COVID-19's Biggest Casualty May Be Governability

commentary

(NBC News THINK)

A counterprotester displays a sign to those protesting COVID-19 restrictions in Annapolis, Maryland, April 18, 2020, photo by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Sipa USA/Reuters

A counterprotester displays a sign to those protesting COVID-19 restrictions in Annapolis, Maryland, April 18, 2020

Photo by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Sipa USA/Reuters

by Brian Michael Jenkins

October 11, 2022

Pandemics kill millions. Their effects, however, extend beyond mass mortality and widespread grief. History shows that pandemics leave long-lasting resentments. They expose and exacerbate existing inequities—the gap between rich and poor widens; minorities and women suffer more. Pandemics fuel pre-existing prejudices, deepen social divisions, and increase political tensions.

Pandemics also cause political casualties—former President Donald Trump and former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to name just two obvious examples. A U.S. president presiding over a booming economy and low unemployment would ordinarily have enormous political advantages in a re-election campaign, but the pandemic sank the economy and sent unemployment skyrocketing. Across the pond, revelations of partying at Downing Street while the rest of the country was under lockdown contributed to Johnson's downfall.…

The remainder of this commentary is available at nbcnews.com.


Brian Michael Jenkins is an Army combat veteran who serves as senior adviser to the president of the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation. His latest book is “Plagues and Their Aftermath.”

This commentary originally appeared on NBC News THINK on October 10, 2022. Commentary gives RAND researchers a platform to convey insights based on their professional expertise and often on their peer-reviewed research and analysis.