Two years into the worldwide Covid public health emergency, the tide of public opinion has finally turned. Each new broken promise that the end of the pandemic would soon be in sight has added to the growing suspicion that the policies being recommended by public officials and the mainstream media could not be trusted. The people had been badly frightened and very much wanted to believe the assurances that getting vaccinated, submitting to mask mandates, closing schools and punishing those unwilling to comply would put an end to the crisis.
Realization has been growing slowly for months that the elected officials and government bureaucrats imposing the Covid restrictions enjoy the added power that it gave them and would not allow that power to end, even if it meant deliberately deceiving the public about what “science” had actually learned about the pandemic.
It has also become clear that many of the remedies proposed by public officials have made the impact of the pandemic worse rather than better. Young children who would have been safe in their classrooms because of their natural immunity to the virus suffered permanent damage to their educational and social development from the unnecessary lockdown of their schools. Millions of workers forced into unemployment by the pandemic were made permanently dependent on overly generous Biden Covid relief benefits. When their jobs became available again, the continuing federal handouts deterred them from returning to the workforce, slowing the recovery and made the emerging supply chain and inflation problems worse.
MASKS AND MANDATES BEING STRUCK DOWN
Biden’s imposition of broad federal vaccination mandates threatening the jobs of tens of millions of health care workers, government contractors, and the employees of private businesses were obviously an illegal overreach of his executive powers. One by one, they are being challenged in federal courts, forcing the lawyers of Biden’s Justice Department into a series of losing rear guard legal battles. In January, the U.S. Supreme Court suspended enforcement of the vaccine mandate that Biden ordered OSHA to impose on more than 80 million employees of private businesses across the country, while confirming the federal government’s right to impose a vaccine mandate on all workers employed by health care institutions receiving federal Medicare and Medicaid payments.
Just this week, the Democrat governors of New Jersey and Delaware, in response to the growing demands of parents in their states, announced the cancellation of the mask mandates they had ordered for children in their states’ public schools. Arkansas and Colorado are also suspending their school mask mandates, and, in New York State, a legal battle erupted after a Long Island judge ruled that mask mandates for schools and other public places were an illegal end run around the state’s constitution.
Getting rid of his state’s school mask mandate was a major turnaround for New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. He issued the mandate last September when in-person lessons restarted in New Jersey, which was shortly after Murphy declared, “Anyone telling you that we can safely reopen our schools without requiring everyone inside to wear a mask is quite simply lying to you.”
CANADA’S WORKING CLASS COVID REBELLION
But the most telling indication of the growing public revolt against Covid restrictions came from a most unlikely place. In late January, a caravan of disgruntled long-haul Canadian truckers set out on the 3,000 mile trek from Prince Rupert in the Pacific Coast province of British Columbia to the capital city in Ottawa. “Freedom Convoy 2022” began as a protest against the vaccine requirement on them to drive across the border with the United States, and eventually became a demand for the resignation of Canada’s socialist prime minister who had imposed that requirement, Justin Trudeau, and the cancellation of the broad range of other anti-Covid measures, such as lockdowns and mask wearing mandates he had ordered. After arriving in Ottawa two weeks ago, the truckers began a vigil around the government buildings on Parliament Hill.
LEFT WING OVER-REACTION
Canada’s liberal elites who support Trudeau’s woke policies and their media cheerleaders were quick to demonize the truckers who organized the Freedom Convoy to protect their livelihoods. The protesters were labeled dangerous right-wing extremists, neo-Nazi and racists, inspired by former President Donald Trump. They were falsely accused of a variety of petty crimes, ranging from vandalism against small businesses to the harassment of police, to arson, to the defacement of national monuments, to rowdy behavior disturbing the peace. But in the age of universal access to smartphones and social media, it quickly became obvious that the corrupt media campaign against the truckers was based upon lies.
After the convoy arrived at the center of the national government in Ottawa, the truckers set up camp, living in the cabs of their trucks, whose engines were kept running to protect them against the winter cold. The ranks of the protesters continued to grow. Up to 8,000 protesters have shut down the central district in Ottawa for the past two weeks. Thousands more demonstrators against the government’s Covid policies gathered in Toronto, Canada’s biggest city and financial hub. Protests were also staged in Quebec City, and in the central province of Manitoba.
