It will be interesting to see how the strong emotions Americans have displayed over prolonged Coronavirus lockdowns will affect crucial Senate and House elections in November. As voters continue to be penned in their homes well into May or are forced to wear face masks under penalty of law if they venture out of doors, the stark cultural divide among our citizenry already evident for several years now only widens. Nanny-state progressives and establishment authoritarians urgently implore Americans to trust the “experts” to decide what is best for us all while populists, conservatives, and just plain regular folks want their personal freedom of movement restored.
One state where you would think a politician keen on remaining in office would surely side with the latter demographic is Alabama. Residing in the heart of a Deep South far removed from the cosmopolitan east and west coasts and traditionally wary of outsiders telling them how to think, Alabamans would appear to be among the least likely Americans willing to kneel at the altar of government social control. Yet Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), already facing an uphill climb in his efforts to hold on to the red-state seat that he narrowly won in a special election in 2017, has opted to voice a particularly zealous enthusiasm for stringent curbs on individual rights in the name of public health. It’s almost impossible to see how this can do anything but harm him this fall.
Wall of Hysteria
Alabamans were able to visit retail stores and beaches again when the state’s stay-at-home order expired on April 30. Yet on that very same day, Jones, who bills himself a centrist, railed against neighboring Georgia and Tennessee for loosening restrictions even more. “We don’t have a wall built between Alabama and Georgia,” Jones said at a virtual press conference hosted on his Facebook page, “but if they keep going that way, we might have to.”
The senator wagged a lecturing finger at any of his constituents who might dare to contemplate enjoying a sit-down meal at a Georgia restaurant. “Seriously, people are wanting to get out. Nobody wants to get out more than me and my family,” Jones conceded. “But we’ve got to resist the urge to even go somewhere else to have a good meal or to do something and get out and satisfy that emotional desire we’ve got.” He continued:
“I really would encourage people to stay away from those areas right now. If you go, you’re going to probably be in a restaurant that is open, that folks are not wearing a mask, that you don’t have a clue who in there could be infected. That could come to you and you bring it back to your family, your community.”
In short, Jones is saying he doesn’t trust grown adults to navigate such a situation on their own responsibly. It’s unclear if Jones realizes he isn’t the junior senator from Brooklyn. Running virtually unopposed in the state Republican presidential primary on March 3, President Trump amassed more than 240,000 more votes than the various Democrat contenders combined as they squared off in a race that had yet to be decided. Jones won a narrow victory in 2017 only because Republicans refused to rally around controversial nominee Roy Moore. Jones is widely considered to be the most vulnerable Democrat senator in the nation this fall.
If so, campaigning on the “we know how to run your life better than you do” language of Swamp elitists and urbanized progressives would appear an odd way to bolster his chances. Jones is facing a desperate battle to keep his seat in terrain already unfavorable for Democrats in a year when an incumbent Republican president who is extremely popular in Jones’s state is up for re-election. Waving the flag for Big Brother is only going to make his task tougher.
Out of Step Down South?
Churches and certain “non-essential” businesses such as hair and nail salons are still not allowed to operate in Alabama under Republican Gov. Kay Ivey’s “phased” reopening. Mark Moon, a sheriff in Blount County, about 30 minutes north of Birmingham, has publicly stated that he will not move to close any such outlets that defy the order. “I just can’t force myself to go after hard working people and churches for doing what they feel like is the best thing for them and their families or congregations,” Moon said in a social media post.
“Going forward,” a statist wonk-sounding Jones declared in response to Ivey’s revised Coronavirus “safer at home” order, “we must continue to follow the data and the guidance of our public health experts as we take these measured steps toward re-opening our economy, and we should all be prepared to take a step back if the data calls for it,”
“I wish more leaders across the state would follow [Sheriff Moon’s] lead,” Republican state Sen. Shay Shelnutt said of police refusing to enforce the latest shutdown mandates. “Last I checked government should have limits as to what they are allowed to do. I trust the people of Blount County and Alabama to have the personal responsibility to do what is best for themselves and their families.”
One of these quotes fits perfectly with an urbanized blue cocoon view of the world. The other you would expect to hear among people who value liberty over fear. Come November, Jones may well pay a steep political price for failing to understand where Alabamans stand on the matter.
Read more from Joe Schaeffer.
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