To date and across most of the globe, Corona seems to have benefited the Establishment, whatever it may be at any particular time (with the exception of Brazil’s Bolsonaro, who took himself out of the game at the start and is now unable to even fire his Health Minister).
Although the MAGA people have made a great deal of Trump’s bump in approval ratings ~46% now relative to ~42% in January, in reality the improvement seems to be pretty marginal relative to other countries. Sampling changes in European leader approval ratings over the immediate past 1-2 months, Giuseppe Conte has gone up from 52% to 71%; Macron, previously pummeled by Yellow Vest unrest, has gone up from 33% to 46%; Merkel has gone up from 53% to 64%; Boris Johnson has gone up from 42% to 55%. Incidentally, I can also now confirm that this “rally around the flag” effect is active in Russia as well. Whereas Putin’s approval rating dipped from 65% to 60% after his controversial move to “nullify” Presidential terms, they have bounced back up to 72% in the latest VCIOM poll after his March 25 speech on coronavirus-related economic measures.
But will these bumps last as quarantine weariness sets in? Presumably not – over time, I imagine ratings will come to depend on the effectiveness of national responses to the crisis in both epidemiological and economic terms.
As this process unfolds, which political factions should we generally expect to win out in the world? And which to lose out?
In a Twitter poll, 44% of respondents said “The Right” while 29% said “The Left.” I think there’s a case to be made for both of those positions, though I expect much will depend on national context.
- Was usually stronger on and earlier to institute travel bans.
- General association with opposition to “open border” policies.
- Can more readily offload blame on China.
- Conservatives, at least in the US, are much more “chill” on the epidemic than liberals. (Might change if/as bodies pile up).
- Predictive failure of liberal media elites and handshakeworthy experts, e.g. masks disinformation (e.g. voxsplaining they don’t work while their founder bought them for himself), “travel bans don’t work”, wide-ranging failure to predict scale of the problem (while pushing woke anti-racism narratives).
I expect this to be stronger in Italy, and perhaps Europe more generally. In particular, Salvini – one of the earliest politicians in the world to call for banning air flights from China – may capitalize on this.
However, this vector is going to suffer a setback in Brazil, and possibly in the US; though it’s hard to say, as Trump seemingly flip-flops from “shut it down” to “but think about the Line!” every few days.
- Generous welfare policies proposed generally nicer for working class people than the Right’s preference for bailouts and supporting employers. E.g., note that many or most European countries, including even Tory-run Britain, are going to be compensating most of the salaries of people that are made redundant. Many have expressed support for Universal Basic Income for the duration of the lockdowns.
- As regards the US in particular – Trump Bux are a joke ($1,200 is a single month’s rent for many people), and there’ll be much greater demand for M4A, more sick leave, etc.
- Increase in support for protectionism in context of US difficulties with getting something as seemingly trivial as increasing face mask production. (Though this is at least as much an issue of the populist/nationalist Right).
I would expect this effect to be stronger in the US than in Europe, which already tends to have much more extensive welfare states (while being less “woke” than US leftists).
And, for that matter, perhaps in Russia, where fiscal hawkishness coupled with low personal savings puts the sustainability of long-term lockdown measures under question.
neoliberalism.txt (as distinct from The Left):
- Would seemingly suffer, as Open Borders, Chimerica, and free trade are all classic neoliberal positions.
- Trump (and Bolsonaro) are hardly making a good case for national-populism.
- Despite the failures described above, there nonetheless seems to be something of a “rehabilitation” of the value of experts – especially on the background of “swine righ t” politicians and pundits (e.g. see this Daily Show compendium of very bad takes). According to the polls, Dr. Fauci has become the most trusted voice on Corona for the American public.
Last but not least, note that all of the above speculations involve a general tilt of the population in one direction or another but forego consideration of possible changes in underlying demographics.
However, it is a sad but not unrealistic prospect that some countries – most prominently, perhaps, the US – may mostly or entirely fail to control the epidemic, resulting in statistically significant shifts at the demographic level. In a worst case scenario, something like 10% of the Silent Generation may croak before November. These are predominantly white, Republican voters. Furthermore, we can expect that once the coronavirus is done with its early “cosmopolitan” phase – politicians, skiers, global elites – it will then hit the poorest and less educated hardest. Amongst US whites, that’s mostly Republicans – even more so, specifically Trump voters. Will Trump be able to hold onto, say, Florida after such a major demographic shift?
At the very least, I certainly find it very ironic that in my observations of the comments to my Corona poasts, it the precisely the people who are most obsessed by things like the percentage White share of the US population and the social and electoral implications thereof who are also the most nonchalant about the prospect of these trends effectively getting put on “fast forward” by Corona-chan. Again, speaking of the worst case scenario of several million dead, the broad-spectrum ideological shift towards the nationalist-populist Right has to be very substantial just to cancel out the effect of pure demographics!!
I am not making any predictions. Half a year is an eternity in politics, especially in the midst of a pandemic whose future development is still a mystery. But hopefully even these rather scattershot speculations can spur productive discussions.