Something like this divide existed very early on, with conservatives like Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas expressing alarm about the outbreak while liberals decried the potential racism of a “Wuhan virus” panic. But by late spring of 2020, the entire dynamic was reversed: Liberals supported tough government interventions to fight the virus, the right was full of fierce libertarians, and so it has mostly remained.

You can blame Donald Trump’s early insouciance for establishing this pattern, or the way that Covid hit blue metropoles hardest early while taking much longer to take root in rural regions. But it’s also useful to do in-group/out-group analysis, which suggests that conservatives were more willing to support limitations on liberty that fell on foreigners and international travelers — to them, out-groups — but balked at restrictions that seemed to fall most heavily on their own in-groups, from the owners of…

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