Wineke: What are those big rigs doing in Washington?

MADISON, Wis. — I have a feeling that when the history of the Covid pandemic is written, the antics of The People’s Convoy will be seen as a defining image.

The Convoy, which includes – who knows? A few hundred trucks, a couple of thousand trucks? – began in California and both picked up and lost participants as drivers of 18-wheel tractor-trailers, pick-ups and various autos honked their way around the country.

It passed through Madison last Friday.

If it has a special message, it is that pandemic mask mandates are un-American and should be ended.

The mandates, however, had mostly ended before the convoy began its mission and that’s not because health officials cowered before the specter of trucks bearing American flags and air horns, but because the latest variation of the Covid virus seems pretty much to have run its course.

That didn’t deter anyone. The trucks now overnight at a Maryland race track and, then, during the day go out and make a couple of loops around the 65-mile Beltway surrounding Washington.

Since the Beltway is already one of the most congested highways in the country, the addition of the trucks seems to have made no difference whatsoever in the traffic.

Not surprisingly, the convoy became a special mission for Wisconsin’s Senator Ron Johnson, who, along with Texas Senator Ted Cruz, met with the drivers Monday.

Johnson said the truckers are “fighting for freedom,” adding “I didn’t expect that. It comes as no surprise to me.”

Setting aside the fact that Johnson contradicted himself within one sentence, I’m not sure what kind of “freedom” Johnson was extolling.

If there is one occupation that hasn’t truly been affected by mask mandates, it would seem to be over-the-road truckers. They may be required to tolerate individual mandates if they unload their trailers or use restaurants. But no one, anywhere, has ordered them to wear masks while they are alone in the cabs of their trucks driving hundreds of miles a day.

But Johnson not only felt their pain; he identified with it.

“Those of us who have been trying to convey the truth have been vilified,” Johnson is quoted as explaining. “We’ve been censored. We’ve been accused of spreading disinformation. I’m sorry, the misinformation has been spread by the Covid Cartel.”

He’s got a point there. I personally recall saying impolite things about Johnson’s suggestion that using mouth wash might prevent Covid infection.

The underlying point, however – and I think this is what the histories will conclude – is that the whole effort had no point but did gain an inordinate amount of publicity along the way.

Which is most likely a sign of the times.