This online poll is everything that’s wrong with how the right has treated COVID-19 | Monday Morning Coffee

August 10, 2020 7:21 am

Commonwealth Foundation – screen capture

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Last week, with the United States leading the planet in both COVID-19 infections and deaths, the Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative think-tank in Harrisburg, posted the poll above to its Twitter feed.

The questions it asked, and the responses it engendered, spoke volumes about not only how far contemporary American conservatism has strayed from its roots, and how willing some on the right have been to normalize the
incalculable human toll of the pandemic, whose casualty rate is now equal to the battlefield toll of three Vietnam Wars.

If you look closely, there’s not one question about whether people are upset about millions of lost jobs; billions of dollars in lost economic activity, and the hundreds of thousands of American families who are mourning lost loved ones.

There’s no parent now breathing (this one included) who’s not deeply concerned about finding a way to make sure that children return safely to class this fall. So, on one level, the number one result in the poll (the image above was captured around 4:30 p.m. on Sunday) makes perfect sense.

As of this writing, some of the state’s larger districts, such as Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Allentown, have opted to begin the year with all-remote instruction. Others are opting for a hybrid return that will combine both online and in-person instruction. All those policies seem like they’re intended to make the best of an impossible situation. We all know that kids need to be in school. But we also know that teachers and other adults who are the most vulnerable to infection should not be put heedlessly at risk.

And, so, had the Commonwealth Foundation been serious in its intent, instead of posting a poll clearly intended to troll, it could have sparked a genuine and serious conversation about the titanic health and safety decisions that the state’s 500 school districts are wrestling with as the start of the new school year closes in.

Gov. Tom Wolf (Flickr)

Instead, the poll chose to focus on questions, while of import to some, that deliberately minimized the human and economic cost of the pandemic. In a way, though, it’s not surprising. Throughout the pandemic, conservatives from the White House on down have sought to normalize the havoc wreaked by the virus.

From saying “it is what it is,” and suggesting that dead senior citizens were an acceptable cost of reopening the economy, to making the intellectually vacuous and dangerous claim that mask mandates were as a discriminatory as the vile hate perpetrated against transgender Pennsylvania, the right has proved again and again how deeply unserious it is about tackling the pandemic.

Until, that is, it spread to red states and its voters were impacted.

One poll question — dealing with Wolf administration guidance recommending the postponement of the fall sports season (not “killing” it) is simply a lie.

The response on social media was swift and sure.

As the responses make clear, when it comes to the pandemic, we’re living in two different Americas. And we’re paying the price for it with lost time and lost lives.

One of those Americas, white and wealthy, has the luxury of worrying about fall sports and whether Major League Baseball will return for a full season. Instead of sending their kids back to school, some families are hiring private tutors.

The other, poor and overwhelmingly Black and Brown, has dealt with a vastly different reality, one that has exposed deep inequalities in access to healthcare and health outcomes; in access to the broadband internet that makes distance learning possible, and with the death of George Floyd, the cavernous gap in access to equal justice.

In all, the framing of the questions speaks volumes about the state of contemporary conservatism, whose bedrock principles of “liberty” and “freedom” have been conflated with simple self-interest.

Not one question in the poll deals with the overall problems afflicting tens of millions of Americans. Instead, they focus on individual inconvenience, a shattering of the social contract if ever there was one.

As Kwame Anthony Appiah observed in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend, anti-mask and anti-shutdown conservatives have forgotten that the freedoms they so cherish are only possible because they are underpinned by rules and shared values to which we, as a society, have agreed to adhere.

“Sensible public-health policies — like mask-wearing rules, which protect both the individual and the commonweal — don’t compromise liberty, they advance it,” he writes. “The uncontrolled spread of infectious diseases gets in the way of managing your life without interference and fulfilling goals. Bluntly put: There’s precious little freedom in the sick ward and less still in the graveyard.”

We’ll be dealing with the pandemic, and its aftermath, probably for decades to come. The Commonwealth Foundation could have chosen to be part of the solution, by offering policy prescriptions that would have advanced the dialogue,

Instead, they chose to troll, making a bad problem even worse.

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
Associate Editor Cassie Miller
 leads our coverage this morning, taking a deep dive into polling data showing Americans’ evolving attitudes on racism in this week’s edition of The Numbers Racket.

On Sunday, we inaugurated a new partnership with the Philadelphia Gay News. The first story from that partnership takes a look at the more than two-dozen LGBTQ Pennsylvanians who will serve as delegates for a very different Democratic National Convention.

You can add Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney to chorus of voices calling on Philly NAACP President Rodney Muhhamad to step down after posting an anti-Semitic meme to Facebook. Our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune have the story.

