Conservatives charge liberals with social-distancing hypocrisy

Posted 107 days ago


They say liberals have stopped scolding protesters for violating social-distancing guidelines for political expediency.

Protesters in Michigan demonstrate against stay-at-home orders last month put in place due to coronavirus. | Elaine Cromie/Getty Images

Conservatives have found their latest example of liberal hypocrisy: Disappearing outrage over protesters refusing to social distance.

The charge has spread through conservative Twitter and is invoked frequently on conservative media outlets, from Red State to Fox News. They note that when lockdown protesters flooded state capitol buildings, politicians and pundits alike expressed horror that gatherings would accelerate the coronavirus pandemic. But now, with thousands of people gathering to protest police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of the Minneapolis police, conservatives are asking: Where did that concern go?

For many on the right — even conservatives who are harsh Trump critics — the situation plays into a broader narrative of liberal elite double standards.

Conservatives “are upset at the political leaders who think protesting and mass gatherings are more important suddenly than being able to feed your family or keep your business open,” said Stephen L. Miller, a conservative media critic and contributor to The Spectator.

President Donald Trump got in on the action on Wednesday, retweeting a spree of conservatives making similar points. “Remember, if you don’t social distance, you’re literally killing people,” tweeted commentator Buck Sexton, in a typical comment that Trump boosted. “That’s what they told us. The ‘experts.’”

When Democrats refuse to chide the current protesters for violating social-distancing guidelines, Miller said, their message is that the coronavirus directives are “expendable” — if the cause is right.

Protesters gather in Washington, D. C., after the death of George Floyd. | M. Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO

“That wasn't part of the deal — people lost jobs,” he said, noting Floyd had lost his job at a restaurant during the shutdown. “People weren't able to say goodbye to sick loved ones or host funerals.”

Of course, the two protest movements have come at different points during the pandemic. The first lockdown protests appeared in mid-April, when Covid-19 outbreak was peaking. Stay-at-home measures were significantly stricter and hospital systems were in danger of becoming overloaded. Some weeks, officials were encouraging people to not even leave the house if possible.

Meanwhile, the recent police brutality protests gathered steam the weekend many cities began lifting their stay-at-home restrictions, citing a sustained downward trend in cases. Scores of businesses have been allowed to reopen under social-distancing measures. Additionally, many of the protesters have been wearing masks, while some of the marchers have tried to social distance.

And, of course, public health experts are not backing off of their stance that a mass gathering of people will likely lead to more coronavirus cases. Some public health specialists argue conservatives are making a disingenuous comparison between two events that have little in common. They wonder where the conservative anger was about protesters violating government orders in April.

But Tom Nichols, a senior advisor to Project Lincoln, a group of high-profile conservative operatives opposing Trump, still insisted the perception is damaging to liberals. Conservatives have latched on to commen... (Read more)

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