There was, you’ll remember, much tut-tutting about South Dakota’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which may have strewn new covid-19 infections across the Upper Midwest. Yet when revelers filled the streets to celebrate Biden’s victory, few voiced the opinion that maybe, with the whole country turning into a hotspot, it would be better to stay home. I’ve heard a lot more harsh words for South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem’s laissez faire approach than for D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser violating her own quarantine order so she could attend Biden’s victory party in Delaware. (She absurdly deemed her action “essential travel.”)
Arguably, the Sturgis rally is worse than a spontaneous street party since many Sturgis attendees eschewed masks and crowded into indoor after-parties, the sort of sites where the worst contagion is apt to occur. And Bowser’s hypocrisy is not as bad as Noem’s defiant refusal to do much of anything as cases spike. But the people who need to hear those explanations don’t trust us highly educated elites enough to listen.
Nor can I blame them, exactly. Even though the media has gotten right the big story of the pandemic and the election, we, and the experts we cite, have too often been an unreliable narrator on important details. On politics as well as pandemic, for which some highly educated elites have given themselves quite a few passes in recent years: lampooning conservative conspiracies while tacitly agreeing not to delve too deeply into their own multiyear Russia obsession; hyperventilating when Trump says he won an election he clearly lost but bashful when, say, Stacey Abrams refused to concede or when Hillary Clinton called Trump an “illegitimate president.”