In some ways, America is showing renewed signs of being the land of the free and the home of the brave. After nearly two years of enduring authoritarian COVID-19 decrees, Americans appear to be turning away from those who have been most enthusiastic about imposing such mandates.
This marks a shift from a little over a year ago. Gallup’s last survey before Election Day in 2020 found that American adults leaned toward the Democrats by 4 percentage points—the margin by which Joe Biden won the popular vote days later. In Gallup’s final poll before Donald Trump left office, that margin had ballooned to 14 points (51 percent Democratic-leaning, 37 percent Republican-leaning), following the tumultuous final two months of Trump’s presidency.
Then Biden took office. By early November of 2021, Gallup found that Americans no longer favored Democrats but instead leaned 6 points (47 percent to 41 percent) toward Republicans—a 20-point swing between the two parties in just 10 months. Across the previous 15 years of Gallup’s polling, neither party had ever lost so much ground so fast.
On a quarterly basis, Gallup found that Republicans held a five-point edge, on average, during the last three months of 2021. That was the GOP’s first five-point quarterly edge since 1995, achieved in the wake of beating back HillaryCare.
Gallup speculates that this historic shift in party allegiance across 2021 resulted from “the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan,” “rising inflation,” a “surge of COVID-19 infections,” and the “political winds.” While the first two of these were surely big factors, along with negligence in policing our borders and cities, Democrats’ response to COVID may have been the biggest factor.
Gallup’s polling isn’t the only warning sign for Democrats. RealClearPolitics’ senior election analyst Sean Trende has developed a model that has had success in predicting previous Senate elections. If the election were held today, his model indicates, the most likely scenario (given Biden’s low-40s approval rating) would be for Democrats to lose a net of four Senate seats. For that eye-opening result to occur, Democrats would have to lose 10 of the 11 swing-state seats up for grabs this year.
Democrats have already lost one election in a Democratic-leaning swing state where COVID mandates were a major issue. Democrat Terry McAuliffe vocally touted vaccine mandates, while Glenn Youngkin opposed them as undermining Virginians’ liberty. Youngkin became Virginia’s first Republican governor in 12 years.
Shortly before Youngkin’s victory, Biden mandated—during a worker shortage and supply-chain crisis, no less—that large companies require their employees to get vaccinated or face massive fines. Which would mean workers would either submit to the jab or lose their jobs.
Despite a shortage of hospital workers, the president also mandated that hospital employees get vaccinated or lose their jobs—because Biden and public health officials apparently know better than doctors and nurses.
And despite the lack of evidence that masks work, many Democratic governors continue to impose mask mandates.
Even left-leaning publications like the New York Times and The Atlantic are starting to question the wisdom of (some) COVID mandates. The Times’ David Leonhardt says American children are “in crisis” due to COVID policies, adding that it has become “less defensible” over time to act as if “harming children” is “an unavoidable side effect of Covid-19.”
The treatment of children during COVID has truly been appalling. Per the CDC, 0.03 percent of COVID deaths in the United States have been children between ages 5 to 14. In other words, out of every 3,830 deaths with COVID-19 in the United States to date, 3,829—all but one—were of someone not in that 5-14 age group. So why are we masking kids in schools?
Even the World Health Organization warns, “Children should not wear a mask when playing sports or doing physical activities, such as running, jumping or playing on the playground, so that it doesn’t compromise their breathing.” So why are we masking kids in sports?
To be sure, many Republicans have embraced COVID mandates as well. Despite unflinching opposition to masks by high-profile governors such as Florida’s Ron DeSantis and South Dakota’s Kristi Noem, 16 Republican governors imposed mask mandates at one time or another. In the Senate, fully one-third of Republicans chose not to cosponsor legislation, under the Congressional Review Act, opposing Biden’s vaccine mandate for doctors and nurses. But on the whole, there is no doubt that Democrats have embraced authoritarian mandates with far greater gusto—and Americans apparently have noticed.
The backlash against COVID mandates should be a lesson for Democrats and Republicans alike: America is still a land of freedom. While authoritarianism may be popular with elites, it remains mercifully unpopular with the everyday citizens who decide our elections.