When the coronavirus pandemic began rampaging through American society in the early months of 2020, it was clear that it would set off a public-health crisis. What few anticipated at the time was its far-reaching impact on the country’s politics. Now there can be no doubt: The pandemic and lockdowns have exacerbated the nation’s political tribalism, put new issues atop the public’s priority list, deepened generational differences and fractured social structures that have helped to hold the body politic together.
A nation that was already skeptical about its institutions and leaders has only grown more so, and it may be a long time before experts are trusted as they were before. In the wake of such an unsettling crisis, voters may put greater stock in experience and steadiness in choosing political leaders going forward—or begin tossing aside discredited incumbents in favor of a new wave of post-pandemic leaders.