The building backlash

  • 23 April 2020
  • NormanL

Activists in a handful of states have organized protests against social distancing and business closure orders. They are demanding people and companies be allowed to get back to work. While still a relatively small movement, it's generated a lot of pushback from those who believe it's too early to re-open anything without a medical all-clear.

As John Harris argues in Politico, the backlash against the lockdowns may just be getting started...and could get much bigger than anyone expects:

The imminent libertarian surge is not a sure thing but it is more than a hunch. In informal conversations, one hears the sentiment even from people I know to be fundamentally progressive and inclined to defer to whatever health officials say is responsible and necessary to mitigate the worst effects of coronavirus. It is possible both to support the shutdown and powerfully resent it—the draconian nature of the response, and the widespread perception that to voice skepticism of any aspect of its necessity is outside respectable bounds.

The absolutist nature of the country’s shutdown and the economic rescue package have democratic consent—enacted by a bipartisan roster of governors and overwhelming votes in Congress—but it was the kind of consent achieved by warning would-be dissenters, Are you serious? There is no choice!

Many people concluded that for now there is nothing to do but suck it up. It won’t be surprising if some of those people eventually have an intense desire to spit out.

 You should read the entire piece to see how actively suppressing dissent can lead to powerful and genuinely disruptive backlashes in the future. We're agnostic on whether the current push to re-open the state swill gather momentum, let alone have a measurable affect on public policy. What we do know is the American economy cannot sustain a prolonged shutdown without profound consequences for our civic and economic life.