On our Commentary Page this morning, Villanova University political science professor Frank Fuller takes a look at the enduring impact that the American nuclear attacks 75 years ago have had on Japanese animation and manga. And from our sibling site, the Kansas Reflector, a poet explains why he hand-wrote out 500 toe tags in the pandemic.

En la Estrella-Capital, tres días de charlas en Harrisburg producen escaso consenso sobre las preguntas críticas de la reapertura de la escuela. Y los funcionarios del estado dicen que la aplicación de la ley canina en Pa. está en ‘soporte vital.’

(Image via

The Inquirer talks to parents about the growing number of suburban Philly districts that are opting for online-only openings.
The Post-Gazette has the story on the parents of elementary school-aged kids who are turning to childcare centers as schools limit in-person instruction.
Online charter schools are seeing a growth in enrollment because of the pandemic, PennLive reports.
The Morning Call 
looks at efforts by Lehigh Valley school districts to create online programs for their students.
Family and friends of Shaheen Mackey rallied in front of the Luzerne County Courthouse on Sunday, calling for justice for Mackey, who died in custody at the county prison in June 2018, the Citizens-Voice reports.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day.


View this post on Instagram


?????????: (ɪɴsᴇʀᴛ 00s ᴍᴜsɪᴄ) ᴡᴀssᴜᴘ! ᴛʜɪs ʏᴀ ɢᴜʀʟ ɴᴇss. ɪ ʜᴀᴅ ᴛᴏ ᴅɪᴘ! Sᴄᴇɴɪᴄ Rᴏᴜᴛᴇ Vɪʙᴇ! ʙᴜᴛ ʏᴏᴜ ᴋɴᴏᴡ ᴛʜᴇ ᴅʀɪʟʟ. ʟᴇᴀᴠᴇ ᴀ ᴍᴇssᴀɢᴇ ᴀғᴛᴇʀ ᴛʜᴇ ʙᴇᴇᴘ! (ʙᴇᴇᴘ) ⁣ ⁣ If you are old enough to know then you know. ? ⁣ ⁣ I took a little road trip this past weekend. I just needed to get away. I needed to escape. Being locked up in the house since March all by myself can become pretty boring and depressing. So I looked at my google map app to see what cities/towns I have never been to were in driving distance. Driving distance as in a hour away because my chronic fatigue is horrible during the summer. I landed on the island of City Island. I love me some water. This trip in so many ways went completely wrong. I almost decided not to go but once I finally made it to my Destination, I was reminded there is beauty in things not going as planned. I love traveling more than anything. Traveling doesn’t always mean getting on a plane. Traveling doesn’t always mean spending a lot of money. Traveling is about creating an experience you’ve never experienced before. Creating a memory that will stay with you for a lifetime. Traveling is about seeing the world through a different lens. Travel is just about going. So go! ????? ???? ???? ?????? ????? ???? ??? ???? ???????? ⁣ ⁣ P.s. All social distancing rules were followed this weekend. ⁣ ⁣ Follow me on Twitter: @ nessmonet . Stay Safe! Black Lives Matter ✊?✊?✊?⁣ ⁣ ✨About Me⁣ Hey Sis! Thank you so much for clicking on this post. I am Ness Monét and this is ??? ?????? ?????! Pun intended. In my childhood years, I had this vision of how my life would be when I become an adult. Flash forward to present day and my life is the complete opposite of what I envision. I am on a  journey to fully embrace the amazing life I have and letting go of the life I thought I would have. I am not where I want to be and until I get there I am enjoying the scenery! With Love, Ness Monét ❣️?✨

A post shared by N.M. || The Scenic Route (@ness.monet) on

Protesters called on the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University to dissolve their campus police forces by 2025, WHYY-FM reports. 
Legislative delays could result in havoc at the polls this fallthe PA Post reports.
Republican 8th CD candidate Jim Bognet is on the air with his first commercialPoliticsPA reports. 
In updated ratings, the House is looking more solid for Democrats, Roll Call reports.

What Goes On.
12 p.m. Capitol Steps:
 Right to Vote, NAACP v. Boockvar rally,
2 p.m, G50 Irvis: House Democratic Policy Committee

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
11 a.m.: 
Golf tournament for Rep. Todd Polinchock
11:30 a.m.: Golf tournament for Rep. Chris Quinn
If you were able to somehow clone yourself, play in both tournaments, and gave at the max, you’d be out a mere $7,500 today.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s an old favorite by Squeeze to get the working week going. From 1996’s ‘Ridiculous’ LP, it’s ‘This Summer.’

Monday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
blanked the Leafs 5-0 in Game 5 of their qualifying series on Sunday night. The Blue Jackets will face Tampa in the first round of the playoffs.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.