Donald Trump and his inner circle went all-in on mask-shaming after former Vice President Joe Biden wore a mask to a Memorial Day observance, with Trump, Don Jr. and White House deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino all posting snotty tweets about it. But this particular culture war Trump is trying to stoke turns out to be all about Republicans, and Biden is in no way feeling the pain of the attack.
According to recent polls, mask-wearing is supported by an overwhelming majority of Democrats, a very strong majority of independents … and even a majority of Republicans. And many Republican lawmakers are prominently wearing masks and expressing support for it. Trump’s campaign against masks may be stoking his most devoted base, but it is dividing Republicans.
When it comes to whether Trump should wear a mask, as many as 48% of Republicans say yes. One Democratic tracking poll finds that “mask” is showing up in open-ended answers about what negative things people have heard about Trump’s handling of coronavirus. That poll showed a key way Trump is splitting Republicans. Just 39% of Republicans said they disapproved of Trump’s decision not to wear a mask—a number that’s been up to 48% in another poll—but 69% of Republicans said they thought elected officials should wear masks in government buildings. Plenty of Republicans are willing to hold Trump to a different standard than they hold anyone else to, but there’s probably some strain when he forces them to do so.
Meanwhile, Republican governors like Ohio’s Mike DeWine and North Dakota’s Doug Burgum are appealing to their state’s residents on the issue. “Wearing a face covering is not about politics—it’s about helping other people,” DeWine tweeted. “This is one time when we truly are all in this together.”
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, formerly the second-ranking Republican in Senate and up for reelection this year, wrote “We all have to do our part. Maintain social distancing but if you can’t, do this,” alongside an Instagram photo of himself in a mask. “Easy peasy. Go for it.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been pictured in a mask alongside Trump.
That may be why Biden is projecting such easy confidence about his public mask-wearing, changing his Twitter photo to himself in a mask after Trump mocked him for wearing one.
“This macho stuff, for a guy—I shouldn’t get going, but it just, it costs people’s lives. It’s costing people’s lives,” Biden told CNN’s Dana Bash (in an interview conducted maskless but at 12 feet distance). He continued, “Presidents are supposed to lead, not engage in folly and be falsely masculine.”