What we’re learning from New Zealand and college football
The politics of COVID-19 are a moving target but the dynamic to me is increasingly clear:
- People will be extremely supportive of politicians who take early, harsh measures even if they initially screwed up on stopping the virus
- They won’t forgive those who screw up twice
That has massive implications for the way forward.
The most popular politician in the world right now is New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern. Whether it was an early lockdown or luck, the country’s shutout of the virus is an immense source of national pride.
Yet the virus crept in and today the country locked down Auckland after a family of four came down with COVID-19 despite no travel history or contacts getting it. That means there some unknown community spread.
On the face of it, that kind of reaction seems over-the-top. It will probably work but it’s a huge economic cost.
Yet the political cost of not doing it would be even higher.
I think other politicians are also learning that lesson. France is seeing a flare up and beginning to quickly lockdown. The UK is trying to use regional measures. In Israel, the second wave has been extremely damaging economically and politically for leaders.
So what I expect will happen with the reopening of schools is that flare ups (at minimum) will come and governments will be very quick to close it down.
US college football is another measure of which way the wind is blowing. The Big-10 conference was pushing to hold a season but just cancelled it. The dominoes are continuing to fall and it’s all politics at this point. If you cancel you upset a lot of people but if you don’t cancel and there’s an outbreak or someone dies, now your career is toast. Moreover, it’s not just the football people, university presidents are also going to see their careers on the line.
What’s more is that the psychological toll on consumers in a second lockdown is far higher than the first.