The Return of Normalcy
Posted on May 13, 2020In his campaign for the White House, Warren G. Harding said, “America's present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality.”
In the aftermath of World War I, the Spanish Flu, and the grandiose plans of the Wilson Administration, Harding’s promise to return to normalcy struck a chord with the American people. His administration, as flawed as it may have been, ushered in a decade of prosperity and growth, forever known to history as the Roaring 20’s.
A century later, America is confronted with a similar set of challenges. We are winding down global wars, which the taxpayers paid dearly in treasure and in blood. We are facing our own pandemic, perhaps more cautiously than our forebearers. And an intense battle is raging between technocrats and populists about who is actually driving the public policy train.
Despite being marginally in charge of the government for the last three and a half year, Donald Trump is the one who is leading the charge against government technocrats. He is the one pushing for a quick return to normalcy. He is the one who inveighs against the caution-preaching experts. He is the one who flouts the conventions of virtue-signalers who demand mask-wearing fealty.
Democrats, and their technocratic elite allies, warn that we must be prepared for a new normal. They are warning that we must be prepared to stop most economic activity to save lives. That we must forever forgo hand-shakes. That we must wear masks forever. That we must remake society to make it fairer, more equitable. That we must give people money, lots of money, to basically do nothing. And that the people must toe the line, stay home, limit their hopes and dreams, not allow their kids to go to school, or play in the park or play with their friends, or go to a bar, or otherwise have normal physical contact, until their politicians deem it safe to have your freedom back. But it will never be safe to have your freedom back, thus the new normal.
And so that is what this election will be about. Returning to normalcy vs never returning to normalcy.
You can see how the battle lines are forming in Congress.
In the House, the leadership is pushing for a dramatic break from the past. They want to facilitate proxy voting by the leadership for House votes. They want to promote remote voting. The Democrats who run the House are doing everything they can to consolidate power in the leadership and separating the Membership from each other, to better control the outcomes.
Congress literally means coming together, but the Democrats in the House would rather that their members stay apart.
In the Senate, Mitch McConnell is leading the return to normalcy. In the upper chamber, the Senators are voting on the floor, having committee hearings, doing the traditional work of the world’s most prestigious debating society. There is something oddly comforting about the Senate coming back to do its work. It’s an example of a return to normalcy.
Democrats don’t want to return to normal because they didn’t like America as it was. They want to use this crisis as a way to make American different, to improve America, to make it a new normal.
And what we have now in this country are two Americas, one that is returning briskly to normalcy and the other that is still cooped up at home, waiting for the political class to give them back the keys to their jail cells. But it seems like for big city mayors and liberal governors have every reason to keep their kingdoms closed. Their hope is obvious. Toppling Trump and stopping his drive to return America to normalcy.
The polls show that the Democrats might be in a winning position. But I wouldn’t trust those polls, not for a second.
Most Americans, when asked if they would rather embark on a brave new world led by a technocratic elite or return to their normal lives, where they have the ability to live freely without the heavy hand of government telling them what to do, would gladly return to normalcy.