By DAVID A. COOK
We’ve been living under this “new normal” of the COVID-19 pandemic long enough to start reflecting on how it’s changing the world around us.
Like any difficult time, it’s easy to focus on the ways in which we are still struggling. However, like any difficult time, it’s also worth noting what good has come from this and what it may have taught us.
There are little things that seem plainly obvious, like the videos many of us have seen of “nature returning” as millions of humans cut down on their travel and reduce their general movements. There are stories of bravery, like the doctors across the nation who delayed retirement, or returned from it, to treat COVID-19 patients. There are always feel-good stories that stand out when we’re collectively challenged.
Something else has happened right here in America, including Missouri. I can’t recall any issue, perhaps not even “right-to-work-for-less,” that has made it clearer who truly supports hard-working families and who does not.
ELECTION YEAR: LOOK CLOSER FOR LOYALTIES
It’s an election year. Although, it doesn’t always feel like it. Donald Trump and Joe Biden are both unable to hold their big rallies and crisscross the country at the moment. Here in Missouri, Mike Parson and Nicole Galloway will both be asking for your vote for governor this November, and they are similarly unable to “traditionally” campaign.
To some extent, this is a bit of a relief. A few less campaign ads, a few less fundraising emails, a few less nightly newscasts leading with soundbites from big rallies, is a little comforting.
Elections can be draining for candidates and for voters, and worse, Elections sometimes make it harder to know what a candidate stands for rather than easier. Politicians want to get elected, and sometimes they make promises they can’t keep or promise to hold values that they will soon discard once they are elected.
Actions speak louder than words, as the saying goes, and in the last few months, this crisis has given every single American an opportunity to see where the loyalties and values of our elected officials truly lay.
MISSOURI GOV. MIKE PARSON FAILS TO TAKE ACTION
As many of you know, I have been critical of Gov. Mike Parson during this crisis. His actions have spoken plainly enough. Even when offered the chance to do just the bare minimum for grocery workers and pharmacy technicians around the state, he failed to act. Sure, he was happy to offer his words. He was happy to call them heroes — he had plenty of thanks and praise — and posed for photos. Did he take action for them? No. Not once. Not even a little bit.
Parson visited a Hy-Vee grocery store earlier this month on the day he ended the state’s stay-at-home order. He was happy to pose for photographs and spout empty words. Those Hy-Vee employees are required to wear masks while at work, like many grocery workers both union and non-union, it’s a matter of safety and protecting the public.
Governor Parson couldn’t be bothered to wear a mask though, despite being surrounded by customers and employees donning masks for his protection, he evidently didn’t think to wear one for theirs.
It’s not just the mask issue. There were real, tangible actions our elected leaders had a chance to take to demonstrate who they care about. Some of them rose to the moment, and some of them failed.
In the Missouri legislature, House members distributed an amendment that would have classified all grocery workers and pharmacy techs as temporary first responders and essential workers. These classifications come with real benefits, like additional worker’s compensation if they become ill, priority access to testing, and more. Several members tried to offer this amendment. Ultimately, Rep. Doug Beck of south St. Louis County brought the amendment to the floor.
It was crushed. Nearly every Democrat voted in favor, but despite a handful of Republicans supporting it, the amendment died almost perfectly along party lines to the Republican supermajority.
This amendment was an opportunity to take a stand for workers like the ones I represent across the state. A lot of politicians who voted against supporting these workers will be happy to call them “heroes” and offer empty words of thanks, but when it’s time to act, we see where their values truly lay.
REMEMBER WHEN IT’S TIME TO VOTE
This COVID-19 crisis has done a lot. It’s taken lives, and changed even more. It has corporate America rethinking the very idea of offices, and it has put tens of millions out of work. We don’t know precisely how or when this will all end.
In November we have to try to remember what it was like during this time.
This crisis was an opportunity for politicians and workers to demonstrate their true selves. Workers like you came through, and kept food and prescriptions flowing to the people who needed them.
When it’s time to vote this year, think about who really stood up for you and your family.