The pleas from Governor Steve Bullock to Montanans begging them to socially distance and wear ineffectual facial masks are becoming increasingly desperate. The governor, who’s trailing his Republican opponent by 9%, posts in social media 2-3 times per day imploring Montanans to take the precautions under threat of scaling back business, school, and church openings. Meanwhile, comments from Bullock’s progressive followers can be seen demanding the governor use physical or financial force to make businesses and citizens comply with his mask mandate.
The problem for Bullock, it seems, is that he’s unwilling to take the same draconian measurers as his Democrat friend in California, Governor Gavin Newsom. In an election year, strong-arming voters any worse may alienate his constituency. For Bullock, it will have to suffice to only threaten citizens with those measures, but a quick trip to public spaces will show that most are calling his bluff.
However, after Yellowstone County committed an unbelievable breach of civil liberties on Monday by restricting church seating capacity more than bar capacity (churches were limited to 50%, while bars were only limited to 75%) in an overreaction to COVID-19 numbers which are neither overwhelming our hospitals or causing catastrophic death, Governor Bullock apparently sees a new path forward to restrict Montanans economic and personal liberties without being on the chopping block for it.
Bullock has announced that he will give cash to counties who follow in Yellowstone County’s footsteps and limit the amount of Christians who can attend church on Sunday. Studies show that church participation prior to an election increases voter participation by over 80%. Additionally, about that same percentage – 80% – of evangelical Christians who attend church weekly voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and almost universally lean Republican.
At his press conference, Bullock praised the counties that have threatened their citizens with jail time and fines for violating his health decrees, “Among large counties, those that have taken civil enforcement action against some of the most egregious bad actors currently experience much lower rates of transmission.” Bullock then praised Missoula, Silver-Bow, and Lewis & Clark counties for weaponizing their county prosecutors against citizens exercising their rights to peacefully assemble or who reassert their bodily autonomy to not cover their face with a Covid hijab.
Praising the Yellowstone county health officer who placed additional restrictions on churches but not bars, Bullock said, “Reducing crowd size for a short amount of time will make an immense difference in the long run…By focusing on limiting the size of gathering in Yellowstone County and reducing the spread, our businesses certainly have a better shot of staying open (and) our kids have a greater likelihood of maintaining their education in the classroom.”
Bullock’s new plan is simple; bribe the counties with cash to keep churches throttled and enforce mask mandates, keeping most conservatives at home.
Bullock promised to give money to county prosectors and law enforcement to punish violators. If counties want a quick infusion of CARES act money, all they have to do is go after those peacefully assembling or worshipping without permission, or those who refuse to wear masks.
Bullock said, “There’s no expectation that every violation of a health order will be or should be remedied through enforcement, but our public health officials will find themselves helpless to combat the virus if they don’t receive the support that Montana law guarantees them.”