Some residents living near the protest site have complained that Ottawa police have failed to respond to their complaints about honking horns, smashed windows, and incidents in which they were harassed by demonstrators for obeying Trudeau’s mask wearing mandate.
In response, Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly responded that he does not have enough local resources to deal with the protestors. “This is a city under siege. This is a threat to democracy. This is a nationwide insurrection. This is madness. We [the Ottawa police] have done our very best, and asked for help from the national government,” which Prime Minister Trudeau quickly ruled out for the time being.
Sloly claimed that the trucker protests are being supported by a “significant element” in the United States. “They have converged in our city, and there are plans for more to come.” Sloly added that the protest participants are “putting our city and our residents, our partners and our officers at great risk.”
However, Stephanie Carvin, an associate professor of international relations at Carleton University in Ottawa, said that police have yet to produce any definitive evidence of foreign interference directing the protests, and even if there were, “this is a Canadian movement, pushed by Canadians, participated in by Canadians.”
TRUTH REVEALED ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Rex Murphy, a columnist for the Canadian National Post, told his readers the truth: “No Molotov cocktails. No vulgar harassment of police…No rocks for every Starbucks window and those of small businesses…No arson or looting.
“[Was this a] January 6 [style] insurrection, Canadian edition? Ha! It is to laugh.”
Fox News TV commentator Tucker Carlson showed his viewers videos depicting what day-to-day life for the truckers at the Ottawa protest site was really like: shoveling snow from the sidewalks, playing pick-up games of hockey in the streets, cleaning up trash, and singing the Canadian national anthem.
Interviewed truckers said that they were amazed by the outpouring of support from their fellow Canadians, many of whom have defied police orders by donating the fuel that they need to keep the engines of their trucks running day and night.
Nicholas Wansbutter, an attorney retained by the Calgary-based Justice Centre to defend members of the Freedom Convoy, condemned the actions of the Ottawa police to suppress the demonstration as illegal.
“People who bring food, water, gasoline or other supplies to peacefully protesting truckers are not breaking any law. There is no basis for this police threat [to charge them with breaking the law], Wansbutter said in a statement to Fox News.
“In a free and democratic society that is governed by the rule of law, citizens can freely associate with each other, including the giving and receiving of goods and gifts. There is no law that would allow the Ottawa Police to arrest people for giving fuel or food to another Canadian. The truckers themselves are exercising their [constitutional] Charter freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as they are legally entitled to do.”
EXPOSING THE MEDIA AND GOVERNMENT DOUBLE STANDARD
Supporters of the truck protests also noted that there is a blatant double standard in place with regard to tolerance for public protests in Canada. For example, in 2020, when a mob of “woke” liberals tore down a statue of Canada’s first prime minister, John McDonald, Trudeau and his fellow Canadian Liberal Party leaders, did not protest, and stared silently at their feet. Liberal-sponsored climate change protests against Canadian oil and gas projects, the construction of new rail lines, and rallies for minority and indigenous population rights have become routine and received sympathetic coverage from the mainstream media. But any popular expression of opposing conservative ideas immediately sets off media alarm bells warning of the threat of a political takeover by the “racist” People’s Party of Canada, which won only 5% of the popular vote in last year’s federal election, and no seats in the Parliament.
Most of those who have been attracted to the truck convoy protest are politically unsophisticated members of Canada’s working class, who feel that they have been shut out of Canada’s British-style parliamentary government. The system is dominated, at both the federal and provincial levels, by political bosses who ruthlessly exercise complete control by selecting the members of their parties who can run for seats in parliament.
A HOLLOW DEMOCRACY
As a result, there is little room for serious debate within the nominally democratic Canadian government system, and very few significant differences between the positions of the mainstream conservative and liberal parties on important national policy issues.
Political discourse in Canada is dominated by the liberal elites who control the mainstream Canadian media. The voicing of any conservative populist sentiments is considered taboo and potentially dangerous. By contrast, the “woke” progressive dogmas of the American far left are actively promoted by the leaders of Canada’s political establishment, as the only acceptable framework for policy discussion.
Trudeau’s Liberal Party does not control a majority of the parliament. His minority government has been propped up by the support of the far-left wing New Democratic Party, led by Jagmet Singh. As a result, Trudeau has publicly taken a knee in subservience to Black Lives Matter. He has also denounced Canada as a “genocide state,” and demanded that Canadian government policies be “informed and developed through a [woke] intersectional lens.”
