A month from now, it will be interesting to see how many of the customers who crowded into Wisconsin bars without masks the moment their local government leaders lifted the taverns' restrictions have caught the coronavirus ... and how many have died.
It's morbid, but so is the trade-off that comes courtesy of the highly political conservative State Supreme Court, which ruled that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers did not have the right to extend the restrictions that have locked down the state without permission from the Republican-majority state legislature. Horrified mayors and county officials in many urban areas immediately clamped down and extended their own strict security measures. It created a statewide hodgepodge. Gov. Evers went on MSNBC and complained, "We're the Wild West!"
If residents really had to race to their favorite saloons to have their shots and beers but were not allowed to do so where they lived, they could simply drive a few miles and get hammered nearby. One wonders if they drove themselves home, and how many got pulled over for DUI, but that's another issue. Let's concentrate on those who absolutely needed alcohol and had to demonstrate their "liberation" spirit by not wearing a mask.
Then let's survey those whose hangovers included COVID-19. It was the worst of politics. President Donald Trump and all of his accomplices are single-mindedly focused on getting reelected, particularly getting him reelected. So, they used the "reopen" gambit to deflect attention from the administration's disastrous public health campaign that allowed the coronavirus to unnecessarily run roughshod over the United States.
Now he is willing to risk thousands of lives with careless winding down of sensible restrictions in the face of evidence that the organism is nowhere near ready to go away. While we're at it, let's keep track of a beauty salon and the customers who rushed to make an appointment to get styled (by now, shouldn't we have embraced "shaggy chic"?) or get their hair dyed. Let's find out how many died in the quest to cover the telltale gray.
We've already heard stories about defiant barbers who trimmed customers' hair and defied shutdown orders and who subsequently tested positive for COVID -- and at least one case where the barber lost his life to the coronavirus. Armed zealots from a rural part of Michigan, a region routinely described as "Trump country," surrounded a barbershop to protect the owner who defied state orders to remain closed. Members of the self-styled Michigan Home Guard, a contingent of "very good people" in President Trump's telling, appeared ready to shoot it out with police who dared to enforce the law. The local sheriff decided his deputies would not intervene. The state of Michigan continues to be a hot spot of coronavirus and should be maintaining a strict lockdown for another month or so. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer doesn't want to give up the fight before it's won.
But she's a Democrat. Her detractors definitely are not, plus they are being egged on by a president who has poisoned the atmosphere with politics that is just as lethal as the coronavirus. What he's actually doing is surrendering in the fight to regain public health, leading a retreat into his personal ambition. He will have to account for it on Election Day. We think.
Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN. (c) 2020 Bob Franken Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.