Among the questions looming over American politics is about the nature of what promise to be multiple backlashes over different dimensions of the coronavirus crisis. Most obvious is what price Trump pays for his administration’s tardiness in responding to the contagion in its early stages. Less obvious is what price supporters of activist government pay for the most astounding and disruptive intervention in the everyday life of the nation since World War II.
The imminent libertarian surge is not a sure thing but it 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.