Part of the problem is that Canada’s national voting system, which dates back to 1867, is in desperate need of reform. Its current rules make it difficult for any prime minister to assemble the absolute majority needed to control parliament without having to rely on smaller coalition partners which wind up with the power to impose their extreme policies on the prime minister and his government.
Given the fact that 88% of the Canadian population over the age of 4 has received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, popular opposition to Trudeau’s policies started from a very small anti-vaxxer voter base. However, the grass roots protest has ignited a spark of opposition within many other working class Canadians who have grown weary of the embarrassing cow-towing of their elected leaders to the demands of the woke liberal elites, their denigration of Canada’s national heritage, and the unnecessary Covid restrictions that have been placed on their daily lives.
UNLIKELY NATIONAL HEROES
According to the most recent national opinion poll, a majority of Canadians now approve of the goals of the truckers, who are on the way to becoming national heroes. Chris Queen, writing on the conservative PJ Media web site says, “what started as a convoy within one sector of the Canadian economy is turning into a national movement advocating for freedom.”
A typical protester in Toronto who called himself Robert told a Reuters reporter, “We’re all sick and tired of the mandates, of the intimidation, of living in one big prison. We just want to go back to normal without having to take into our veins the poison which they call vaccines.”
The predictable response of Canada’s liberal political and media establishment has been a rising sense of outrage mixed with panic.
A recent public opinion poll has documented a serious erosion of trust in news reports among supporters of Canada’s mainstream Conservative Party. Almost 30 percent of them said that they now believe that the January 6 attack by Trump supporters on Congress was “a fiction created by the media.”
Meanwhile, Trudeau has been trying to minimize those supporters of the truck protests as a “small fringe minority” who don’t follow “the science.” His government has also ignored the fact that, after two years of lockdowns and government-imposed collective sacrifice, a majority of Canadians is now calling for all pandemic-related restrictions to be lifted.
Equally disturbing, polls show that nearly 40 percent of Canadians now believe there is no room for political compromise in their country’s system of government. In addition, just one-in-three Canadian voters say their government cares about the issues that are important to them, emulating the growing dissatisfaction of American voters with President Biden’s policy priorities.
The international attention that the trucker protest has generated considerable support, both in the United States and as far away as Australia, whose anti-Covid policies, until a couple of months ago, were even more draconian than those in Canada. A group of Australian anti-vaccination demonstrators have blocked roads and targeted businesses in the capital city of Canberra this week the day before the reconvening of the Australian parliament this week, emulating the tactics of the trucker protesters in Canada.
Hundreds of cars and trucks waving Australian flags, military insignia and Donald Trump campaign banners paraded through the streets of Canberra and blocked the roads around the airport, calling for an end to government vaccination mandates in businesses and places of employment.
In Europe, several countries have gotten ahead of the spreading protests by announcing their intention to do away with some or all of their existing vaccine mandates. British Health Secretary Sajid Javid has canceled the requirement on all employees of the British National Health Service (NHS) to be vaccinated by April, after it became clear that tens of thousands of the service’s employees would not comply, amounting to more than 5% of the NHS work force. This NIH was already suffering from a chronic staff shortage and determined that requiring the dismissal of so many additional workers in its hospitals would produce a much bigger health emergency than doing away with the vaccine mandate.
Norway and Ireland have already lifted many of their Covid-restrictions, and Denmark removed all of its remaining Covid-related restrictions this week.
Some European countries are taking the opposite approach, tightening Covid restrictions in reaction to the rise of the omicron variant, but they have encountered significant pushback. Italy recently imposed a vaccine mandate for people over age 50, but the move met vigorous opposition within Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s fragile coalition government. Austria has imposed Europe’s most stringent Covid mandates applying to all adults, which have triggered ongoing nationwide street protests.
A GRASS ROOTS AMERICAN RESPONSE
In the United States, Former President Donald Trump has spoken out in support of the truckers protesting against “the harsh policies of far-left lunatic Justin Trudeau who has destroyed Canada with insane Covid mandates.”
The mainstream media coverage of the Canadian trucker protest resulted in a fundraising bonanza from American supporters who donated a total of about $10 million to support the Freedom Convoy. The mission statement on the protest group’s GoFundMe page stated, “Our current [Canadian] government is implementing rules and mandates that are destroying the foundation of our businesses, industries and livelihoods. We are a peaceful country that has helped protect nations across the globe from tyrannical governments who oppressed their people, and now it seems it is happening here.”
