California Using “Public Health” as Rationale to Push Progressive Political Goals

Public health authorities in California have unveiled a “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” that requires counties to meet new “health equity metrics” in order to emerge from the current Covid-19 lockdowns. It’s a broad experiment in social justice. Under the plan, counties must reduce “disparities in levels of transmission” in “low-income, Black, Latino, [and] Pacific Islander” communities before they can move forward with reopening. In effect, local businesses must remain closed until local bureaucrats are satisfied that ill-defined racial quotas have been met.

The underlying assumption of the blueprint is that race-based coronavirus disparities are the result of “systemic racism,” despite zero evidence that the state’s coronavirus policies have been discriminatory. The plan ignores potential differences in culture, behavior, and underlying health, resting instead on the premise that racism is the driving force behind every disparate outcome. The blueprint also subverts the democratic process. Unelected public health officials are restricting essential freedoms, including mobility, worship, and economic activity, without deliberation by the state legislature or the possibility of review or appeal.

Unfortunately, the California blueprint is just part of a broader pattern of state governments using public health as a rationale for seizing power. Throughout the pandemic, blue-state politicians have appealed to science as justification for long-term economic lockdowns, mask mandates, and other emergency measures, regardless of whether these policies have been sanctioned by state legislatures or voters. Science becomes the highest authority; citizens must obey.

Yet progressive leaders have been willing immediately to jettison science when it conflicts with their pre-existing political priorities. Earlier this summer, leading epidemiologists pilloried conservative lockdown protestors—declaring them a threat to public health—but then endorsed the much larger Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd in May. In short, they created a policy of “science for thee, but not for me.”

The disproportionate victims of any attempt to race-code the criteria for reopening in California will be the poor, the marginalized, and the nonwhite—the very people whom the equity policies are supposed to help. If, that is, Los Angeles County fails to reopen because it falls short of its “health equity metrics,” the Zoom class of intellectuals, public health officials, and progressive politicians will celebrate its own good intentions, even as bartenders, waitresses, taxi drivers, and small shopkeepers—many of them minorities—find themselves out of work.

The public should be on alert. If the progressive-scientific establishment can simply dictate policy outside the democratic process by appealing to “public health equity” — a vague concept that can extend to almost every facet of human life — voters may soon find themselves at the mercy of a new “soft totalitarianism,” as author Rod Dreher has characterized it. Citizens with a basic respect for freedom should resist this new encroachment. It degrades science, language, and democracy all at once, and acknowledges no natural limit to its power. Tyranny in a lab coat would still be tyranny.

Christopher F. Rufo is a contributing editor of City Journal and director of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth & Poverty. He’s directed four documentaries for PBS, including his new film, America Lost, which tells the story of three “forgotten American cities.” Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.


  1. Chris Renner says

    As the Covid crisis has proven, Californians are all too willing to be subject to lockdown because of false propaganda. Let’s face it; 75% of Californians are afraid to die while 25% are willing to take risks and live. (There is a difference.) That 25% is now moving out of state; leaving the state with a bunch of wimps easily manipulated by government and more importantly willing to forgo their freedom in favor of the illusion of security. Californians will be willing to accept higher and higher taxes and fees for the social shaming good of combating climate change, for the social good and unlimited expense of providing health care to every citizen, and for the care and feeding of every unproductive soul who happens to come to the state. California is already financially insolvent, is now losing its tax base, will be buried under municipal bankruptcies within three years and is desperately seeking a Trillion dollar bailout from the Federal government to cover up it’s pathetic decisions over the past twenty years. Californians will only have themselves to blame for voting in the delusional idealists that make up the state’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches. If you think California has had a tough year in 2020; watch out because it’s only going to get worse!

  2. Disgusted in California says

    And we will NEVER hit the mandated thresholds – not with them lying and cheating on the numbers, importing cases from the border, counting people twice or thrice, saying people are positive when they NEVER TOOK THE F’N test!!!!!

  3. CA_death_spiral says

    Odd that since the homeless are largely not waring masks, social distancing, isolating, and there’s no outbreak among them?

  4. Robin J Inman says

    I live in California, I did not vote for these state executive,legislative, and judicial branches. The government here in California is a rogue government does not care what the people want.We the people don’t even get to vote, and when we do get to vote they lie and cheat to get there way.Some of us can not move to another state. We are willing to stand up and fight to get our state back.

    • Chris Renner says

      Your principles and your morality are being crushed in California. You can talk yourself into thinking that you can stand up and fight back but your time is about six to ten years away if that. If you want to stay, you will have to survive financial hardship, increased crime, increased homelessness, and general despair before the majority of Californians will toss out the rabble that brought on the misery. I admire you staying and fighting but I gave up on California in March and moved out one month ago. I tried to stay and fight but when I realized that Californians are among the unfriendliest people in the world, I just didn’t want to stay and try to change them. Good Luck to you though.

  5. Would you really expect life directed by mindless, racist bureaucrats who get a regular paycheck to be any different? California is a shining beacon to the rest of the country as to what will happen if Biden and Commie LaHarris are elected. Just because you happen to have the “power” doesn’t mean that you are any less racist in the policies you set.

  6. This is clearly the type of Political direction that we need to stop at all costs . While we might be able to remove Newscum and Becerra we would still have a communist Legislature to deal with but if we are to remain a free country we must find a way to stop this so called Progressive movement that is no more that the same old bid for Communism.
    From the Sword of–

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