Gohmert aide, Republican staffers tell Politico they've been pressured not to wear masks at work

Gohmert aide, Republican staffers tell Politico they've been pressured not to wear masks at work

I’d love to be skeptical about this but the same nonsense appeared from within the Trump campaign a few weeks ago. It’s not that Trump himself was pressuring staff to go maskless, it’s that the moronic floomerist contrarianism that’s spread among parts of the Republican base was destined to filter up and infect Team Trump too even if it didn’t filter down from the top. Politico reported in early July that basic precautions weren’t being taken at Trump 2020 HQ in Arlington:

But the office was shut down for its first deep cleaning in weeks after a senior campaign official tested positive for the virus. The decision to conduct the cleaning came after two months of flouting the Trump administration’s own public health guidance: There are no face coverings or temporary barriers between desks at headquarters, and leaders have limited efforts to implement social distancing…

Facing no threat of enforcement, the Trump campaign has continued to make its own rules on coronavirus protections, said the individuals, who requested anonymity to speak freely. For instance, staff have been told to wear masks outside the office, in case they’re spotted by reporters, but they’ve been instructed that it’s acceptable to remove them in the office, the individuals said, adding that staff also publicly joke about the risk of coronavirus and play down the pandemic’s threat.

“You get made fun of, if you wear a mask,” said one person. “There’s social pressure not to do it.”

Case in point, here’s one of the most influential young right-wingers in America insisting a few days ago that (a) the jury is still out on masks, which isn’t really true and becomes less true by the day, and (b) he’s only following the left’s edict of “my body, my choice,” which makes no sense in the context of putting someone else at risk through your behavior.

Why the hostility to masks persists among populists, or pretend populists, would take a team of psychologists to dissect. The most charitable take is that it’s a libertarian impulse, however lame and self-defeating. Your freedom *is* being very mildly infringed by mask rules, although no more so than by rules preventing you from walking around in public naked. A less charitable take is that it’s a show of spite by people who have underestimated the threat from the virus since the beginning and, rather than admit that they got it wrong, prefer to double down with dopey “f*** your mask” invective. Which is consistent, at least, with the Trumpist ethos of never, ever admitting fault. Better to get sick and to get other people sick than do something that suggests your opponents were right.

My theory is that it’s another manifestation of the mindless contrarianism that now defines the GOP. It’s not that Republicans are “anti-mask.” It’s that they’re anti-left, and the left is all-in on masks. That also explains why it was so easy for Trump to coopt the party in 2016 and turn it into a personality cult: It was a fundamentally empty vessel which he was able to fill with his own persona. Just as tea-party fervor for smaller government and less spending melted away upon his inauguration and is now rightly seen as anti-Obamaism decked out in ideological grandeur, the great mask debate boils down to taking whatever side is opposite the left in America’s newest culture war and turning it into something about liberty or thoughtful skepticism about scientific methods or whatever. The haughtier and more insistent liberals are that everyone follow their new orthodoxy, the louder and more strident the yelps of opposition become.

So go figure that staffers in Gohmert’s office, and apparently not just in Gohmert’s office, are whispering today to Politico that they’ve been discouraged from doing the one thing they can realistically do at work to function while keeping those around them a bit safer than they’d otherwise be:

Damon Linker, a columnist for The Week, can’t figure this out:

The right doesn’t have “elites,” though, per populist politics. “Elite” is pejorative, denoting an enemy of the people. Only Democrats and RINOs are truly elite. The president, a billionaire celebrity who lived in a gilded apartment before being elected, can’t qualify, nor can anyone aligned with him like Gohmert. If you assume that the point of righty populism isn’t to actually advance a policy agenda (apart from immigration) but to spite the left, then making staffers take off their masks makes sense. “The country needs better elites” just means “the country’s left-leaning governing class sucks and thus we’re entitled to own them as irresponsibly as we like.”

I repeat what I said a week ago: The GOP isn’t a political party anymore in any meaningful sense. It’s purpose isn’t to govern, it’s to give ambitious narcissists a platform to posture and perform the real-world equivalent of sh*tposting. Making staffers at risk of disease take off their masks to own the libs is in line with that, if an especially disgusting example.

True to form, here’s Gohmert earlier today speculating that he finally got COVID because he wore a mask. In a healthy political culture, this would be a moment to say, “I don’t know if not wearing a mask had anything to do with my infection but I wish I’d done it sooner and hope everyone watching will take precautions to keep the people around them safe.” But because our ethos now is “never admit fault,” he’d rather use the occasion of him getting the virus to further discourage masks instead of acknowledging that alarmists might have had a point. Perfect ending.

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