Time for more photos of a maskless Stacey Abrams around masked kids

Scroll through the full set at OutKick. To be clear, these new pics are from the same event at which Sunday’s now-famous photo was taken. She didn’t get caught at another school barefaced while the kids around her were masked up.

But give her time. Since her campaign insists she did nothing wrong, maybe she’ll swing by a kindergarten for a maskless play date with five-year-olds wearing N95s.

Looks like she spent the whole farking day unmasked, notes the Daily Mail, with not much social distancing on the premises either. Abrams must be a devout believer in the vaccines, as that’s the only way I can figure someone with her risk profile would feel comfortable winging it at a reasonably crowded event with Omicron on the prowl.

The news about mask mandates is mostly good this afternoon. Glenn Youngkin is headed for a huge win in Virginia. Top Democrats in California, Connecticut, Delaware, and Oregon are now vowing to ease certain mandates, with indigo-blue Connecticut promising to drop school mandates by the end of the month. The one straggler: New York, where Kathy Hochul wants to wait and see how things stand virus-wise two weeks from now before making any decisions.

We’ll consider it modest progress that even the bluest of states are at least on a tentative timetable for unmasking.

As for Democrats getting caught maskless when they shouldn’t be, Isaac Schorr has posted a rogues’ gallery at NRO. (Hochul herself features in one photo.) A basic, basic, basic rule of politics is that you shouldn’t ask your constituents to do anything you’re unwilling to do yourself, Tim Miller reminded them recently. Breaking that rule at the expense of children is particularly toxic.

Since some of you don’t seem to understand why these pictures in particular are so bad, let me lay it out for you:

1) It gives off an air of elitism—as if the rules apply only to regular Joes, not to the glorious statesmen and women who stoop to mingle with them.

2) It undermines the fundamental message politicians should be promoting in regard to masking: that it is part of a communal sacrifice to protect the vulnerable and the front-line workers who are bearing the brunt of the pandemic.

3) It plays right into the hands of the opposition party, which has centered its entire brand on performative populism in an attempt to wrestle away cross-pressured voters who may have liberal economic views but bristle at progressive social pieties.

Also: 4) It signals that pro-restriction Democrats don’t believe in their own policies. If you spend two years preaching caution and then are spotted dining indoors at the French Laundry sans mask, don’t be surprised when Joe Rogan or whoever concludes that restrictions are more a matter of “social control” than of limiting transmission.

With Dems finally steering towards relaxing mandates in time for the midterms, a story must be offered to explain why it’s okay to do that now when it wasn’t okay to do that six months ago. One might justify it as a matter of greater population immunity or better treatments or hospital loads beginning to ease or what have you, but none of those explanations will do much for Democrats’ polling. The solution, then: It’s time for America’s kids to unmask because Joe Biden’s COVID response has been just that good.

What’s tricky for Democratic pols in finding a way forward is that “COVID is a vibe” now — that is, one can find both positive and negative signals in the data about the state of the pandemic that might justify either relaxing precautions or keeping them in place. Cases are down by two-thirds since Omicron’s peak but still north of a quarter million per day. Deaths seem to be plateauing but have reached their highest level in a year. Hospitalizations have fallen dramatically but remain for the moment above the peak of the Delta wave. We’ll probably have a period of COVID quiescence this spring thanks to all the natural immunity instilled by Omicron, but we might also a bump in infections as immunity from the third doses given this past fall begins to wane.

For Republican pols, the answer to all of that is the same as it’s been since the fall of 2020: Open everything, let ‘er rip. For Democratic pols who’ve built their COVID political identity around caution in contrast to the GOP’s risk-tolerance, convincing their supporters that yes, really, Republicans are finally right and it’s time to reclaim some normalcy is touchy business. Nate Cohn notes that the polls are sending mixed signals too:

The polls create a delicate challenge for the Biden administration, which never regained its political standing since the rise of the Delta variant dashed last summer’s hopes of a return to normalcy. The growing unease with the pandemic seems to have added to the president’s political woes, and may help explain why the public disapproves of Mr. Biden’s handling of the coronavirus for the first time.

But a majority of Democratic-leaning voters continue to support a more vigorous response to the pandemic, potentially limiting how quickly the administration can readjust to public opinion. Many Americans harbor serious concerns about the health risks presented by the virus; the Biden administration may not find it easy to bring them along, at least as long as cases and deaths remain at elevated levels.

A majority of Americans told one pollster that it’s time to get on with our lives but just 18 percent told a different pollster that they’ve gotten back to normal. People are less concerned now than they were during the Delta wave about becoming seriously ill but only 21 percent want to drop all restrictions. Good luck satisfying everyone if you’re a Democratic official facing that jumble of voter preferences.

One thing they can certainly do, though, is be consistent. If you’re sticking with masks, you’d better have one on if you’re posing for a photo with kids. If you’re maskless, they’d better be maskless too. The degree to which Americans will tolerate restrictions is a spectrum, with constituencies at every point on it. But there’s no constituency for double standards.

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