However, the administrators of the GoFundMe web site halted donations through that page last week, claiming that the evolution of the protest into a blockade of government buildings in Ottawa violated the platform’s terms of service.
GoFundMe announced that it was freezing more than $8 million in donations that had been made to the Freedom Convoy and would forward the donations to a more worthy cause if the individual donors did not request a refund by February 19.
The website said, “GoFundMe supports peaceful protests and we believe that was the intention of the Freedom Convoy 2022 fundraiser when it was first created. We now have evidence from law enforcement that the previously peaceful demonstration has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity.
“Organizers provided a clear distribution plan for the initial $1 million that was released earlier this week and confirmed funds would be used only for participants who traveled to Ottawa to participate in a peaceful protest. Given how this situation has evolved, no further funds will be directly distributed to the Freedom Convoy organizers. We will work with organizers to send all remaining funds to credible and established charities chosen by the Freedom Convoy 2022 organizers and verified by GoFundMe.”
LIBERAL CENSORSHIP PROVOKES BLOWBACK
The statement generated an outcry of protests from the donors to the trucker protest, who claimed that the web site had no right to redirect their money. The administrators of the GoFundMe web site were accused of hypocrisy, noting that the platform had raised money to support the occupation of a section of downtown Seattle, Washington in the summer of 2020, which included violent attacks on the local police station and the looting of local businesses.
Republican attorney generals in several states claimed that GoFundMe’s action was illegal and amounted to a form of consumer fraud. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey asked state residents who have “been victimized by a deceptive act or practice” to report it. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said his office has “assembled a team to investigate” potential wrongdoing by the web site. He called GoFundMe a “Black Livers Matter-backing company [that] went woke.”
Senate Republican Ted Cruz said that he has sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking it to investigate the web platform.
Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk also publicly questioned whether GoFundMe employs a “double-standard,” that turns a blind eye to funds raising money to defend members of antifa and other criminal protesters.
When their GoFundMe page was closed down, organizers of the Freedom Convoy protests turned to a Christian crowdfunding site called GiveSendGo where they raised more than $3.5 million in two days. The protest group’s message on the new website said, “To our fellow Canadians, the time for political overreach is over. We are taking our fight to the doorsteps of our Federal Government and demanding that they cease all mandates against its people.”
MEASURING THE TURN IN PUBLIC OPINION
Meanwhile, a January Monmouth University poll found that the American public is growing increasingly weary of existing Covid mandates. Support for requiring the production of proof-of-vaccination to enter public venues has turned negative since September, with 53% now calling for abolition of the requirement. There is still a slim 52% majority for adopting or reinstating statewide mask mandates, but it is down from by 11 points from 63% in September.
The poll documented a high level of public resistance to booster shots, with 37% of those polled saying that they are unlikely to get one, while 17% of those polled said that they will continue to resist any Covid vaccination.
When asked if they agreed with the statement, “Covid is here to stay and we just need to get on with our lives,” nearly twice as many Republicans (89%) as Democrats (47%) agreed, with the positive response from independents at 71%, near the overall average for everyone participating.
The growing pessimism of the American public in the ability of government leaders to bring the pandemic to an end was also revealed by the Monmouth poll, with 28% saying that the country would “never” get the outbreak under control and return to normal compared to only 9% expressing such despair in March 2021.
Consistent with the of the current Monmouth poll, a recent survey taken by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 77% of Americans believe most people will inevitably be infected by Covid, even if they are vaccinated.
That pessimism has taken a heavy toll on the public’s previously favorable opinion of President Biden’s competency in managing the pandemic. According to the Monmouth poll, only 43% of participants now say he’s done a good job in responding to the Covid compared to 53% who say he’s done a bad job.
GROWING GOP OPPOSITION TO MASK MANDATES ON KIDS
These latest signs of growing Covid fatigue among American voters has encouraged Republicans to step up the pressure on Democrats to abandon mask mandates in K-12 schools, citing growing evidence of the serious detrimental effects they have on a child’s educational and social development.
A group of Republican House members led by Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Kentucky’s James Comer, of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, have now formally asked the CDC to cancel its current masking guidance for school children.
