What follows, let me emphasize, are speculations, not predictions. All of these speculations are optimistic. At a time when thousands are dying and perhaps hundreds of thousands will follow them to the grave [or to the freezer truck], it is no effort to forecast the worst. Consider these not even speculations, but rather a call to action.
In most great natural calamities, some species of animals and plants perish. One thinks of the Permian-Triassic Extinction, in which 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species disappeared. The COVID event is not in that league, but it may claim one hardy species of faux raptor, the Great Republican Deficit Hawk. After the fourth, fifth, and sixth multi-trillion dollar “stimulus” packages are passed unanimously by the Senate and signed into law, the once-feared deficit hawk may have retreated to a protected sanctuary in the Cato Institute, only to reappear on ritual occasions to preen, fluff its feathers, and utter its distinctive “cuuuut, cuuuut” cry.
As the Deficit Hawk dies out, small timid MMT theorists may emerge from their safe havens in second tier university Economics Departments and, as often happens during such upheavals, evolve into fearsome saber toothed Ivy League professors. The genera, sub-genera, families, species, and sub-species of Marxists, who have survived by identifying and cultivating less hostile backwaters in State universities, will in all likelihood not benefit from the COVID extinction. Since they prey mostly on one another they are ill-suited to take advantage of openings in the intellectual ecosystem.
Which brings me to health care, or, as the virus is revealing, the lack of health care. If I may continue the evolutionary metaphor, the development of the American health care unsystem is a classic example of the speciation that Darwin discovered on his famous sea voyage. Separated from the rest of the world by two large oceans, America has developed a completely distinctive, utterly inefficient, but on the other hand exorbitantly expensive way of caring for its citizens’ health care needs. The struggle to rectify this disaster has consumed the energies of Democrats for a large part of the seventy years. Improvements have been achieved, to be sure, by means of a mode of evolution that the late evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Goud called Punctuated Equilibrium. That is to say, long periods of stasis interrupted by brief bursts of change. It looks to me as though we may emerge from the COVID extinction with an overwhelming consensus in support of rapid fundamental change. Joe Biden, who is probably ideally situated to benefit politically from what will come to be called the Trump Die Off, is perhaps the worst Democrat in America to lead such a period of change, but as he seems not to have any identifiable convictions, he can be counted on to sign whatever a Democratic Congress puts before him.
I shall now put behind me the biological metaphor, which has outlived its usefulness. Quite the most interesting political development of the past month is the shift taking place before our eyes in the relative power, status, and energy of the federal government and the state governments. In the past 90 years, the powers of the presidency have been so enlarged and those of state governors so diminished that it would have been a brave prognosticator who would have suggested as recently as February that the Office of the Presidency would be reduced to a clown car sideshow while a governor would become the voice of the people and the hope of the nation. Only a President as uniquely ungifted as Trump could have accomplished such a reversal. Whether it will in any form survive the present crisis is difficult to say. Surely it is unlikely, but perhaps it is not impossible.
Finally, what does this all mean for the election? In closing, I will make an actual prediction. Things will look worse and worse for Trump in April, May, June, and even early July. By deep summer, the virus will have receded, people will be going back to work, Trump will claim victory, and those of us on the left will despair. Then, as fall follows summer and the election looms, the virus will return, just in time to crush Trump’s chances for reelection.