A comforting belief has found purchase among members of the right who’ve been demoralized by months of lockdown restrictions.
“Here’s a prediction for the November election,” Federalist political editor John Daniel Davidson wrote in these pages recently. “If Joe Biden wins, the coronavirus pandemic will all but disappear overnight.”
As Davidson argues, “Keeping the country locked down in the name of the pandemic is a way for [Democratic mayors and governors] to hurt Trump, which is the only thing they really care about. Once he’s gone, the rationale for lockdowns, mask mandates, and doom and gloom rhetoric is gone, too.”
As tempting as it is to believe there’s a consolation prize for a Biden-Harris win, this argument ignores one of the key truisms of politics: Politicians seek power, and leftist ones especially. The pandemic response has handed Democrats a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow dependence on government, thereby establishing permanent entitlements and buying votes; pass pork-barrel spending for special interests under cover of pandemic relief; and leverage reopenings of businesses, churches, and schools to check more things off their hard-left wishlist, from killing the economy to address climate change to defunding the police.
What leftist would want to put the brakes on this bullet train to woke nanny-statism? Even if Biden is mostly using the pandemic to drag Trump, other parties at all levels of government have vested interests in continuing to stifle American life.
Remember, Don’t Waste a Crisis
Consider the interests of Democrats in Congress. The first round of stimulus, including the CARES Act, was nearly $4 trillion, including direct payments to Americans that essentially constituted a $15 minimum wage for the unemployed. If Democrats can hold onto this crisis a little longer and win back the Senate, they might be able to swing this into permanently enhanced unemployment benefits or even universal basic income.
As another example, landlords are now at the mercy of Congress for relief from Trump’s new eviction moratorium. Many landlords will need handouts, and handouts come with lots of strings attached — such as perhaps more Section 8 housing, federal rent controls, or tougher restrictions on evictions. Democrats don’t want to pass up these kinds of opportunities.
Consider the tremendous power of non-elected bureaucrats in this crisis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention passed an eviction moratorium that will last at least through the end of the year. The CDC believes it has the authority to make decisions about rental agreements, something almost exclusively regulated on the state and local levels.
In the 2018 election cycle, federal employee donations went overwhelmingly to Democrats. Do you think Democrats will easily give up this immense power of the administrative state they control? As the progressive proverb credited to Rahm Emanuel goes, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” De-escalating the government’s pandemic response upon a Biden win would be wasting a crisis.
The Tyranny Is Local
As for governors, do you think Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will want to give up her expansive emergency powers just because a Democrat is in the White House? At one point, her orders caused gardening supplies to be roped off in superstores, and she banned the use of motorboats. That level of caprice doesn’t stem from wanting to stick it to Trump, but from a deep-seated desire to dictate instead of governing and from an ear toward panicked, scientifically illiterate public health bureaucrats, not Democratic strategists. The same goes for Govs. Gavin Newsom, Andrew Cuomo, Jay Inslee, and every other Wuhan virus Karen issuing diktats from on high.
Newsom has crushing authority over business. His new colored “zone” system, which determines restrictions based on county-level case counts, not only ensures uncertainty and instability but is packed with levers to fiddle with and loopholes to open and close. Businesses that need bailouts or favors — such as, say, tweaking this or that regulation in the yellow zone — are businesses he can control. Donate to this campaign or endorse this piece of employee-rights legislation — you get the idea. It’s politics as usual, except the loopholes and arbitrations are more numerous, and the power imbalance between government and private entities is radically skewed.
California also has ambitious carbon-reduction goals, and just as the Great Recession helped the state government achieve previous goals, the lockdowns have given it an opportunity for greater carbon mitigation by giving politicians an excuse to continue restricting social and economic activities.
Mayors have been no less tyrannical, and they won’t easily give up their kingships just because Trump’s no longer a thorn in their side. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has moved the goalposts so far on COVID-19, from “flatten the curve” to “until there’s a vaccine,” that any careful observer who’s also seen the hospital data must conclude he simply doesn’t want to give up the excuse to control social activities, businesses, and the rental market. Whether it’s true fear of the virus or a power trip is hard to say, but either motivation doesn’t change much with Biden in the White House.
Aside from unprecedented power over human interactions, the lockdowns have been an opportunity for mayors to target religious communities. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has been all too happy to use lockdowns to target Jews, and he threatened to shut down churches permanently for holding services.
L.A. County has likewise used the lockdown to target churches, pulling the parking lot permit for John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church in retaliation for holding services. These aren’t the actions of people looking for excuses to make the president look bad; they’re consistent with decades of anti-religious animosity from the left, and COVID-19 regulations are a convenient cover for it.
We cannot forget teachers unions. They have demands for reopening. For United Teachers Los Angeles, they include defunding the police, Medicare for All, and closing charter schools. With teachers unions offering key endorsements and donations to Democrats, their influence over politics is substantial.
These Power Grabs Aren’t About Electing Biden
People often pay little attention to their state and local politics in the months leading up to a presidential election, yet these are the powerbrokers who have micromanaged their lives, suppressed their freedoms, and refused to reopen schools these past six months. The public might have a short attention span, but it isn’t so daft that they don’t know who’s been dragging out the misery and killing businesses. It isn’t Trump.
Besides all these vested interests, a Biden administration will need to drag this out a little longer just to control the perception of Democrat-led recovery. If the vaccine doesn’t launch until after Inauguration Day, a Democrat administration might go so far as to delay its deployment to launch a safety review, making Biden the hero of the vaccine initiative when the now “safer” vaccine finally launches.
Harris has already said she “wouldn’t trust Donald Trump” regarding the vaccine. This would give added cover to Congress and governors to keep the handouts and the extortion of businesses (and local governments by the teachers unions) going for a while longer.
Prepare for a continued struggle against lockdown oppression regardless of who wins, because neither a Biden win nor loss will make power any less attractive to the people who are currently abusing it.