchulman) May 13, 2020
This made me laugh too:
The essence of 2020 politics is a bunch of heavily armed protesters wearing bulletproof vests and SWAT helmets loudly screaming that it’s cowardly to wear a cloth mask to protect yourself against something that might try to kill you.
— Matt Glassman (@MattGlassman312) May 13, 2020
“Does anyone doubt that if Trump was conspicuously pro-mask none of this #CowardMask stuff would be happening?” asked Jonathan Last. “And that if Trump wears a mask tomorrow, all of these people will turn on a dime?” Probably right, but it’s hard to tell if partisanship is the key factor in opposition to masks or if gender differences are. Republicans are more skeptical of masks than Democrats and men are more skeptical of them than women, and since men skew right ideologically and women skew left we’re left wondering which is the chicken and which the egg. E.g.:
My hunch is that masculinity is more important to partisanship here. You don’t get people attacking security guards because they feel they’re being asked to behave like a Democrat, you get people attacking security guards because they feel they’re being asked to behave like pussies. But there may be something to this too:
The mask blazons right across the face: “The Trump administration failed. Massively. They said they had this virus under control. Instead, it raged so far out of control that we’ve had to remake our way of life.”
The mask strings an accusation from ear to ear. 3/x
— David Frum (@davidfrum) May 13, 2020
Trump himself has reportedly complained to aides that if he’s photographed wearing a mask the photo will be used in every Democratic attack ad from now until November, which is astute. It’s a visual admission that the virus got the upper hand on America after many weeks of promises in February that we’d get past it quickly. It’s easier to resort to denialism about the threat, or mumble empty mantras of bravado a la Reno, than to put one on.
But I don’t know. Maybe we’re turning a corner on all this?
— Brad Parscale (@parscale) May 7, 2020
I’ll leave you with one more data point from the Morning Consult poll. Weirdly, Republicans were slightly more likely than Democrats to see the virtue in wearing masks in early April. I wonder if the trends reversed because the scale of the epidemic became plain to everyone. The worse things got in New York, the more Democrats may have warmed to masks as a symbol of how badly the federal government had failed in containing the plague. And the more Republicans may have cooled to them for the same reason.