(CNN)In the first months of the nation’s ongoing fight against the coronavirus, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine emerged as one of the politicians who actually got it. As in: Understood the threat and took clear and decisive actions –– including being the first governor to close a state’s schools to deal with the spread of the virus.
The praise those moves won DeWine nationally was reflected in his standing in the state, too. In a late June Quinnipiac University poll, 75% of Ohioans approved of how DeWine was handling his job — including 81%(!) of Democrats, 76% of independents and 74% of Republicans.In short: if there was a governor you would think would be immune from an impeachment attempt, it would be DeWine. Or not.”Articles of impeachment drawn up against Gov. Mike DeWine over coronavirus order,” read the headline in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer earlier this week. The facts are these: A handful of conservative state lawmakers have filed an impeachment resolution that alleges, among other things, that a) DeWine allowed the state’s health department overly broad leeway to issue Covid-19 guidelines b) “conspired” with the Ohio secretary of state to delay the March 17 primary and c) forced businesses to close, which led to a major economic slowdown in the state.Read MoreState Rep. John Becker, the leader of the impeachment effort, insisted to the Plain-Dealer that he was not simply trying to score political points or draw media attention with the impeachment gambit. “If this was (about) a matter of principle and people hearing my voice, I’d send out a letter to the editor, or maybe a House resolution,” he said. “No — impeachment is the intention.”Whatever the intention, the impeachment of DeWine is extremely unlikely. First, a majority of lawmakers in the state House would have to support it. Then, two-thirds of the state Senate, which is also Republican-controlled, would also have to approve. There’s no indication that party leadership will even entertain the notion. House Speaker Bob Cupp said he would not back the impeachment effort, dismissing it as an “imprudent attempt to escalate important policy disagreements with the governor into a state constitutional crisis.”But whether DeWine actually has to worry about being impeached — he doesn’t — is sort of beside the point here. What matters is that DeWine’s handling of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has won him plaudits from coast to coast, has so angered a part of the Republican base in his state that a trio of lawmakers from his own party have decided to try to do something about it.Ohio is not an isolated situation. In Idaho this week, a rowdy group of protesters shattered a glass door and rushed the state House viewing gallery on the first day of a special session dedicated to the coronavirus. In Texas, a half-dozen county Republican parties censured Gov. Greg Abbott (R) last month for alleging overstepping his executive powers in ordering mask-wearing and other measures to contend with the state’s surging number of coronavirus cases.Taken together, what these episodes highlight is how President Donald Trump — and the ways in which he has politicized public health matters like mask-wearing and social distancing — are influencing the way that some (many?) Republicans think.
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Trump rode to office on voter revulsion with the so-called “establishment” of both parties; his campaign was as much about tearing down the status quo within the Republican Party as in the Democratic Party. And even when he got into the White House, Trump kept up that outsider thinking — promulgating a series of ill-defined conspiracy theories that all suggested the establishment — or, in Trump’s words, the “deep state” — were out to get him and all those who think like him.It’s no wonder, then, that as the coronavirus pandemic brought America to its knees — economically and socially — over the spring and now well into the summer — that many Republicans, particularly those who most closely identify with Trump, view attempts by their state governments to slow the spread of the disease with deep suspicion.Suspicion is an insidious monster; once unleashed, it’s hard to contain; it seeps into every nook and cranny of your consciousness. And so you start to see mask-wearing not as a proven (and medically sound) way to slow the spread of Covid-19 but as an unnecessary imposition on your rights. And closures/limitations on restaurants and bars as the government meddling in the private sector.What all of this fails to acknowledge is that the challenges posed by the coronavirus are unlike any we — or our politicians — have faced in more than a century. These are unique times and the same old conspiracy-driven thinking not only doesn’t apply but makes government efforts to get the virus under control that much more difficult.