Penthouse Immunity

COVID-19 doesn’t care if your state is red or blue. The virus hits black and brown hardest. Green appears to be immune.

Those with a lot of green have flourished since the pandemic struck our country. Just since March 18, America’s billionaires have become more than a half-trillion dollars richer. Since that same day, well over 40 million workers in the U.S. have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment compensation. Millions have lost the health insurance that was tied to their employment at the worst possible time, in the midst of a public health emergency.

The coronavirus causing the disease called COVID-19 is wickedly infectious, spreads easily, is hard to treat, has no known cure, and is far more deadly than the seasonal flu. It respects no borders. In those afflicted, there is no set pattern to how the disease plays out. Some get horribly sick, some die, others show no symptoms at all.

More is learned every day about this virus, but there is a great deal that remains a mystery. One thing is for sure, the virus has a powerful will to survive and needs to infect living cells in order to do so. It tirelessly and relentlessly hunts for those cells to invade. It has no use for anything that’s not alive. And that actually has big implications for democracy and the 2020 elections.

The virus has significantly disrupted what people can do. But it has no effect whatsoever on what money can do. Grassroots campaigning has been largely stopped in its tracks. Town hall meetings and neighborhood get-togethers have been postponed or cancelled. So have farmers markets, parades, community festivals, fairs, church picnics and so many other gatherings where we’d normally see those running for office mingling with voters. Shaking hands and kissing babies are risky behaviors during a pandemic.

Money’s influence over our elections, on the other hand, isn’t disrupted or even inconvenienced. Going from house to house and knocking on doors is frowned upon during a pandemic, but the messages of those with money and a lot of it can still be brought right into our living rooms. The virus does nothing to inhibit lavish spending by those who’ve gotten richer during the pandemic to deliver political advertising to us on TV, over the radio, in the newspaper, in our mailboxes.

The more economically unequal we are, the more politically unequal we become as those with great wealth gain greater influence over our government. As political inequality intensifies, more and more policies are put in place that further enrich the most privileged in our society. The virus is powerless to break this vicious cycle. Money has been allowed to grow more powerful than people in politics, corrupting our system and making it less of a democracy and more of an oligarchy. It’s quite possible and perhaps even likely that the pandemic will aggravate this condition.

We the people are going to have to get creative to counter the forces conspiring against us. Young people in particular are tech savvy and know how to communicate with each other at low or no cost using digital tools and a dizzying array of social media. That know-how can come to democracy’s rescue, filling in for all those festivals, fairs, parades, picnics and door knocking.

It’s either that or democracy could be added to the long and growing list of COVID-19 casualties.

Mike McCabe

July 13, 2020