“The extent of the protection masks provide, particularly in schools, remains unknown — and it might be very small,” the Republicans said. “Several experts note it is entirely possible that open windows or increased ventilation accounts for nearly all the mitigation benefit in a classroom and other ‘layered’ interventions may contribute only a marginal benefit or none at all.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has also criticized Democrats at the federal and local levels for maintaining mask mandates despite growing evidence that the harm they do to young children far outweighs the small risk that they will become serious illness and death from Covid.
“Across the country, bureaucrats are still forcing young children to wear masks to participate in society when neither kids nor vaccinated adults are remotely likely to get gravely ill,” McConnell said. “What exactly are we doing here? Where are the goalposts? What is the endgame?”
The main political battlefield over mask mandates has now shifted to states such as Virginia and Florida, where Republican governors have issued orders giving parents the power to decide whether their child will have to obey a mask mandate imposed by local Democrat officials and school districts.
APPLYING NEW SUPREME COURT GUIDELINES
Meanwhile, courts around the country have been weighing how to apply the Supreme Court’s mixed ruling on federal vaccine mandate in January to federal mandates on other classes of individuals, including workers for government contractors, civilian federal employees, teachers in the federal Head Start pre-school program and members of the armed forces.
Sean Marotta, a partner with law firm Hogan Lovells, said that the Supreme Court is discriminating based mostly upon the scope of the mandate: “A vaccine mandate that targets problems specific to a federal regulatory program [like Medicare and Medicaid] will likely be upheld. A mandate that is simply an attempt to get as many people vaccinated as possible, or is a workaround for the government not having a general power of vaccination, will probably be struck down.”
While the Biden administration is struggling to save what is left of its Covid mandates, state and local Covid requirements have fared much better in recent rulings, which have made clear that state officials have much broader legal authority to impose such measures in the name of public safety.
“There is no question that state and local authorities possess considerable power to regulate public health,” Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in a concurring opinion in the January OSHA vaccine mandate decision.
More than 20 states and dozens of cities have now adopted their own vaccination mandates, mostly through executive orders and legislation. No state has adopted the kind of broad mandate on private employers that Biden sought to impose and which the Supreme Court blocked in January. Local mandates have mostly applied to government offices, healthcare facilities and public university campuses. An exception is New York City where former Mayor Bill de Blasio issued an edict in December requiring most employees to provide proof of vaccination to enter their workplaces—a mandate that a federal judge declined to block in a ruling last month.
New York City and several other cities also require people to provide proof of vaccination to enter bars, restaurants and other indoor venues. However, growing public opinion against them, in light of the waning protection that vaccines offer to breakthrough infections due to the omicron variant, make it increasingly likely that they, too, will be voluntarily dropped.
GROWING APPRECIATION OF THE TRUST FACTOR
There is also a growing realization that the effectiveness of any government policy to prevent the spread of the Covid virus will depend on the willingness of the public to abide by it. This became obvious last summer when President Biden’s campaign to vaccinate every American stalled because approximately 30% of the population simply didn’t believe the government’s claims that the vaccine was safe, effective or even necessary.
In this age of bitter partisan division, even the most popular of elected government officials no longer enjoy the benefit of near universal trust by the voters which was common as recently as 30 years ago.
The stability of the government and democracy itself is threatened when a significant segment of the population no longer believes that their government can be trusted to tell them the truth even about life or death issues, such as a deadly virus.
GOVERNMENT POLICIES DON’T ENFORCE THEMSELVES
In a New York Times opinion column, Ezra Klein asks: “If the CDC had recommended better masks from the beginning, how many people would have worn them and for how long? If the Biden administration had flooded stores with cheap rapid tests, would people have used them? If boosters had been pushed earlier, and more loudly, would the United States no longer trail [other Western] nations in vaccinations?
“Put differently: How much would getting our pandemic policies right have mattered?
“There are lots of policy recommendations that work to curb the coronavirus: Masking, social distancing, vaccinations, testing, quarantining and so on. But for any of them to work, they need to be followed. This has been, certainly, the Biden administration’s insuperable challenge. It can make vaccines available, but they can’t make people take them. They can make masks available, but they can’t make people wear them.”
Over the past year, the damage to Biden’s credibility with the American public due to his administration’s obvious Covid policy mistakes has been compounded by his refusal to acknowledge them, and his unfortunate tendency to blame them on those members of that public who already don’t believe him.
The public’s trust, once squandered, is not easily recovered. Even if the Biden administration finally gets its Covid policies right, it might then face an even more difficult challenge in persuading the American public to believe it.