The Tyranny of Oopsie
How our leaders prefer excuses over responsibility
We’re in year three of this horrible cycle. I settle in for an evening to read or write or watch a show and I hear the thumping upstairs then the shrieking. My children know that we are in the quiet time of the evening and they are flagrantly disregarding our previously agreed-upon strategy. So I trundle upstairs and open the door to their room. Having realized their illicit behavior is about to be punished, they immediately show contrition. “Oops, sorry sorry sorry” they mumble as they quickly revert to the expected behavior.
They know the rules. They broke the rules. They also know that “oops” is not an excuse. “Oops” doesn’t fix anything; it doesn’t give them permission to act poorly. “Sorry” doesn’t fix things. I need more than “oops sorry” to convince me that the future will be different from the past.
I just thought I’d share that slice of parental life, which came to mind as I watched California governor Gavin Newsom fumble through this interview about his Covid policies. Newsom’s excuses for his despicable behavior during the Covid pandemic are more loquacious than my children's excuses, but they draw from the same emotional well. Paraphrased, he is saying: “If I just say I was wrong, then we can move forward. No one is perfect.”
I don’t have the time or inclination to run a laundry list of all the ways that Newsom screwed up the Covid response in California but it is extensive. California was the center of the most obscene Covid responses: arresting individuals, shutting down public spaces, fining churches, assigning politically motivated “essential” worker status, firing unvaccinated workers, and threatening the medical licenses of doctors who disagreed. There was no policy too harsh, cruel, or anti-science that Newsom didn’t fully embrace.
I’m not even going to go into how Newsom refused to follow his own policies because that is entirely beside the point I’m trying to make here.
Now that the crisis is over and Newsom needs to deal with the political consequences of his authoritarianism, he’s adopted this stance of haplessly shrugging and pretending like no one knew could have guessed what the best policies could have been. This is ridiculous on its face. The fact that California has incredibly oppressive Covid policies for months after many states had opened entirely suggests that at least some governors had correctly guessed what the best policies were and had successfully implemented them while Newsom was attacking them as “anti-science”. It is worth investigating how the “anti-science” people got it right so much faster than Newsom did.
But the most important question to ask the governor of the largest state in our country is the same thing I say to my 10-year-old: I don’t care if you’re sorry, what are you going to do differently?
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