The pandemic was supposed to be above politics, they claimed. Not so much.
Abrupt end to mask mandates reflects a shifting political landscape – The Washington Post
The abruptness is somewhat illusory. The public was increasingly paying lip service with no real sincerity to pandemic guidelines for the last year. The majority of Americans had done their best to get on with their lives. They didn’t violently reject the various regulations so much as pick and choose which ones to keep. “Vaxxed and relaxed” entered the discourse as Delta peaked and the Omicron panic didn’t pay off.
And the rest was just politics.
The shifting political fortunes of the Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey, along with some other places that seemed like blue territory, was a wake-up call. The wave of change rode through the polls, and then the politicians and finally the “public health experts”.
What the preference cascade did in the past few weeks was demolish the consensus.
Most people stuck with the system publicly even as they disobeyed it privately. The manufactured consensus was both pervasive and inescapable. It was there in the Big Brother ads and the constant warnings from the media. It was there in the mask mandates which were the most visible sign of the new abnormal.
What the preference cascade did was break the consensus as everyone, or almost everyone, turned out to be thinking the same thing.
Preference cascades seem magical and they lead to semi-mystical events like the fall of the Soviet Union, but they’re really the moment when individuals realize that their personal disobediences and dissatisfactions are actually universal. And then the masks come off.