Progressives have grown more likely to embrace a culture of “safetyism” in recent years. This safetyism seeks to protect them and those who are deemed the most vulnerable members of our society from threats to their emotional and physical well-being. . . . progressives are willing to embrace the maximal measures to protect themselves, the public, and the most vulnerable among us from this threat. . . . [In contrast} many conservatives are most concerned about protecting the American way of life, a way of life they see as integrally bound up with liberty and the free market.Edsall:
Because many on the political right see the lockdowns as impinging “on their liberty, the free market’s workings, and their financial well-being,” he continued, “many conservatives want the lockdowns ended as quickly as possible.”I think much of the tone of 21st-century politics, if not necessarily the content, can be explained by this dichotomy between a masculine/tough/aggressive conservatism and a feminine/care-taking/safety-first liberalism. Many American conservatives love Trump, not because of his policies (which are all over the place) but because he embodies a tough, aggressive, masculine approach to life and politics, with clear winners and no coddling of whiners.
In addition, Wilcox noted, “some (especially male) conservatives see the lockdowns and mask wearing as expressions of cowardice that they reject as unmanly.” . . .
Peter Ditto, a psychologist at the University of California-Irvine, wrote me that "there is good evidence of sex differences in responses to the coronavirus; women are more likely to report favoring and practicing social distance measures than are men."
This, in turn, fits with “the general sense that liberals are the more ‘feminine’ of the two parties,” Ditto argues, which results in the following pattern: "While liberals adopt their nurturant role, bemoaning the climbing infection and death rates and are willing to accept economic carnage in favor of minimizing the loss of human life, conservatives are more likely to, in effect, tell the American people to “walk it off,” increasingly staking out the position that some loss of life must be endured for the greater economic good."
Add in the demographic facts that liberals are more likely to live in crowded cities and use public transit, and conservatives are more likely to live in less crowded areas and drive, and you can see why this was inevitably going to become a partisan issue once the first jolt of fear over the soaring exponential curve of infections was past.