"Do as I say, not as I do" is increasingly the motto of politicians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Witness Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who urged residents of his city to stay home and not travel during Thanksgiving shortly before boarding a flight to visit family for the holiday.
"Pass the potatoes, not COVID," said Hancock today in a tweet that advised people to host virtual gatherings instead of in-person dinners and to "avoid travel, if you can."
Pass the potatoes, not COVID.
????️Stay home as much as you can, especially if you're sick.
????Host virtual gatherings instead of in-person dinners.
❌Avoid travel, if you can.
????Order your holiday meal from a local eatery.
????Shop online with a small business for #BlackFriday. pic.twitter.com/acQpWs2Ism
— Michael B. Hancock ???? (@MayorHancock) November 25, 2020
That tweet was posted about half an hour before Hancock was set to fly to Houston, according to Denver-area NBC affiliate 9News. The mayor's ultimate destination, they reported, is Mississippi, where he will link up with his daughter and wife for Thanksgiving.
The mayor's office said in a statement to 9News that this small gathering of immediate family is in lieu of a larger gathering of all the Hancock clan.
"As he has shared, the Mayor is not hosting his traditional large family dinner this year, but instead traveling alone to join his wife and daughter where the three of them will celebrate Thanksgiving at her residence instead of having them travel back to Denver," the mayor's office said.
Hancock had sent an email to city staff last week urging them not to travel during the holiday and touting his own family's example of "cancelling our traditional gathering of our extended family."
On Friday, Denver public health authorities, at the behest of Colorado's state government, issued additional pandemic restrictions that include the shuttering of indoor dining at restaurants, a 10 percent capacity cap at gyms, and a 25 percent capacity cap at houses of worship.
Hancock's travels put him in the company of other politicians who've skirted the very pandemic precautions they have urged, and often required, ordinary people and businesses to comply with.
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser traveled to Delaware to attend a celebration of President-elect Joe Biden's election victory, despite issuing health orders requiring D.C. residents to travel only for essential business, and to quarantine for 14 days when returning from high-risk states (which would include Delaware.)
Bowser has defended her Delaware trip by arguing that it involved government business and therefore counted as essential travel.
Perhaps the worst COVID-19 hypocrite is California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who attended a birthday party at a swanky Napa Valley restaurant in violation of his own COVID-19 limits on gatherings. Rising case numbers in California are prompting the closure of indoor dining in most of the state under the four-tiered reopening schedule crafted by Newsom and state public health officials.
This kind of hypocrisy on the part of politicians isn't just infuriating. It also does damage to public health, as Reason's Jacob Sullum argued last week.
"Arbitrary, ill-conceived COVID-19 restrictions are bound to provoke resistance and resentment, compounding the fatigue that undermines compliance with more sensible safeguards," wrote Sullum in a column about Newsom's night out. "That problem can only be magnified when the people telling us what to do follow a different set of rules."
Leading by example is one way that politicians could voluntarily encourage safe behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic, lessening the need for coercive restrictions. Increasingly, it appears our leaders are not up to that task.
Rent Free is a weekly newsletter from Christian Britschgi on urbanism and the fight for less regulation, more housing, more property rights, and more freedom in America's cities.