Thus do we have the current governmental dysfunction in Washington, the passions of deadlock politics, the increasing political bellicosity, the growing desire to not just defeat the opposition but to destroy it. This political environment is not sustainable. When the elites can’t retain the fealty of a popular majority, something has to give.

And now comes the coronavirus global pandemic. It’s difficult to imagine a more disruptive political force converging upon a more vulnerable status quo. We can’t know the full shape of what will emerge from the pandemic chaos–whether economic hard times will inject new vibrancy into Bernie Sanders’s “democratic socialism”; whether populism will upend the elites; whether the elites will manage to survive the populist assault; whether Trump will survive or fall; whether a leader will emerge to forge out of the chaos some kind of majority coalition.

But we do know that America’s current political status quo isn’t likely to remain intact after the wave of adversity and difficulty that we’re likely to see as the COVID-19 pandemic runs its course through America and the world. The standoff between the elites and the populists wasn’t sustainable as it was, much less so now.