In an act combining cowardice, petulance, and ignorance, the Republican members of the General Assembly abandoned their responsibilities as elected officials and passed the buck for our children's safety to anyone else willing to take it.
They gave in to these three dangerous influences:
- Cowardice: They are afraid of their own voters, and afraid that taking a stand for safety and science will come back to bite them in future elections.
- Petulance: It was clear throughout the special session that to a person, the Republicans were angry with Governor Beshear, and determined to spite him by getting rid of his mask mandates, even though they themselves had no plan of their own to replace them.
- Ignorance: Over and over, witnesses testified as to the value of masks to prevent infection and to help keep our children in school. Instead of listening to medical experts, Republicans instead took the advice of quacks and Q-Anon believers who claimed that COVID is a hoax and masks are unnecessary. And, the Republican representatives showed what they thought of the science by not wearing masks themselves. And, they applauded a representative who shouted that immigrants are the real problem. Thus, they showed their followers that in spite of the science and the real results in the real world, COVID does not need to be taken seriously.
The cowardly act of these so-called leaders to ban the governor's mask mandates, but then kick the responsibility for masks to local officials, means two things:
- In places where those local officials also fail to act, more children will be infected, suffer long-term health problems, and even die – unnecessarily.
- In places where local officials show leadership and bravery and do the right things, those officials will be attacked both figuratively and literally – even as the Repubs in the General Assembly celebrate "sticking it to Beshear."
And of course, all of this comes as COVID is raging through the state: of the 3,000 counties in the U.S., Kentucky has six counties in the top ten for rates of infection. And, our hospitals are running out of space to treat people: as of last week, there were only 90 adult ICU beds in the entire state, even as over 30,000 cases were reported.
In any elected body, there are high moments and low; moments of bravery, of leadership, and moments of cowardice and rank partisanship.
This special session of Kentucky's General Assembly will go down in history as one of the most disheartening examples of both cowardice and partisanship in the history of the Commonwealth. Given an opportunity to lead, the Republicans instead chose to attack the governor, then dump the greatest health crisis of our lifetimes in the laps of everyone else.
As our schools turn into petri dishes and our children into subjects of experiments, let us remember who took us down this dark road: Republicans who were elected to serve the public, but instead took the easy way out and served only themselves.
May their actions on three days in September be attached to their names forever. And when the next election comes, may voters remember how our children were abandoned by these legislators, and in turn abandon these legislators at the ballot box.