The strangest things can devolve into partisan standoffs.
I understand high taxes vs. low taxes or big government vs. small government. Those reflect different philosophies and we’ve disagreed about those for years.
But how do you take the debate between keeping America locked down vs. opening things back up and categorize it into a left vs. right standoff?
That’s clearly the divide we see today. By and large, the American left wants to keep the lockdown going longer. No one is sure how much longer. Probably not even them. But they’re clearly resisting all moves to get the economy rolling again, even to the point of accusing those of us who want to reopen of caring more about our 401(k) accounts than about Grandma’s life.
And by and large, the right wants to end the lockdowns and get back to work – with obvious precautions in place so we limit the spread of COVID-19.
But does this really reflect the classic liberal vs. conservative divide? To me, the sides don’t seem to fit the classic ideological struggle we typically see in this country. We’re battling about how to deal with a disease. There’s no obvious left vs. right template for how that battle should play out.
And yet it’s clear which position each camp is embracing, so I think we should consider a couple ideas to explain how we got here:
1. Donald Trump spoke.
It really could be that simple. When the president expressed in late March that he wanted to see the country opened back up by Easter, Democrats and the media attacked his statement as reckless and irresponsible.
They claimed falsely that he had set a “deadline” for reopening. He had done no such thing. His statement was strictly aspirational, and when the facts on the ground didn’t justify an Easter reopening, he didn’t push it.
But once it was established that Trump wanted to open as soon as possible, the anti-Trump left suddenly found itself gravitating to all anti-reopening arguments. They opposed what Trump said because Trump said it, and the battle lines were drawn.
Maybe it really was that simple. Then again, maybe:
2. The divide really does reflect the two sides’ ideological thinking.
After all, as we stand right now, the private sector is largely shut down, but the government is running on steroids. A record number of people are producing nothing in the private economy, and are dependent on the government for unemployment checks.
Is anyone surprised conservatives have a bigger problem with this than liberals do? Conservatives believe the economy is powered by productivity in the private sector, and believe it is essential for people’s private-sector jobs not to be lost. Liberals think the private economy is rigged in favor of rich people who don’t pay enough taxes to the sainted government.
So if the private sector is shut down and everyone is relying on the government, that’s a left-wing dream. Why would they want it to stop?
Also, people on the left don’t place nearly as much value on individual liberty as people on the right. Left-wingers think more about the good of the collective, where right-wingers are more about giving individuals the freedom to make their own choices.
When you order people to stay home and/or lose their jobs for the supposed greater good, you’re singing out of the left-wing hymn book. Of course, Democrats are more willing to see this extended than Republicans are.
Right now the federal government is borrowing trillions of dollars to pay for all this while the economy is collapsing. This simply can’t go on much longer, because that private economy the left hates so much is where the wealth is produced so the government can spend.
Eventually, more and more people are going to realize that. And people are only going to put up with being cooped up in their homes on government orders for so long.
If Democrats want to run this year on the virtues of being the Lockdown Left, I wish them luck.
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