The closer you can get to people in positions of power, the more likely you are to achieve your goals. Sure, writing to the President about a pressing issue in your life is entertaining, but stopping by city hall is far more likely to make a difference. It’s easy for officials to dismiss a form from a federal database, but it’s not so easy to dismiss a resident’s request for two minutes during the city council’s public comment period.
This dynamic is part of a quick shift by Democratic governors from New Jersey to California to remove mask mandates from their states’ constitutions. In a nutshell, we’re all sick of wearing face masks, the post-holiday Omicron surge appears to be subsiding, and immunizations are widely available. “A leader without followers is not very successful leadership,” Delaware’s Democratic Governor John Carney remarked last week, “so somehow you have to find the balance there to have people following you.”
The pandemic is far from done. It certainly isn’t. The number of new cases continues to exceed 200,000 persons per day, well surpassing the Delta summer rush and approaching the peak recorded following the 2020 holidays. However, when workers and students alike return to their regular routines in the new year, patience for prudence appears to be wearing thin. In fact, according to one study, the desire to get back to normal has surpassed concerns about the pandemic in polls.
Politics, on the other hand, is not as reliant on facts. Democratic Governors may be playing early defense for a party that is prepared for difficulties, especially with Democrats already facing a difficult environment heading into this fall’s elections. Governors in those states may have a better sense of public dissatisfaction than anyone in the Beltway. Although Washington may have the strongest grasp on science, state leaders are likely to have a good notion of what people would accept and how long their patience will last.