Instant Opinion: not wearing a face mask ‘is like driving drunk’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Thursday 2 July

Donald Trump
(Image credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times

on President Trump’s supporters taking personal responsibility

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Refusing to Wear a Mask Is Like Driving Drunk

“Republicans seem to be coming around. Vice President Mike Pence earlier eschewed masks but now says that wearing them ‘is just a good idea.’ Senator Marco Rubio urged, ‘Just wear a damn mask.’ Representative Liz Cheney tweeted a photo of her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, wearing one, with the hashtag #realmenwearmasks. Good for them! But Trump has resisted. Republicans talk a good game about ‘personal responsibility,’ so it’s time for Trump to display some — and to call on his supporters to wear masks as well. As we celebrate our independence, this is how they can show patriotism, protect the economy and save the lives of their neighbors. The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, deflects questions about Trump and masks by insisting that mask-wearing is simply a ‘personal choice.’ No, it’s not. Refusing to wear a mask is no more a ‘personal choice’ than is drinking all evening and then stumbling into your car and heading down the road. In a time of plague, shunning a face mask is like driving drunk, putting everyone in your path in danger.”

2. Adam Elliott-Cooper, sociology research associate at the University of Greenwich, in The Guardian

on the call from the Black Lives Matter movement

‘Defund the police’ is not nonsense. Here’s what it really means

“When Keir Starmer condemned demands to defund the police as ‘nonsense’ on BBC Breakfast on Monday, it prompted dismay from criminal justice system reformers and supporters of Black Lives Matter. In dismissing what amounts to a realistic and serious policy approach, Starmer ignores two critical facts: that policing has entirely failed to improve public safety, and that there are numerous constructive alternatives to ineffective attempts to ‘police away’ social problems. It seems likely that some critics have misunderstood what defunding really means. Campaigns to defund the police and prison system do not argue that every prison should close tomorrow and every police officer be sacked the day after – they argue that social problems are better addressed through social responses. It may be hard to fathom, but no matter how much policing and prisons have expanded in the last 30 years, there has been no improvement in public safety.”

3. David Aaronovitch in The Times

on the extreme voices on the Labour frontbench

Starmer should finish off his far-left fringe

“Everything that has happened since 2016 has indicated the crying need for an alternative party of government in Britain: pragmatic, radical and with a broad base of appeal. Deprived of that in 2019, the British voting system conjured up a landslide victory for an exhausted and increasingly strident Toryism. There are signs that Sir Keir can, at the very least, pave the way for such an alternative, and might even represent it. But as moderates in places like Brighton, Liverpool and Haringey can tell you - and as Neil Kinnock’s battle with Militant Tendency reminds us - there isn’t a deal to be done with the far left... The far left thrives on the adrenaline rush of an out-of-control street protest. It likes nothing better than to colonise an inchoate movement with a genuine grievance. But it is an utter liability to a party of government.”

4. Allister Heath in The Daily Telegraph

on how the Prime Minister’s mission does chime with voters

Johnson’s real philosophy: a popular radicalism that blends Left and Right

“What does Boris Johnson really believe in? He isn’t a communist, as he told us in his speech, which is a good start. He isn’t a follower of Franklin D Roosevelt, contrary to the nonsensical, insulting spin of the past few days, a relief given how calamitous that US president’s domestic policy agenda turned out to be. But he isn’t a proper libertarian either: sadly, as far as I’m concerned, he never talks about cutting the size of the state, or privatising anything. He isn’t a Blairite, or a Cameroon, or a Heseltinian: he is destroying all of these men’s core legacies. He doesn’t fit into any of the traditional left-right boxes, which is why his ideology is endlessly mischaracterised. So what is he? Why do the illiberal elites loathe him so much? The answer is simple: the Johnsonian mission, in its pure form, is to force a realignment between the establishment and the public.”

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5. Bonny Brooks in The Independent

on labelling the modern GOP’s views

Is Trump’s Republican Party even conservative?

“In 2016, Never-Trump conservatives warned that the man was ‘not conservative and not qualified’. The former issue probably gets the least attention in the mainstream, but it’s important. If a conservative leader is not conservative in the most fundamental way, then what is he for, except to be a gravy train for career politicians who, having thrown their lot in with him, can wear his treachery too? Whether or not one agrees with an America First policy thrust to begin with is largely irrelevant here, because within the GOP leadership, the notion has failed on its own terms; none are putting country before party. We hear a lot of talk about left-wing virtue signalling – obsessions with symbols and cheap words. But the right has had its own version – sham patriotism – for time out of mind. Of all the easy aesthetics a Republican could opt for, flag-waving is number one. Now, this latest failure to protect the homeland exposes this symbolism as a grift. Just as anyone (except perhaps Mike Pence) can say ‘black lives matter’ without any meaningful action, ‘God bless America’ is an easy right-wing virtue signal.”

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