New Normal: Lessons from the Pandemic

. April 6, 2020.

Wow, things sure have changed, huh?

The first coupla months of twenty twenty were just swimming along like normal.  The Primary season was in full swing. Wade was out there pushing his “fix the damn roads” initiative.  Folks were making the bold decision of whether to vote on March seventeenth or whether to drink cheap green beer all day instead.

Then whammo!  The novel coronavirus dropped on T-Town like a ton of bricks and it was all put on hold.  The primary is now absentee only. Bars and restaurants are closed, plus many retail establishments, and unemployment has skyrocketed.  The wheels of guvmint have ground to a halt, as legislative bodies have canceled meetings. Even the wheels of justice are now in limbo.

Geez Louise, ya sure are looking forward to it all getting back to normal, amirite?

Quarantine dreams

Not so fast, partner.  We all have lots of time during the lockdown to reassess the same ol’, same ol’ and dream of something different.  Because maybe the old normal wasn’t such a great deal after all.

Take voting.  Once the Primary was postponed, a number of suggestions floated around about what to do next.  The notion of simply setting a new date for in-person voting didn’t seem feasible with no end certain to the social distancing recommendations.

Extending the vote-by-mail absentee process made sense, but what about all those who were planning on an actual Election Day?  How to make sure they participated?

The first idea seemed to make sense.  Mail an absentee ballot application to every registered voter who hadn’t yet voted.  With a self-addressed stamped envelope to make it easy to return. That would make it simple and convenient to sign up for an absentee ballot, ensuring high voter participation.

Of course that idea was quickly shot down, in favor of forcing voters to get their own absentee application and return it by their own devices.  The powerz dat be don’t want too much democracy, after all.

Which got us to thinking.  The old normal of cumbersome, outdated processes for registering and voting should go the way of bloodletting as a cure to a pandemic.  It’s twenty twenty, people! We shop, bank, even date online. The government, as well as every corporate website, knows where we were born, where we live, and how old we are.  As well as hundreds of other data points about us.

Why aren’t we registered automatically?  Why can’t we vote online? Not secure enough, you say?  Trust me, hackers would rather impersonate you to steal your house, your car, and your paycheck than your vote.  If you’re fine with online shopping and banking, you should be fine with online voting.

The sky’s the limit

Rethinking our outdated institutions shouldn’t stop there.  If we can get along without so many meetings, why did they all exist in the first place?  If the wheels of guvmint can now run half the time, does this mean they were fifty per cent inefficient before?

And what of the mass unemployment?  Should we have a better system of universal guaranteed income in place for just such an emergency?  And paid time off, and health care not tied to employment, so folks can stay home when they’re sick and get the care they need?

Big and bold should carry the day!  No existing institution should be beyond the reach of our realignment.

Now is the time to think big, folks.  The powerz dat be always use just such an emergency to enact pieces of their agenda.  We haveta use this emergency to enact ours.