by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
[D]id the glowing coverage of Cuomo (and Gretchen Whitmer, and Phil Murphy, and Gavin Newsom) demonstrate that a lot of people need to believe that the right leaders in government can fix giant and unexpected problems such as a novel virus that triggered a global pandemic? That they’re so unnerved by the unknown that they gravitate to a voice that sounds certain and confident, even if that voice is as flawed and befuddled as the rest of us?
The moment people realized they were dealing with something new and frightening in the pandemic in early 2020, they hungered for leadership. Some people turned to Anthony Fauci with a reverence sometimes bordering on religious. Those who were convinced that it couldn’t be that bad, and that everyone was overhyping the threat, turned to the likes of Alex Berenson. Everybody wanted to find their expert who really understood everything that was going on and knew what to do and had all the answers.
Over the past year, I’ve been pretty darn critical of elected leaders at a bunch of levels — former President Trump, Bill de Blasio, Cuomo, Whitmer, and all the idiot governors and mayors who broke their own quarantine rules. I’ve pointed out that the media don’t just overpraise Democratic governors; they overpraise the wrong ones. There is a lot to criticize in the federal-, state-, and local-government responses to the pandemic.
But a lot of evidence also suggests that a nation’s or state’s success in preventing coronavirus deaths had a lot to do with geography, population density, poverty, mass-transit usage, preexisting health problems, and other factors that government really can’t control. Policy choices probably have some effect, but most likely less effect than impassioned supporters and critics think.