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One of the many striking aspects of the 2020 COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. was that the public response to social distancing restrictions intended to curb the spread of the virus was sharply divided over partisan political lines. As one (of many) academic studies found that year, “Individuals’ social distancing has more to do with whether they are Republicans or Democrats than the incidence of COVID-19 in their communities, and the effect of partisanship on the willingness to social distance is increasing over time, especially among Republicans.”
Each side blamed the other for “weaponizing” the pandemic response, with President Donald Trump accusing Democrats of hypocrisy during the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign by repeatedly asserting that come the day after the Nov. 3 election (i.e., when COVID would no longer be a useful political issue), Americans wouldn’t be hearing much about the coronavirus any more:
ALL THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA WANTS TO TALK ABOUT IS COVID, COVID, COVID. ON NOVEMBER 4th, YOU WON’T BE HEARING SO MUCH ABOUT IT ANYMORE. WE ARE ROUNDING THE TURN!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 27, 2020
Trump’s words on the campaign trail echoed those of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who on July 22, 2020, “guaranteed” that if Democratic challenger Joe Biden won the election, within a week, Democrats would lift pandemic-related restrictions on schools and businesses and claim that “suddenly all the problems are solved”:
If it ends up that Biden wins in November — I hope he doesn’t, I don’t think he will — but if he does, I guarantee you the week after the election, suddenly all those Democratic governors, all those Democratic mayors, will say, “Everything’s magically better, go back to work, go back to school, suddenly all the problems are solved.” You won’t even have to wait for Biden to be sworn in. All they’ll need is Election Day, and suddenly their willingness to destroy people’s lives and livelihoods … they will have accomplished their task. That’s wrong, It’s cynical, and we shouldn’t be a part of it.
Here’s a clip of Cruz issuing his “guarantee”:
"I guarantee you…" pic.twitter.com/HRjKjtrziV
— Bad COVID-19 Takes (@BadCOVID19Takes) November 23, 2020
Cruz turned out to be doubly wrong.
Not only did Biden win the election, but Democrats did not re-open schools and businesses amidst proclamations that “everything’s magically better” a week later. In fact, within a few weeks after the election, Democratic governors and mayors in states such as Washington, California, and Michigan had imposed extensive new restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.