Whether COVID-19 will cause a progressive future or a return to normalcy.
Right now, I think it’s pretty safe to say that in America all anyone wants is to get back to some kind of normal. We want to get back to work, see our families and start going out again. Of course, we also want to make sure it’s safe to do so.
As restrictions start to lift across the nation, people are beginning to wonder what post-coronavirus life will look like. Will we ever walk in public without masks again? Will we shake hands at meetings again? What does social distancing look like in the future? These questions, and so many more, are up for debate as freedom is being gained across the nation, but is there any forecast as to what the answers are?
To begin to answer these questions, I want to start back at the primary presidential debates for the Democratic party. These debates started with 29 candidates ranging from the far left to somewhere in the center. When it came down to the final two, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, the debate about whether it was time for societal revolution or a return to normalcy began. As Bernie Sanders dropped out, it seemed that Vice President Biden’s “return to normalcy” campaign was going to take democrats home, much like Warren Harding’s Post WWI and Spanish Flu campaign did.
When he started his campaign, VOX reported that he was “not promising to drain the swamp, restructure the Senate, remake capitalism, or usher in socialism. What Biden is promising is a return to normalcy.” Everything was going to go back to an Obama-era normal.
Since COVID-19 has drastically altered not only health standards but social and economic norms, the candidate seems to be running a much more progressive campaign. Biden is also looking for a progressive vice presidential candidate to run beside him.
The New York Times suggests that as the political world has shifted due to COVID, “the former vice president and other Democratic leaders are racing to assemble a new governing agenda that meets the extraordinary times — and they agree it must be far bolder than anything the party establishment has embraced before.”
Biden has since expressed his openness to a national rent bailout, formed task forces with the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes, and claimed the “pre-COVID” economy wasn’t working for most Americans.
In an attempt to unify the progressive left and moderate democrats, it seems that Biden will continue to embrace sweeping change. In response, it is likely that the Trump campaign is going to go for a return to normalcy approach, suggesting that his record stock market and low unemployment is what America should be striving to get back to.
So what does any of this have to do with normal life after COVID? I believe the answer lies within these candidates, or more specifically, within the election.
If we give the current administration another term, there will be more economic return to normalcy. The stock market currently predicts a somewhat steady future, a vaccine is in the works for COVID-19, people know what to expect of the president now and the economy could go back to the way it was.
If we elect a candidate who wishes to overhaul the entire economic system that was in place, post-COVID America could look drastically different. Climate change will take a bigger place in the political conversation, the stock market might become more uncertain, there will be further federal bailouts and assistance checks and the future will remain economically unknown as the administration moves further left.
With a vaccine on the way, the smaller question of hand shakes disappearing, attending public gatherings and wearing a facemask for the rest of our lives seems simple to answer: this too shall pass.
So, if our economic future is determined by the election, our physical future is determined by a vaccine. What about our social future?
That part is up to us. Being stuck in quarantine has left people with an abundance of time to recalculate the things that matter to them, and maybe, just maybe, this will change the way we see one another.
While many articles disagree about the economic and social future, almost every article suggests that after times of chaos, values are what change the most and people learn to work together to rebuild their societal structures.
From remembering how important community is to going to visit family more often, the post-COVID world is going to be as positive or negative as we choose to make it. We can continue to see one another as enemies and continue to fight over petty politics, or we can be the change.
So what does post-COVID America look like? I hope it looks like appreciating the little things. Remembering how lucky you are to go to church on Sundays. Being thankful for each day you get to spend with your friends. Being grateful you can hug your loved ones, and hugging them a little tighter. It’s up to us to make COVID-19 a cultural reset. If we play our cards right, we can turn this negative into a positive, the good kind of positive.