If there’s one single lesson to emerge from the lockdowns of the coronavirus crisis, it’s a very old one.
Power is easy to give up, but hard to reclaim. The political norms that are violated by emergency decrees and power grabs can’t just be restored. Politicians and bureaucrats are unlikely to give up their newfound powers. And people who consent to this sort of thing once are far more likely to accept it as the new normal.
Governor Newsom in California, like most politicians, is holding out hope of a return to normal, but that return will be entirely under his control. He isn’t about to abandon his emergency powers. Why would he? They’re very useful things. Being able to shut down or open up parts of a state is a handy superpower. And Democrats aren’t about to take that superpower away from Newsom.
It’s not just California.
2020 ushered in a new normal in which a crisis effectively suspends the rule of law. There’s been some judicial pushback over California’s crackdowns on religious worship, but little else.
Facing a recall, Newsom opened up the state. But no single politician should have that kind of power. Newsom has opened things up, but he can close them down again.
And that’s the true crisis.