This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America's Future by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns:
For all his abiding partisanship, McConnell was out of step with his party on this singular issue, and closer in his worldview to the well-educated elites among whom he lived in Louisville and Washington than to the bulk of voters who kept electing him to the Senate.
Among those voters, Trump’s dismissive attitude toward the coronavirus had taken root many months before. The president’s endless complaints about masking had encouraged an attitude of resentment and disdain toward health officials, and right-wing media had increasingly depicted even basic instructions from public-health agencies as burdensome acts of a liberal nanny state. And Republican leaders around the country were not joining McConnell in challenging those attitudes, but rather tapping into them for their own political benefit.
“Don’t Fauci My Florida,” was Ron DeSantis’s slogan on koozies and T-shirts, even as the Delta variant began tearing through his state. There were few better indications of the Republican Party’s insular and angry turn than that a soft-spoken octogenarian physician had become a prime villain in the right-wing imagination.
In the summer of 2021, DeSantis and many other GOP governors were focused on passing laws to block localities from drafting or enforcing safewguards like mask mandates. By the fall, multiple governors would bar business in their state from requiring their employees to take the vaccine. Most prominent among this group was Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, who was facing primary challenges from multiple far-right fringe candidates and seemed desperate to show that no one could outflank him in his contempt for public health.