Then the virus came. The sense of possibility that came with a supposedly radical candidate seems today like an artifact of another world—one we no longer live in. Even before the social distancing, self-quarantines, and lockdowns, the perpetual crisis that characterized Trump’s governing style had already produced starkly different reactions among Democrats. This is what crisis does: It can make people demand revolution, or it can make them long for stability. A significant number of voters—in particular African Americans—found in Joe Biden welcome reassurance, and they saw him as the safest bet to remove their most proximate sense of threat. That longing for safety and security has now been magnified for many more Americans. (As Ross Douthat of The New York Times recently wrote, the pandemic will alter our memory of the Democratic primary. As history will remember it, many years from now, Sanders will have lost agency, having been “vanquished by an act of God”).
One can take only so much crisis before the desire for vaguely normal lives and vaguely competent leaders takes hold. We should have realized how lucky we were to work from an office (working from home is overrated), to go out with friends to a favorite restaurant, to be among the people we cared about, and to be reassured that our leaders, however flawed, had our best interests at heart. Deprived of those things, the baseline of expectations could only change, at least in the short run.
I, for one, have changed. I am more willing to accept “mere” normalcy today than I was just a month ago.