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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Gavin Newsom Apologizes for Breaking His Own COVID Rules. Other Californians Went to Jail

The fact that so many politicians continue to ignore their own mandates tells you all you need to know about them.

Image Credit: Gage Skidmore-Flickr | CC BY SA 2.0

Gavin Newsom is sorry.

The California Governor was recently busted attending a friend’s birthday party at a posh French restaurant in Napa Valley. The governor said that when he arrived a bit late at the restaurant other guests were already seated and he joined them, violating his own coronavirus order. (Newsom’s COVID-19 restrictions limit gatherings to “no more than 3 separate households.”)

“I made a bad mistake,” Newsom said. “I want to apologize to you. I want to preach and practice.”

On one hand, Newsom’s apology is refreshing. Time and again during the coronavirus pandemic we’ve seen politicians defend their actions when they’ve been caught violating their own restrictions.

“I need exercise to be able to stay healthy and make decisions,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio explained when it was discovered he was going to the gym while millions of New Yorkers were forbidden to do so.

“I’m the public face of this city. I’m on national media and I’m out in the public eye,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot after it was discovered she arranged a private visit from a local stylist even though she had ordered city salons and barbershops closed.

The examples go on and on.

On the other hand, Newsom’s apology simply doesn’t cut it.

First, Newsom is apologizing because he got caught. I think it’s safe to assume that no apology would have been forthcoming had knowledge of Newsom’s hypocrisy remained a secret.

Second, despite his apology, Newsom engaged in much of the same “govsplaining” that Lightfoot and de Blasio did.

It was in the Orange status…relatively loose compared to some other counties.”

It was one of those early reservations…

“We’ve been out, I think, for three times … since February. Just three times.”

I’m sure the many Californians fined and arrested for violating government restrictions had similar excuses.

The paddle boarder who in April was caught breaking the California Department of Public Health’s restrictions didn’t get off with an apology, though he could have reasonably said, “You know, I was all alone… in the ocean.”

He was arrested. The Los Angeles Times reported he and similar violators face a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail.

The paddle boarder wasn’t the only person to face criminal charges. A pair of smoke shops, a discount electronics retailer, and a shoe store, for example, were also charged after being accused of refusing to shut down.

The seven Californians fined for going out for a drink that was deemed “non-essential” did not get off with a warning. They were fined a total of $7,000.

The hundreds of thousands of restaurants and bars ordered closed by Newsom are unlikely to get off with an apology if they are caught breaking the state’s restrictions by one of Newsom’s coronavirus “strike teams.” They likely would face shutdown.

For Californians who have faced the heavy hand of its politicians throughout the pandemic, sorry probably is not enough.

To be clear, I don’t begrudge Governor Newsom sitting down to celebrate the birthday of his political advisor. Sitting with friends to break bread and enjoy fellowship is perfectly natural and reasonable.

What I begrudge is the expectation that others must sacrifice this and much more while life for Newsom continues relatively normally.

The biggest problem with 2020 is that phrases such as “we’re in this together” and “we’re all in the same boat” are simply not true. For Newsom and so many other politicians, lockdowns are a politically safe course. If you doubt this, take a glimpse of the coverage South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has received for not taking the extreme measures used in many other states.

Furthermore, they tend to be insulated from the toll of the lockdowns in ways many other Americans are not. It’s not their jobs being sacrificed. It’s low-income Americans who are being hit the hardest.

Nor is it their businesses being bankrupted. While millions of businesses faced the risk of bankruptcy from COVID-19 lockdowns earlier this year, Newsom’s winery remained open—even though many saw their indoor operations shutdown.

Like the Party elite in Communist Russia (called the nomenklatura), politicians like Newsom, Lightfoot, and de Blasio aren’t expected to live under the same rules as the little people.

In fact, they don’t even hide it anymore.

Normally, such actions would drive Americans crazy. After all, politicians are using collective force to deprive others of fundamental freedoms. This is not just hypocritical, but a serious threat.

“The pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty,” Justice Samuel Alito noted in a Federalist Society speech delivered via Zoom last week. “We have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive, and prolonged as those experienced for most of 2020.”

The only reason politicians continue to get away with such encroachments is because their goal is to “save lives.” In some ways, that’s what makes the coronavirus such a unique threat to liberty.

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive,” the philosopher C.S. Lewis once observed. “It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.”

The coronavirus has revealed just how right Lewis was.

And while “saving lives” might be the purpose of government restrictions, it cannot be stated enough that politicians cannot save lives, they can only trade lives. The draconian lockdown experiment may end up saving some lives, but it will surely claim countless others.

We may not know for years just how many lives were sacrificed and how many hundreds of millions were forced into extreme poverty by these inhumane interventions, but the fact that so many politicians continue to ignore their own mandates tells you all you need to know about them.

Instead of apologizing for eating with friends and family at a birthday party in violation of his own restrictions, Newsom should apologize for the restrictions themselves, and then immediately lift them.

  • Jonathan Miltimore is the Senior Creative Strategist of at the Foundation for Economic Education.