A dramatic change in our political situation is coming as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. At least, that’s what I’ve heard some individuals joyously suggest.
One reason for this suggestion is the current immigration situation. Because immigration is temporarily halted in the U.S. and most of Europe, those who wish to restrict it have supposedly achieved a favorable position.
The varied response of leaders to the pandemic is also believed to bring potential political change. A European correspondent suggests that if Angela Merkel does not deal with the pandemic properly, the “far Right” in Germany may soon take power. Meanwhile in the U.S., Democratic governors like Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan and Ralph Northam in Virginia have exploited the health crisis to impose their pet schemes – such as trying to stop church services and the sales of guns, while pushing gender identity politics, extended abortion rights, and freeing violent criminals. Whitmer has also allowed the continued sale of cannabis while forbidding Michiganders to buy plants and seeds. Could their overreach be their undoing?
Various protests breaking out against the lockdowns might suggest so. The response of these leaders certainly seems like it should raise ire and bring their ousting.
Take politicians like Congresswomen Debbie Dingell and Whitmer in Michigan. They claim that demonstrators, some of whom had Confederate Battle Flags on their cars, are breaking the law by exercising their right of assembly. Such claims seem rather hypocritical, however. Where were these Democratic politicians when Antifa mobs were attacking elderly residents in Portland and other cities last year?
Despite such overreach, let me state that I see no evidence that the pandemic will result in long-lasting political changes. Such change is only possible if vital institutions such as the media, our education system, and those who run public administration are changed first.
Furthermore, those who see political change coming by way of limited immigration are in for a disappointment, for things are not as they seem. In Germany, the government has continued to accept Muslim migrants, even while closing their borders to European Christians. The U.S. has made a similar exception for Third World refugees, whom we continue to receive, with or without the travel ban.
So will Europe lurch right in the wake of the pandemic? The last time I checked, the Alternative für Deutschland, the only right of center party in Germany, was polling a bit less than 15 percent. Most of its votes were coming from areas in Eastern Germany that had belonged to the Communist German Democratic Republic. Conversely, the pro-open borders Greens are polling at 23 percent; and unlike the AfD, which the federal government is working to ban, the Greens may serve in the next German ruling coalition. Even after the admission of 1.5 million migrants and the ensuing rise in crime and welfare costs, Germany does not have much of a political Right, or even much of a non-Left, to speak of.
Nor do I see the Right in France, in the form of the Rassemblement National, becoming a force in the French Assembly, where the populists of the Right have never managed to place more than one or two members. The Right remains in an isolated political position in most Western European countries, and it is doubtful the pandemic will make the parties on their left willing to accept them as coalition partners.
What about the U.S.? Is a lurch to the Right side of the political aisle coming?
It seems unlikely. There is scarce evidence that Whitmer or Northam has ruined the Left’s reign in Michigan or in Virginia, or that Governor Roy Cooper’s blunders in North Carolina have done the same in his state. Does anyone in his right mind believe that Andrew Cuomo in New York or Gavin Newsome in California will be replaced by right-of-center politicians because of the coronavirus? The voting coalitions that brought these politicians to power are still very much intact and, despite all the questionable things that Whitmer has done in Michigan, her poll numbers are still above water. In fact she has soared well above fifty percent in popularity since the onset of the Pandemic.
Political change is coming? You be the judge.
[Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons-Cjh1452000, CC BY-SA 4.0]
Paul Gottfried is editor in chief of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is also the Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for 25 years, a Guggenheim recipient, and a Yale Ph.D. He is the author of 13 books, most recently Fascism: Career of a Concept and Revisions and Dissents.