Phase 1: We hear about it in China, we wait for it to ‘die out’ as every other apocalypse does.
Phase 2: Shock – we don’t know where it is, but it’s here, we know it’s coming, for all we know it’s smeared on every wall and in every carpet’s fabric, but still, we don’t quite believe it.
Phase 3: Devastation – 2000 deaths a day, people you know have been sick, sometimes very sick, but it’s usually not people whom you know, it’s people whom you know know. Their premature deaths leave behind a trail of lives in severe disruption, and the people you know will never be quite the same thereafter.
Phase 4: Denial. Your right-wing relatives were already there. In two separate phases of denial, they previously parroted Rush Limbaugh that this was just a common flu, and then they parroted Sean Hannity that this would all be a flash in the pan, and now they’re screaming Tucker Carlson that we’re ruining the American economy forever over something that kills people who were old anyway.
Never mind that my closest childhood friend’s 36-year-old first cousin is now dead, never mind that had people stayed outside, the totals would have been 600,000 by now rather than 60,000, never mind that these are people who want us to take pre-emptive preventative measures for terrorism and war at the drop of a hat (and sometimes correctly); what’s important now is that they’re getting their way, and more tens of thousands will die.
Let’s face it, they’re probably going to get their way on this over and over and over again. This is like that lame old blond joke (from back in the 90s when blond jokes were socially acceptable) about how the way to entertain a blond forever is to write ‘turn over’ on both sides of a piece of paper.
The way to make conservatives kill us all is not to encounter a virus that kills people, but rather a virus that kills the economy, and so tied are conservatives to the idea of vulture capitalist economic production remaining the engine of American life, that in order to prevent liberals and progressives and social democrats from enacting a more robust social welfare state, they would literally expend millions of lives before they ever concede an inch.
And if millions do die, Republicans will still find ways to justify it to themselves. All it would take to end this is for a national law that everyone stays in their homes, but to them that is the worst kind of governmental overreach. Even now, all it would take to get the economy going again is massive stimulus spending, not two trillion but ten trillion, paid in full by the taxes of corporations and billionaires and millionaires who have lived high off of government looking the other way at their exorbitance for forty years. It’s never going to happen, and even if it did, the Left would pick apart the stimulus saying that this or that special interest is not getting its proper due and in their squabbles would take the eyes off the robber barons who’d put the money back in their pockets. But it does not change the fact that, in absolute terms that don’t take the stupid and corrupt nature of human beings into account, the way to solve these problems is so friggin’ easy.
But if millions die, (or should we say ‘when millions die?’ be it from cornavirus, or the economic collapse that follows, or civil unrest, or rising sea levels, or air pollution, or famine caused by rising temperatures), would Republicans even care? In this outbreak, it’s New York more than anywhere else, and Mitch McConnell means to bleed New York into debt, refusing to allow them government loans to pay off what they spent to treat coronavirus patients. But to be frank, it’s not the worst thing he’s ever done. New York in no way deserves what’s happening to it, but New York is much too powerful. it sucks up the vast majority of America’s best and brightest, who leave their towns and cities of origin to rot. Ironically, liberal New York has become Ayn Rand’s dream of a meritocracy, where, even more than in past generations, the most self-motivated move to achieve ambitions that are, frankly, a little hollow.
But the next wave is the Deep South, the heart of Small Town America, where every government apparatus is in place to ensure that life as best it can remains exactly as it was from generation to generation stretching back even to the days of slavery itself. People rightly call the Modern Republican Party anti-democracy, and the evidence of that is laughably omnipresent so I needn’t cite any examples. Their ruling elite is the direct descendants of their ruling elite in the 1600’s, and they intend to remain the ruling elite until at least the 2400’s. Republicans would counter that surely big cities like Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, they all have their anti-democratic histories, and it’s true, but there is no such thing as a flawless democracy, and every democracy has a dirty history. But progress in the North, Midwest, West, that was the rule. Progress in the south, that’s the exception. Whatever party the Deep South claimed to vote, they were never a democracy.
If millions of descendants of their slaves die, what care they? That’s millions fewer mouths to feed, millions who would insist on higher wages than the millions more Latin Americans fleeing the famine and chaos of Global Warming who will do anything at all to cross our border, and will be grateful to work for even less money than African-Americans do.
And if millions of their white employees die, they might be a little sadder, at least they’ll shed a few crocodile tears, but even if their machinations were still more naked and bold, who would ever stop them? Who could? Who has?
Political parties in America used to be loose baggy coalitions of irreconcilable opposites, and every wing would have to come together to find a consensus leader for their party platform whom, through a mixture of ideology and political talent, could ameliorate every coalition wing. There were surely disasters along the way: Pierce and Buchanan, Warren and Coolidge, the VP nominations of Aaron Burr, John C. Calhoun, and Andrew Johnson. But we had not come nearly so far yet as a country, as a society, or as a better world which we Americans were fundamentally the ones to put in place.
But Republicans are absolutely correct about one thing: democracy has its limits, and when the process becomes too democratic, the world lurches back toward authoritarianism. There is one party in America that became much too democratic, and because it became so democratic that every process is held up until every wing is completely satisfied, they opened the door for the most nefarious elements of the other party to institute monolithic authoritarian control. On the Democratic side, if you’re dissatisfied with the outcome, you hold up the process until you achieve the desired result, and you convince yourself that the opposite wing is just as bad as Trump. On the Republican side, if you’re dissatisfied with the results, you stay silent, or you’re no longer a Republican.
The tipping point is not 2020, but 2022, when Republicans can redistrict America to be a minority-party controlled country for a generation, for a century, forever. Every year, Republicans become more and more a cult of death, inching bit by bit to totalitarian control. Every loss of power loses them less seats than the one before, every gain of power gains them more. The Supreme Court edges further and further right, first to a conservative majority with swing voters, then to a decisive conservative majority, then to a conservative supermajority. Reagan’s Bismarck becomes Trump’s Kaiser Wilhelm, next will come Ludendorff, and after him…
Millions can die before they will ever concede that their ideology is a dark mark on history, and millions probably will. And so bent are they on wresting government control from business that the the Schicklgruber of the future may not be a head of state but rather a CEO. Because, of course, ‘tyranny can only come from the government, it can never be caused by private enterprise…..’