News Release

“The Partisan Pandemic Cottage Industry”


In a new piece for PESTE magazine, public-health researcher Abby Cartus critiques the mainstream narrative of pandemic response in the U.S., which contends that the reason the country’s pandemic response was so badly botched is the country’s deep partisan polarization. 

    Abby Cartus is a postdoctoral research associate with the People, Place, and Health Collective at Brown University School of Public Health, where her work focuses on overdose prevention, perinatal epidemiology, and statistical methods. 

Cartus writes that the explanation in news media and academic research, which hinges on politics and partisan polarization, “threatens to point us down a dead-end path.” The framing provides an “easy answer,” she writes, indicating that it was the public’s “stubborn attachment to our partisan identities and mistrust of one another that ultimately scuttled an effective response.” Cartus argues that that narrative blames the public for what she sees as the government’s failures.

She told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “The partisan gaps are real. But they’re being endowed with an [outsized] explanatory power. The narrative is doing a lot of work to cover up for policy failures that did not need to happen. It also does a lot of work to shield public figures from public outcry and response. The U.S. pandemic response failed so badly because of structural and material things—policy decisions made decades ago, pandemic policy decisions, and the economic imperatives of running a capitalist economy.”