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Make the 2022 Election a Referendum on Lockdowns 

Democrats should not be allowed to bury recent history so easily.

New Jersey: Coronavirus
An empty Springfield Avenue in Summit, NJ on a Friday afternoon. (Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)

As the midterms approach, it is remarkable just how much the pandemic has been scrubbed from public consciousness.

One would expect the most important political issue in recent memory to be worthy of greater attention. For two straight years, it was all anyone talked about. During that time, we were told with overweening moral righteousness by Democrats and their media allies that they were justified in shutting down the country, while Republicans were endangering us all with their reckless push to reopen.


If that was so, Democrats ought to be running in 2022 on their spectacular pandemic success. They should be shouting their records from the rooftops, reminding us all that they were on the Right Side of History once more.

“My Republican opponent,” they should be saying, “didn’t want to force kindergarteners to wear masks! Can you believe it? This right-wing extremist actually wanted to reopen schools and give people a choice on vaccines! But I followed The Science. I fought to keep your business shut. I fought to keep your kid out of school. And if you vote for me, you’ll get more of the same.”

A party that was truly proud of their pandemic record would be making this the centerpiece of their campaign strategy. But most Democrats are no longer trying to openly defend these measures, because they recognize that no defense is possible. They know what some of us knew all along: that the lockdowns were a serious public policy mistake, one of the worst our country has ever made.

Of course, they will not apologize to the American people, and they will halfheartedly keep certain pro-lockdown narratives alive, as the recent panegyrics to Dr. Anthony Fauci’s bureaucratic career demonstrate. But neither will they expend much effort to seriously defend restrictions anymore, because they know the tide of moral truth and public opinion is arrayed against them. That is why they have done everything they can of late to shift discussion onto what they believe to be safer territory: abortion, January 6, the “Inflation Reduction Act,” and so forth.

The Democrats’ prior lockdown narrative also undercuts their current political talking points. With the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, they have suddenly rediscovered a commitment to bodily autonomy. With the monkeypox outbreak, they have suddenly realized the importance of personal liberty and individualized risk assessment in the face of a public health threat (at least when it comes to gay pride parades). Swing voters and reasonable liberals are perfectly capable of seeing the hypocrisy in all this.


Democrats should not be allowed to bury recent history so easily. In the remainder of the 2022 midterms, Republicans should be doing all they can to remind voters of just what the American people went through over the course of the pandemic, primarily at the hands of Democrats.

For over a decade now, the Iraq War has hung like an albatross around the necks of those politicians who initially supported it.

The same should hold true here: Lockdown politicians should be made to answer for their folly again and again.

Every Republican in a competitive race across the country right now should be pressing their opponent relentlessly on this point. They should be releasing attack ads with messages like, “My opponent fought to keep schools and businesses closed for over a year.” Or maybe, “My opponent talks about the right to choose an abortion, but not too long ago, he was trying to force you to get a vaccine or lose your job.”

There is no shortage of embarrassing old quotes to dig up on most of these Democrats, showing what they really thought of our freedoms and dignity not too long ago. Republicans should play clips of Biden’s promise to “shut down” the country, and his warning to those who chose not to get vaccinated that “Our patience is wearing thin.” Democrats in down-ballot races deserve to be tied to this sort of thing, at least as much as Republicans have been tied to Trump’s worst excesses.

Republicans should also promise to create a Congressional committee that will fully investigate the lockdowns and those responsible for them. Democrats have certainly had no problem reminding us of January 6 over and over. Surely two years’ worth of sustained, widespread failures in leadership and removal of civil liberties are as much of an ongoing danger to Our Democracy as a single day of rioting.

There is one inevitable objection to this: that lockdowns are in the past, and that we should focus on present concerns such as inflation, gas prices, and so forth.

But the past should always be taken into account when determining how to act in the present. A voter’s considerations during an election need not solely be forward-thinking. In a democratic system, elections are just as much a chance to hold wrongdoers accountable as they are to elect promising campaigners. Contrary to what some political consultants might think, voters are not stupid or amnesiac; they are generally smart, and capable of thinking a few months back. They deserve to be fully reminded of what was done to them and encouraged to see the 2022 election as a chance to punish the lockdown-happy.

Also, many of the issues that voters face right now are a direct result of the pandemic response. Our economic woes in particular are the entirely foreseeable consequence of shutting down our supply chains and spending trillions of dollars to compensate for a forced economic closure. The high prices of 2022 had their seeds planted in 2020.

Finally, there is no reason to believe that pandemic restrictions are entirely a thing of the past. Many university campuses across America still have mask mandates for their students; areas like Los Angeles County considered reimplementing them earlier this summer. If a new variant of the virus hits after the November elections, does anyone really doubt that Democrats, unencumbered by direct electoral pressure at that point, will start up with the old “Hospitalizations are going up and we need to take action or People Will Die” song and dance? And they will do so with impunity, knowing that voters failed to hold them responsible last time.

Pushing lockdowns to the fore as a 2022 midterm issue is not just the moral thing to do. It is also good politics. As it stands, Democrats have a decent chance of retaining the Senate, and while Republicans will almost certainly still pick up the House, the gains may not be as great as they could have been, and perhaps not even enough for a solid RINO-proof majority. Republicans stand to gain by forcing Democrats to defend, or disavow, their worst policies, by shifting the conversation onto what is clearly (and deservedly) shaky ground for them.

Much is at stake in the 2022 election, but of chief importance is the final verdict on a massive political error which must never happen again. This chapter in our history simply cannot be allowed to recede into the past, to be swept under the rug by those who authored it with a nonchalant “Oops, my bad.” Instead, it must be faced head-on, and voters must be clearly afforded the sort of referendum they were denied in March 2020. Justice and accountability demand nothing less.


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