As the nation frets over the possibility of the “dark winter” that Joe Biden recently predicted, we’re already seeing signs of renewed authoritarian lockdowns in many parts of the nation. Curfews are being put back in place in a number of cities. Orders forbidding gatherings of more than a certain number of people have accompanied them. Far too many schools are still either closed or holding “virtual classes” that have been failing spectacularly. There have already been signs of growing resentment toward yet another round of crippling restrictions on the activities of private citizens and businesses, along with the mounting damage these policies have done to what was one of the most thriving economies our nation has experienced prior to the arrival of the novel coronavirus.
So how much of this will people stand for before enough is declared to be enough? At the Free Beacon, Matthew Continetti writes about the next populist revolt. He reminds us that events in Europe have foreshadowed issues that later arrived on America’s shores quite often over the past decade. These included protests and unrest centered on mass migration, terrorist attacks, and the rejection of globalism in the British Brexit movement. Most recently, violent protests have erupted across Europe in response to a second wave of lockdowns imposed during a resurgent COVID outbreak. Could that be the next wave to wash up on America’s shores?
Governments resort to shutdowns to impose discipline on an unruly population. But shutdowns do not solve the problem. They turn public health crises into economic and social ones. After a while, the price of shutdowns grows too high. The government reopens the economy. The virus returns. Before long, the cycle repeats…
Joe Biden has been able to straddle these two poles. He says you can have a (relatively) open society as well as a public health system that reduces infection to a negligible level. He says he will “shut down the virus, not the country.” What he hasn’t explained is how that can happen in the absence of a widely administered vaccine…
If Biden takes office during the “dark winter” he prophesied at the final presidential debate, he will have to decide, in addition to his national mask mandate, whether to put the country through another “30 days to slow the spread.” The bureaucratic pressure to shut down will be immense. The media, entertainment, and technology sectors will be sure to support and promote his decision. Polarization between “red” states and the nation’s capital will intensify. The commanding heights of culture and business will consign the Republican Party to the ash heap of history. And opposition to the restoration of progressive rule will manifest itself as a populist revolt whose character, magnitude, disposition, and endgame can only be imagined.
It’s not as if we weren’t already accustomed to waves of massive protests filling the streets of American cities. But as sad as it is to say, we’ve now seen so many of these protests morph into violent riots that it’s almost becoming the norm. Up until now, at least in the current wave of unrest, it’s generally almost always been liberal, progressive movements, mixed in with some anarchists, fomenting and executing the assemblage of these mobs, with the two largest drivers being the Black Lives Matter movement and Antifa. But what if another round of upheaval is on the way, this time coming from the opposite ideological direction?
Up until now, such a thing didn’t seem at all likely. Unlike today’s riotous mobs, more conservative assemblies have generally consisted of Tea Party rallies that rarely required any sort of law enforcement intervention or pro-life demonstrations on the steps of the Supreme Court building that primarily consisted of people praying. There’s also been a common belief that conservatives don’t wind up filling the streets day after day in raucous crowds because most of them have jobs and families to attend to so they don’t have the time.
But could Continetti be onto something here? One of the many unfortunate side effects of the pandemic is that a lot more people of all ideological stripes suddenly have a lot more time on their hands. And the frustration being expressed with authoritarian state and municipal governments that continue to push us through cycles of reopening before closing again feels palpable. The day might be coming when a totally different set of social media streams and messaging apps begin summoning like-minded people out in the streets, this time to push back against these executive mandates that are probably damaging the country as much if not even more than the virus. What would that look like?
The final point to keep in mind is that we’re talking about a widespread group of citizens who, in large part, tend to be pretty well (and legally) armed. I don’t think that this is a vision of the future that any of us are actually hoping to see. But society is being thrown off-kilter everywhere you look these days. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but I can no longer rule it out as a possibility.