As we struggle through the long days of April, it will be a daily task to push back against those who would politically weaponize our national battle against coronavirus.
Policy disagreements should always be entertained, but there will be no letup in the blame game featuring unproductive rehashes of what various leaders did or did not do weeks or even months in the past. The main assaults will be absorbed by the Trump administration and Republican governors who did not immediately dance to the shutdown choruses that filled the air as soon as the threat of the pandemic began to swell. But Democrats will take heat as well, especially as New York and California wrestle with the impact befalling their populations.
The record will show that leaders who leapt early to restrictive policies will be credited with prescient wisdom, from California Governor Gavin Newsom to Republican Governor Mike Dewine of Ohio. But the America of April is not the spackled patchwork of just a few weeks ago. We do not have a full national stay-home order, but we have a strong federal stay-home suggestion from every voice at the daily White House briefings that have become a late-day TV staple.
We are a cooperative nation today, and likely to remain so for some time. There are corners of protest to be found, as some wonder when the government’s emergency powers might become an arguable infringement on various constitutional rights. But there is little evidence of mounting American restlessness. We are hurting, but there is a consensus that our voluntary derailment of the economy has been, if not necessary, then at least reasonable in view of the mounting virus death toll.
This has required leaps of faith and trust often hard to find in our relationship with government. The usual American appetite for cynicism has been largely restrained as we listen to leaders recite the litany of things we must not do if we are to protect our fellow citizens.
But what is in the long-term plan for some of these leaders once the threat has passed sufficiently to allow us out of our homes to restart our stalled lives and rebuild our wrecked economy?
A term you might hear is “the new normal.” It might be a reference to the time span of our current plight, or an expectation of what awaits us in a changed nation thereafter. The term should be rejected in both usages.
There is nothing normal about these days of gambling our livelihoods to save lives. It will not last forever. It had better not last until summer. For as long as it does, it needs to be viewed as an extraordinary and wholly temporary aberration brought about by a circumstance we hope to never see again.
We must also repel the notion that post-corona America will be forever changed, twisted into a “new normal” level of government control over our lives. I would never suggest that the left is enjoying the carnage exacted by this virus, but it is surely taking advantage of it in a quest to replace the president with a Democrat successor. That may or may not happen, but no matter the results of November 3, rest assured that the current clampdown on American liberty is a delicious feast of experimentation for those who lament that conservative victories, whether dating from the Reagan era or the three years of Trump, are a disease requiring the vaccination of progressivism.
Their dream is that we will be so thrilled to have the vise-grip of federal and local laws loosened that we may barely notice the overreach they seek to maintain indefinitely.
Gov. Newsom’s Wednesday news conference featured a question as to whether the virus and its accompanying shackles on citizens offered an “opportunity for additionally progressive steps at the national and state level.”
“The answer is yes,” Newsom replied, musing about “the opportunity for reimagining a more progressive era as it relates to capitalism.” Identifying himself as a capitalist, as virtually all on the left will do as they seek to conceal assaults on economic freedom, Newsom concluded: “We see this as an opportunity to reshape the way we do business and how we govern.”
His answer employed two adverbs that should send chills through lovers of liberty: “systemically” and “sustainably,” the first referring to the wish to infuse the grip of government throughout its many layers, the second defining the intent for it to last forever.
Bathed in the spotlight that would naturally hit a Governor in a state with more than one-third of the nation’s total coronavirus cases, New York’s Andrew Cuomo also spoke wistfully of system-wide change: “We should start looking forward to understand how this experience is going to change us, or how it should change us, because this is going to be transformative. It is going to be transformative on a personal basis, on a social basis, on a systems basis. We're never going to be the same again.”
Let’s pause to assess some ways in which permanent change would be desirable. If we are fixed on a new discovery of God, a new reordering of personal priorities and a new appreciation of our families and communities, that would be great. Somehow I don’t think that’s what Democrats in power from the federal to the city level have in mind.
“When do we get back to normal?” Cuomo asked. “I don't think we get back to normal. I think… we get to a new normal.”
I intend to get back to precisely the normal that was wrenched from our hands weeks ago. I will fight to make sure that no one, from my local county courthouse to my state capitol to the halls of federal power, tries to acclimatize me to some “new normal” featuring any new vestige of statist control.
In fact, once I am enjoying that blessed status quo I will never take for granted again, I plan to find ways to improve it. If there are to be virus-based lessons from this chapter in governmental life, they should involve how much of it we can do without. As Americans bandage our wounded family finances, it is government that should face the compulsory belt-tightening that will have ravaged our households.
If this horrible stretch of our history is to leave us changed, let it be in ways that find us improved as a society-- our people more grateful and less combative, our families bound more tightly, our churches more crowded.
The liberal legacy of never letting a crisis go to waste is already kicking in, hands rubbing in anticipation of a compliant America. When we are finished fighting this virus, we must make sure we have energy left to fight the opportunistic instincts of anyone seeking a progressive “new normal.”