This Coronavirus thing is the biggest crisis to befall the United States since World War II I would say. It is an economic crisis at the scale of the Great Depression; it is a threat to physical safety to a potential of millions of lives and a severe illness episode to tens of millions; it is a psychological stress worrying about your job, worrying about your money, worrying if the “system” will be able to hold itself together, worrying if you might get sick yourself next, worrying if your loved ones will get sick or die. And of course this is not just happening in the United States, it is happening all over the world at the same time.
A Republican / Democratic split has developed over how to handle this situation of the virus; the Republican orientation is that the economy comes first, the Democratic orientation is that lives come first. The Republicans want to maintain the free market and individual choice; the Democrats are more oriented towards government welfare and government action dictating a collective response and everyone following a collective purpose to try to overcome this virus together. The Democrats are orientated towards safety, physical safety and economic safety through government action and government welfare and everybody following orders and agreeing to act collectively; the Republicans are trying to keep to business as usual as much as possible and personal responsibility and self-reliance and everyone acting according to their own conscious and their own priorities.
One might be inclined to say that the Republican orientation is masculine while the Democratic orientation is feminine; that self-reliance and emphasizing individual choice and being willing to take risks is masculine while wanting safety and risk aversion and being told what to do to get along with the collective as part of a collective goal and a collective purpose is feminine. I would set up what masculinity is a bit differently; the purpose of masculinity is not self-reliance and individual choice and risk taking for its own sake; instead the masculine is self-reliant to enable the woman to depend upon the man, the masculine uses individual choice to create a good environment for the woman to live within, the masculine takes risks so that the woman will be protected from the dangers that the man faces on her behalf. Most importantly men act collectively to create the environment overall that women and children live within.
It is not that men are individualistic while women are collectivist, men take on individualistic roles as part of a male collective purpose that women then live under. Women’s interest is then that men do a good job of creating a good environment for the women to live within.
This virus is a dangerous thing; it kills people. It kills people through social interaction and work often involves social interaction or facilitates social interaction and so many forms of work facilitate or promote the spread of the virus and so in this way work spreads the virus and therefore kills people. However not working is a dangerous thing, work is necessary for life to function comfortably and even for life to function at all. At a personal level you need to work in order to get money to pay your bills. At a societal level we all depend on other people’s work to maintain physical comfort and safety and then in addition the many material things and services we like and enjoy.
So the virus kills us through our social interactions including the social interactions associated with working so that working itself becomes dangerous due to the connection between working and social interaction. But of course failure to work will also kill us or endanger us because work is needed to keep life going. And truthfully at a psychological level social interaction is pretty much necessary to for us as social beings.
The Democratic response to this challenge is basically stay-at-home orders, work remotely if possible, only essential jobs permitted, and you can only be social in person with people you actually live with. Government then gives you the money you need to live during this time period. In this way material safety is provided by the government and physical safety is maintained by this minimization of social interaction. This Democratic oriented response has been the predominant response to the crisis so far.
The Republican counter-claim is that this is unsustainable or possibly unnecessary; people cannot stay isolated in their homes not working indefinitely. We’re supposed to stay locked down in this self-imposed quarantine until a vaccine arrives? How long is that? 12 to 18 months? What if we never get a vaccine? Herd immunity, two-thirds to three-fourths of the population getting infected, is the only way out. The virus isn’t really that deadly anyways.
There is really quite a clear difference between Democrats and Republicans emerging; Democrats are in favor of indefinite stay-at-home lockdown combined with massive socialistic broad based government welfare while Republicans are in favor of the return to work, the return to normalcy, let the virus do what it will, the virus ain’t really that bad anyways. Life is tough and the strong, the young, the great majority will survive and make it to the other side with America as founded still intact. If the Democrats have their way America as any kind of functioning society will be destroyed. If the Republicans have their way millions will die.
There are two kinds of danger here; the danger of getting infected by the virus and the danger of not working. Republicans are basically saying that the danger of not working is greater; Democrats are saying that the danger of letting the virus run wild is greater.
Another aspect of things, Republicans are claiming that the free market responding to the various needs the Coronavirus crisis is creating is better, Democrats are claiming that centralized government action to respond to the crisis is better. In other words, for instance, personal protective equipment (PPEs). The Republicans are saying let the market respond. Hospitals need PPEs for their health care workers? Then hospitals will pay money for it. Various businesses will see there is a lot of money to be made manufacturing PPEs and so lots of businesses will try to enter the PPE market to supply this demand. In this way, through the free market, the demand for PPEs will be met. The Democratic way of meeting demand for PPEs would be by government order. Hospitals would tell the government how much of what different kinds of PPEs they need, the government would collect this information and in that way know how much of what kind of PPEs are needed for the whole nation, and then the government would order different kinds of manufacturing businesses to start producing the needed PPEs as soon as possible paying the companies a reasonable profit for their compliance and their contribution to the PPE effort.
It is almost like the Republicans by force of will or by declaration are asserting that this Coronavirus thing is not a crisis. Yes, it may necessitate a few trillion dollars of welfare handouts to keep things going a couple of months while the virus is brought under control but basically things should be done according to business as usual so that nothing serious breaks or gets disrupted; so that no permanent or lasting damage is done to society. Democrats on the other hand are perfectly willing to see this as a crisis that demands drastic action and a functional collective response to keep everyone safe materially and in terms of their health as much as possible.
The Republicans are individualistic, the Democrats are collectivist. The Coronavirus is an external enemy that is attacking us. The Democrats are quick to see the Coronavirus as an external enemy that we all must unite to fight against because that fits with the Democrats’ collectivist tendency. The Republicans on the other hand want to deny that we are facing a crisis or alternatively claim that the situation is hopeless and there is nothing we can do to protect ourselves from the virus anyways because either way; either no crisis to begin with or a crisis we can do nothing about; no action against the external threat then is either necessary or possible and in that way the need for a collective response is avoided. If there is no collective response then there is no move in the direction of collectivism.
Patriarchy is collectivist, feminism is individualistic. Patriarchy is about responsibility, feminism is about freedom and individual choice. Patriarchy is about obedience to God or the natural order of things, feminism is about denying that there is a God who created men and women a certain way or that there is a natural order of things to conform yourself to. From the point of view of patriarchy the Coronavirus is just another danger to protect women and children from; there is nothing about collective action to fight against an infectious disease that is contrary to patriarchy. Throughout history there have always been infectious diseases that have threatened mankind.
In terms of the American political context it does seem to me that the Coronavirus is an external threat best met by a collective protective response that therefore favors the Democratic Party and the Democratic collectivist orientation. This might be viewed as bad for patriarchy in a political sense in that Democrats tend to be more feminist than Republicans. From a sociological point of view the Coronavirus might well promote patriarchy by means of placing women into an endangered position where the woman will seek male protection and support more. If the social scene becomes more collectivist that should indeed move things more towards patriarchy and away from feminism as patriarchy by its nature is collectivist while feminism by its nature is individualistic.
Related article: Looking at the Coronavirus Crisis