“This is not politics,” Joe Biden said last week. “Reinstate the mandate if you let it down.” Give him credit for consistency: When Gov. Greg Abbott ended Texas’s mask mandate last month, Biden called it “Neanderthal thinking.”
But maybe the Neanderthals got it right. COVID-19 deaths in Texas plunged in March, and as National Review’s Philip Klein points out, there’s no relationship between mask mandates and coronavirus levels.
Biden is clearly wrong on another point. This is not “not about politics.” America’s constitutional federal system, and the latitude both the Trump and Biden administrations have given to state governments, has produced distinctly different Democratic and Republican coronavirus policies.
Democrats have tended to impose mask mandates, to order the closing of restaurants and retail businesses, and to require distancing rules. Republicans have tended to push for full-time instruction in schools and to allow open-air gatherings in playgrounds and beaches.
Yes, there are exceptions here and there. But what’s most striking is the prevalence of partisan patterns. Look at the maps of school closings, mask mandates, and mask usage, and the partisan patterns are obvious.
The economic results are obvious, too. With more restrictions, Democratic states have seen higher unemployment and less economic growth than Republican states.