I have no idea which political parties and candidates are ultimately going to benefit from the economic chaos that will soon sweep away life as we have known it as a result of our insane governmental overreaction to the threat posed by Coronavirus. However, what is plain is that rational thought and reasoned analysis will drive exceedingly few voting decisions come November of 2020. We can instead expect that just two primal emotions—fear and anger—will determine who will win our nation’s federal and state elections.
The fear is easy to understand.
When you suddenly find that your job is gone, you are restricted to your home, and daily life filled with the unknown is robbed of the least shred of security and safety, you tend to get pretty darned scared. The twin terrors of homelessness and hunger suddenly are haunting tens of millions of the newly unemployed around our nation, and record-setting mortgage defaults and long lines at local food banks are soon to be expected. Many businesses will never reopen, many livelihoods will be lost, and many empty storefronts will peer at us accusingly. What we face today was unimaginable just a couple of months ago when we enjoyed one of the lowest overall unemployment rates in our nation’s history, and no one really knows where the bottom of today’s economic collapse might be. It is easy to understand why we are so afraid.
Our anger is equally easy to understand.
Politicians are rarely—if ever—able to resist “improving” our lives. The problem is that the governmental “solutions” often turn out to be the actual problems. The new spending, the new paperwork, and the new restrictions that result each become case studies in the Law of Unintended Consequences—emptying our wallets, wasting our time, and restricting our freedoms under the guise of making our lives better. Many Americans have been well aware of this vicious cycle for decades, but that which smiling legislators bring to unnatural life—much like a vampire—will never, ever die and leave us in peace.
If any good can possibly be said to come from today’s government actions that have trashed our economy, threatened our freedoms, robbed students of their educations—and caused widespread anxiety, domestic abuse, drug use, and suicide—it might just be this: the fiction that more and more governmental power and oversight leads inevitably to human happiness may finally have been put to rest.
The government action we will now demand is going set politicians heads to spinning.
We don’t want our taxes to rise because of this stupendous debacle; We will want offsetting cuts to the many expensive government programs that provide little or no value to America and Americans. This is, in fact, the perfect time to vote people into office who are intent on taking a meat cleaver to Washington, D.C. and the “permanent government” that subsists on our sweat.
We need no commissions, no studies, and no think tank reports to further delay that which must now be done. We instead need immediate, steep, across-the-board cuts in every nook and cranny of the federal bureaucracy. After we are done there, the same diligent attention to giving taxpayers the maximum value and efficiency for their now-scarce dollars should be directed toward eliminating state and local government bloat and waste while restoring genuinely helpful—and less ponderous—government services.
Those public sector jobs which serve no purpose beyond providing someone with a paycheck must be chopped, and the overall size of government now needs to be reduced to one we can afford. We cannot any longer continue to spend money we don’t have on government we don’t actually need, and the very last burden we can stand to have added to the catastrophe brought upon us by governmental panic and stupidity regarding Coronavirus is a fat tax increase to cover the cost of someone else’s strategic mistakes regarding an infection that has turned out to be less deadly than the seasonal flu.
Efforts to trim the size and cost of government will be met with furious and sustained opposition from those inside of government who will, of course, resist being fired and those outside of government who have figured out how to turn its many follies and inefficiencies into lucrative careers as contractors, consultants, and lobbyists. Today’s man-made economic disaster might be the catalyst for long-overdue reform efforts that foundered during the fat, happy, and lazy days of bureaucratic growth that are now disappearing in the rear view mirror as we race toward a fiscal nightmare that will be far more deadly than the Coronavirus could have ever hoped to be.
There is, in addition, one lasting aftereffect of the Coronavirus crisis that we can certainly count on to be true. The voter anger that animated the 2016 election and shocked the nation by putting Donald Trump in the Oval Office will suddenly seem like a sunny day at Happy Acres Summer Camp compared to what we will see over the next seven months.
As the wreckage that has resulted from putting America out of business—and millions and millions of Americans out of work—begins to wash over and drown our nation, voters are going to be looking for someone to punish for all this idiocy. I would not be at all surprised to see those running for re-election being forced to (perhaps literally) run from angry mobs of constituents who are out for blood. This election will not be won or lost based on elevated and erudite discourse; it will more resemble a Roman Coliseum on a day when the lions are especially hungry.
I am not certain the American punditocracy and elites are quite prepared for what lies directly ahead. Having grown used to parading the usual array of establishment talking heads who sagely pontificate upon what they believe is in the best interests of America and Americans, our leaders and opinion makers might find the usual electoral strategies are a poor match with the raw anger and bitter frustrations of the hungry and hopeless masses.
Controlling the narrative by mouthing the typical platitudes might prove impossible when the rage of the electorate is boiling hot, and it is likely that furious voters will roundly reject whatever cautious and careful campaign a standard-issue candidate might attempt to run. Raw meat will be required, and some more palatable form of human sacrifice will certainly be demanded in exchange for the votes of those who feel their futures have been stolen by oblivious and incompetent elected officials who betrayed their trust. Predictions are particularly useless during particularly unpredictable times, but it is hard to see how those now in charge will emerge from this deliberate disaster unscathed by the anger their stupidity has unleashed.
So pop yourself a big bowl of popcorn and enjoy watching our kings and queens dealing with the hordes of enraged peasants storming their previously impenetrable castle walls. The spectacle of democratic accountability in action should provide some meager entertainment while we’re busy dodging bill collectors and selling our blood plasma in order to stay alive.
There will, sadly and unsurprisingly, be more than enough pain to go around for everyone as we try to find a way forward from this mind-boggling catastrophe. It is time for a post-disaster new America—one that works.