Attacking masks and Anthony Fauci seems to be a key component in the 2022 GOP campaign strategy

GOP elites seem to be gambling that promoting Covid policies unpopular with the public will rev up its anti-government base
Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health. Photo: NIH

First published at Daily Kos

What do you do when your party is 100% committed to minority rule and your caucus plans on gerrymandering their way to a majority? You seize on wildly unpopular messages as a silver bullet to winning back the House.

In that vein, congressional Republicans have taken to railing against top public health agencies and mask mandates as a way to rile up their base and virtually no one else. Their key targets, according to CNN, have become obvious: infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

“Americans no longer trust Dr. Fauci or the CDC. We clearly need new leadership,” said Rep. Warren Davidson, an Ohio Republican and member of the House Freedom Caucus. “Americans should be trusted to provide informed consent for vaccines. Americans should make their own personal decisions about masks. They’re sick of others imposing their will on them.”

The GOP’s extremist base is reportedly super animated by slogans like “Fire Fauci!” Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, has been selling ”Don’t Fauci My Florida” merchandise even as his state has become the nation’s top delta-surge hotspot. 

House Republicans have also been staging imbecile mask protests against the mask mandates in the lower chamber. 

“There’s practically no one in America who isn’t tired and frustrated with wearing masks,” GOP strategist Doug Heye told CNN. “For Republicans, they very clearly see something that they can tap into here.”

But the appeal Republicans are seeing doesn’t appear to go anywhere beyond their radicalized base voters.

A recently released Kaiser Family Foundation poll, for instance, found 63% support among parents for requiring unvaccinated students and staff to wear masks at school. While 69% of Republicans are against in-school masking mandates, 88% of Democrats support them along with 66% of independents. So if you were trying to get to 50 plus 1 to win an election, it’s not an issue you would seize on as a campaign strategy.

The same goes for skewering Fauci and the CDC. A recent survey from Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania found that “76 percent reported being somewhat or very confident in the trustworthiness of information about Covid-19 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 77 percent expressed the same confidence about the Food and Drug Administration,” according to The New York Times.

In the same poll, 68% said Fauci was a trustworthy source of information  on the pandemic. 

In fact, going after Fauci as any sort of mainstream tactic seems ludicrous. He has consistently polled very well over the course of the pandemic and one survey last fall even found that he was the only person associated with Donald Trump whose approval rating actually improved during Trump’s four-year tenure.

In February, a Politico/Morning Consult poll put Fauci’s approval for his handling of the pandemic at 60%.

So whatever House Republicans are doing, it’s not a majority strategy and could even backfire in statewide Senate races, particularly if the entire party gets painted as an anti-science cult that doomed America to the delta surge.