New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, consistently one of the most severe partisans of the lockdown strategy for dealing with COVID-19, has suddenly begun walking back his support for lockdowns. This may seem like a shocking about-face, but once you take account of the political situation, it isn’t surprising at all.

Cuomo’s Change of Heart

On Monday, Jan. 11, Cuomo tweeted, “We simply cannot stay closed until the vaccine hits critical mass. We will have nothing left to open. We must reopen the economy, but we must do it smartly and safely.”

Why the sudden change? Could it be because Cuomo has actually looked at the evidence for the effectiveness of lockdowns? If so, the evidence is unequivocal: They were a horrendous waste and may go down as the single greatest public policy blunder in the history of the United States.

If lockdowns worked, you would expect to see differences in hospitalization and death rates between states that had harsh lockdowns, like New York, and states that didn’t. But the evidence doesn’t show that. Instead, the lockdowns appear to have made no difference to the virus’s course through the population.

The same goes for mask mandates. If those worked, you would expect cases to uniformly drop after mandates were introduced. But again, they didn’t.

Could it be that Cuomo has finally put two and two together and realized that these lockdowns were pointlessly destructive?

Everything Is About Politics

Don’t bet on it. For politicians, everything is about politics. Even damaging, destructive and blatantly irrational policies can make total sense for them to implement if there is a good chance that political advantage can be secured by their enactment.

So, what has changed politically? Simple: Donald Trump will no longer be in office, and the economically destructive effects of the lockdowns can no longer be blamed on him. Conversely, Biden will be entering office soon, and if lockdowns are eased and the economy improves as a result, he can be given credit for that revitalization. This is true even though Trump has been saying for months now that he would like things to be reopened.

If you aren’t convinced, just consider the fact that the Democratic Mayor of Chicago Lori Lightfoot seems to have magically reached the same conclusion as Cuomo at about the same time.

Also, Newsweek and other outlets have magically begun publicizing studies that conclude that lockdowns are not particularly effective at controlling the spread of viruses.

This is all treated as some kind of amazing revelation, even though studies like this have been coming out for months without receiving publicity.

It really is that simple. Politicians and the media really are that petty.