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Stray Thoughts: More COVID Predictions

Here are a few more predictions, taken from the somewhat-disorganized journal I've been keeping during this crisis. To see the first one of these posts, click here.

To reiterate, my starting assumption is that the US will not handle this well. The crisis will last for months if not years. Many--maybe even millions--of Americans will die, and these deaths are going to fall disproportionately on elderly populations and populations that are downplaying isolation measures, and those are both populations that happen to skew conservative.

The GOP And Its Media Apparatus Implodes

The GOP was already on its way there. Demographics are working against them, and they rely too heavily on an aging population and the co-opting of a religious movement to keep themselves funded, relevant, and in power. But since the old die and church attendance is declining already, the GOP’s hold on American politics has weakened substantially, and it's only through scorched-earth tactics that they’ve been able to maintain on to what power they have. If they weren’t already weak, Donald Trump would never have been able to take them over so completely.

But when you look at Trump’s inept handling of the crisis, and the ugly way partisan politics are a) being blamed on Republicans and b) going to get a lot of conservative people killed, I can’t see how the post-crisis backlash results in anything but a referendum on not just Republican politicians, but the very ethos of post-Reagan Republican governmental philosophy. This is not me making a commentary on who's right and who's wrong, by the way, although Lord knows I have opinions. This is simply me considering who's going to survive and where those survivors are going to lay the blame.

Oh, and Fox News is going to get destroyed. Slowly, probably. They’ve been mucking this up the most visibly, and they were downplaying the severity of the virus while their parent company was telling people to stay home and wash their hands. I foresee an epic class-action lawsuit levied by the survivors of Fox News’s aging—and subsequently dying—viewership. This is also a bit of a hot take, but I stand by it. And it will by no means be a rout, just the first step in a sure but steady decline. Even if Fox News doesn’t die off entirely, they’ll reposition themselves more in the center (so they can eat more of CNN’s dogfood, I guess) and the big names like Hannity will be out.

Right-Wing Populism Relegated Back To The Fringes

The people who come out the other side of this crisis the strongest are going to be the ones who embraced social change, community support, and valuing the good of the many over the good of the individual. That’s what’s going to be championed, and while we’ll never be completely rid of right-wing populists, they’ll be without a major platform for some time.

A Progressive Wave That Will Overreach And Stall-Out At The Same Time

While I’m an unapologetically bleeding-heart liberal, if this turns out to be a great opportunity for the Democrats, we will still foul it up because that’s what we do. The political Left in this country is fragmented and disorganized. Hopefully some good will come of it, but I could see us going overboard on some measures and completely fumbling others. I think the biggest victim here is going to be free speech. I could see some kind of bill to increase liability for news organizations who mislead their viewers, for instance, that turns out to be overly ambitious.

International Pressure To Change Living Conditions In China

Not to put too fine a point on it, there’s a reason that these outbreaks originate in China. See also SARS. And the reason is basically that these diseases develop and propagate in areas where there is a densely-packed human population living in close proximity to densely-packed animal populations, and China has a lot of cities that are like that. I think the international community is going to come down hard on China to clean some of this up.

One reason is the obvious one, that this viral epidemic is associated with, specifically, Wuhan. But the other reason is that China is an economic powerhouse in global supply chains, and this pandemic is going to make people rethink whether the global supply-chain model even makes sense anymore. This is going to take away some of China’s negotiation leverage, and they’re going to have to capitulate.

Now, whatever you think about the way the run a society, the leadership in China is usually pretty savvy about economics. There’s a reason that they’re the only large-scale Communist country that’s still a major player in the year of our lord 2020. So expect them to make some modest changes—maybe even proactively.

Petrostates Are Going To Cause A Lot Of Problems

Two in particular: Saudi Arabia and Russia. Let’s talk about the big one first. Russia makes most of its money selling oil to Europe and Asia. Both of those places have cut back on manufacturing and travel. The price of oil has plummeted, which means Russia’s in for some hard economic times. Now, petrostates in general tend to concentrate capital, which makes life suck for a lot of the population, but they maintain the peace through bluster, dogmatism, bribery, and targeted acts of authoritarianism. The last time Russia had economic trouble, for example, they invaded Crimea. I have no idea how they’re going to react this time, but it’s going to be big, and I’m glad I don’t live in Eastern Europe.

Now Saudi Arabia on the other hand, has to walk a fine line in maintaining its population. First, reactionary religion—in this case Islam—becomes the social glue that binds the society together and bonds citizens to leaders. But this produces extremist sects and leaders, some of whom can't really be prosecuted because they're related to the royal family. People like, oh, for example, just off the top of my head, Osama bin Laden. Now, it’s not in the house of Saud's interest to have terrorists blowing up their best customers, so they typically will bribe terrorist organizers to just, you know, not kill people. (I really wish I could find the source I got this from but my brain is fried.)

But if they’re running out of money, then there are a lot of prospective terrorists not getting paid to behave themselves. Instability in the Middle East isn’t good, and our biggest ally is going to be falling on hard times soon. Again, I don’t know what’s going to happen. But whatever does, it won’t be pretty.

Stay safe out there,