The work of political struggle goes on constantly, forever and ever, without end. True moments of opportunity, though, come about rarely and without warning. They cannot be manufactured; they can only be taken advantage of. The lulls between them — like right now — are the time to remember the lesson that we always seem to forget when things get interesting: Forget public opinion. Public opinion is a trap. Capture the structures when you have the chance. In my adult lifetime there have been two great moments of opportunity for the Left. One was after the 2008 financial crisis, a period that you can generously construe as lasting several years, through the heyday of the Occupy movement.
COVID-19 is an example of what movement analysts call a “trigger event.” When shocking events of immense scale occur suddenly—such as natural disasters, military coups, economic collapse, or virus pandemics—they drastically alter life as we know it, and radically shift public sentiment. The previously unimaginable quickly becomes reality. Trigger events create confusion and unease, but they also present tremendous opportunities for those who have a plan and know how to use the moment to push their agendas. Those in power and private interest groups are already doing this to ensure that they will come out of the crisis with their wealth and position still intact. Activists must push an agenda that represents the public interest—the imperative of a just society and the rights of ordinary people—with effective strategies for advancing relevant new policies.