Democrats, I fear, are assuming that this crisis will naturally prove them right about the role of government, and they don’t actually have to do much for their vindication to occur.
“I think it could be paradigm shifting,” former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellin tells The Post’s Dan Balz, and many Democrats surely agree. Republicans are being forced to accept trillions of dollars in government spending to rescue the economy, as well as the shared assumption that it’s government’s job to make sure we don’t all get sick and die.
We’ve been here before, and not that long ago. After the 2008 election but before Barack Obama took office, Time magazine put him on its cover photoshopped as FDR, under the headline “The New New Deal.” But while he did pass a string of significant legislation utilizing government power early in his presidency — a large stimulus bill, Wall Street reform, saving the auto industry, ending bank profiteering on student loans, the Affordable Care Act — two years later Republicans took back the House and ground it all to a halt.
That is precisely what Republicans are planning to repeat, especially if Joe Biden becomes president next year.
You can see it in the “Let’s all come to the state capitol and infect each other” protests against stay-at-home orders that are attracting small crowds but huge media attention. Like a miniature version of the tea party, it’s a phenomenon of genuine sentiment that is shaped and organized by right-wing elites, promoted relentlessly by Fox News, and in this case, validated by President Trump himself.
It may not be much yet, but this is just beginning. You can bet that Republicans will be holding strategy meetings and fielding polls and writing reports to determine not just how to stop Americans from becoming more open to expansive government action, but how to turn this crisis into anger at government itself — assuming Biden becomes president in January.
These loosely organized Republican paramilitary organizations will be activated immediately after the election. First, Trump will use them to try and steal the election if he loses. Assuming he fails at that, they will act to use the 2009-10 strategy except with an additional decade of radicalism, fake grievance mongering, and violent rhetoric. I don’t actually know if there’s anything Democrats can do to inoculate voters against this. But perhaps Democrats biggest weakness is that most, particularly the engaged part of the party, really believe that the fact that government works speaks for itself and that good ideas matter. But the majority of the population are extremely low-information voters with vague ideas that are easily manipulated. This is the greatest crisis the nation has faced since the Great Depression. In 1932, the nation really did rethink its ideological priors and commit to a newly activist state. But it’s far from guaranteed that will happen in 2020, especially with a highly sophisticated Republican propaganda network that only starts with Fox News. It’s highly concerning.