You Have Nothing Nice to Say About Coronavirus
There are some who grasp the importance of situations early and others who take more time to absorb new developments. One challenge for the early adopters is that others might find them tiresome or even a bit nuts.
One such person was having a conversation about the coronavirus with his wife back in January or early February. It is possible he misjudged her interest in the latest details. No matter because he elicited one of the funniest lines ever: “you have nothing nice to say about the coronavirus.”
Both Hillary Clinton and former White House Chief of Staff and Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel are credited with the phrase “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste,” though they might have pinched it from Stanford economist, Paul Romer.
Could anything happen in the coming months or years to enable us to say something nice about the coronavirus?
I am a fan of Bruce Mehlman, a name partner in the government relations firm, Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas. Once a quarter, he comes out with a thought provoking slide deck and, for the third quarter of 2020, it is called “The Great Acceleration – How 2020’s Crises Are Bringing the Future Faster.”
I have cherry picked a few of his slides to suggest some things that might actually improve as a result of this unusual year. Unsurprisingly for a government relations firm, he also has some observations about the November elections. Equally unsurprisingly for 2020, the majority of his observations relate to developments that one might prefer to move in the opposite direction.
Lest anyone wonder whether 2020 is really as disruptive as it seems, it is. In the last 120 years, there have been three with multiple “super-disruptive events,” but never more than three at a time. This year has four. Not just sure how World Wars I and II avoided Mehlman’s scrutiny.
In the near term, the odds for change in November seem high. In the 20 elections from 1960, there were seven changes of party in either the White House, the Senate or the House of Representatives. In the 10 elections since 2000, there have been eight. The odds have more than doubled from 35% to 80%.
Be careful what you wish for in November, because the party that loses might be the first to imagine what it has to do better. There is a gap in the political middle because it is perceived to be more expensive to change minds than to energize the base. Only about 54% of US voters have turned out in the last 10 presidential elections so there are plenty of untapped voters (though there is no correlation between non-voters and centrists). If a political party saw its future in the middle, I would score that as something nice to say about the coronavirus.
Here are three areas with significant room for improvement. Some will move voluntarily, and others will need to be pushed.
Imagine a Moneyball scenario (more player skill at lower cost) for hiring new college graduates. I hope some bright engineer is at work on ways to discern the real value an individual might contribute to an enterprise as an alternative to blind reliance on brand name colleges. It is hard to think of an endeavor more in need of a shakeup than higher education unless it is college sports.
The ability to live anywhere rather than in dense and expensive urban centers would be another major improvement. Maybe Whole Foods / Cracker Barrel divide would even diminish? For overseas readers, Whole Foods is an upscale grocery store while Cracker Barrel is a chain of family restaurants featuring almost exactly the opposite food choices. The Whole Foods Cracker Barrel divide is widely used in political discussions, especially on the subject of voter sorting.
I find it difficult to imagine that any of the five items on this slide would be a bad development.
Sadly, it appears to me that political reform is the least likely because there are too many diehards holding the levers. They will seek just one more bite of the Washington apple and misjudge the arrival of pitchforks and torches.
There might be far more bad things to say about 2020 and the coronavirus, but wouldn’t it be good if there were at least a few nice things to say about it?