by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The backlash is coming.
It already seems clear that the first major political and cultural eruption of the Biden years will be a roiling populist backlash against the next round of COVID restrictions.
We saw this sentiment play out in sporadic anti-lockdown demonstrations last spring, and it has driven ongoing resistance to masks, but it is, in all likelihood, about to reach an entirely new level — fueled by exhaustion with the virus, elite hypocrisy, and the shattered credibility of the public-health establishment.
The ascension of Joe Biden will add force to the reaction. It is an iron law of American politics that whichever party doesn’t control the presidency will suspect the other of plotting to impose a tyranny, so the fear and loathing of COVID restrictions, somewhat muted on the right while Donald Trump was president, will deepen and intensify.
The Right’s populism and limited-government impulse, which separated in the Trump years, will presumably be reunited in the push against lockdowns in a way that they haven’t been since the Tea Party.
“Lockdowns. Mask police. Curfews. What about freedom?” asked conservative Representative Jim Jordan in a recent tweet, forecasting things to come.
It’d be much better if we could find a prudent middle path through the next several months, as the pandemic enters its worse phase and as new vaccines arrive that will soon start changing everything. But a significant segment of the American public has lost its patience with a new normal that has, at times, been arbitrary and poorly thought through. …
… In retrospect, though, the nationwide lockdowns of the spring closed down some states before they experienced their initial waves of the disease, imposing economic, mental-health, and medical costs without much upside.
After that kind of sacrifice, it’s hard to double-dip and ask people to do it again.