Despite rallies against stay-at-home orders popping up all over California there is a tendency to dismiss protestors as a small slice of the electorate, especially in light of recent polls that show backing for Governor Newsom’s handling of the coronavirus crisis at 70% approval. Yet, the protests should be viewed like a political canary in the coal mine if the lockdown runs into the summer. With economic woes piling up due to the stay-at-home order, there is danger of political upheaval in this government mine.

Governor Newsom initially received deserved praise for his quick reaction to the advance of the Covid-19 spread. Urgent action was taken even though it had devasting side effects to prevent an even greater disaster in loss of life.

One might even equate this action to a previous incident in California history, the Gold Rush era fire in San Francisco, late 1849. To prevent spread of a Christmas Eve fire, drastic action was taken to tear down or blow up buildings in the fire’s path depriving it of fuel and stopping the fire’s spread. The lockdown prevented Covid-19 spread but also created devastation as a result of the method used to slow the disease.

But opening business must begin–by region and the type of work done–to get the recovery started.

The rebellious politics on display from the beaches of Orange County to the wildernesses of the state’s far north are significant and should be seen by public officials as an alarm going off.

Despite the good intentions behind the lockdown, it comes with unforeseen consequences that have crippling effects on the body politic that could resonate at the polls.

Let’s consider just two disparate examples.

Essential to confronting the pandemic, health care services themselves are at risk not only by the dangers presented to medical staff by unknown truths about the virus and the lack of proper equipment, but the surprising result of doctors and nurses being laid off and hospitals teetering financially because of fearful patients and lack of performing usual medical procedures. Early in the pandemic, the governor reached out to bring retired health care people into the fight. Now, suddenly, needed professionals are being shown the door because the stay-at-home order has left hospitals and medical pros without the resources to function.

A prolonged economic plunge also inspires movements like a renter’s strike, with unemployed workers asking for laws to prevent them from paying rents. This effort to promote help for the dispossessed has taken on a wider, progressive tilt with some promoting a renter’s strike for all residents of the state, regardless of a tenant’s ability to pay. This larger proposal ultimately undermines not only residential and commercial landlords to try and survive without cashflow, which in turn affects their property-related payments, upkeep and suppliers, but is a threat to the capitalistic system that allowed California to flourish.

The effects of these and other consequences of the business shutdown wash over the middle-class voters who could bring their displeasure with government mandates to the polls in the coming election. Remember, government in this state already received one wake-up call in the March primary when overreach on tax increase proposals were shot down at a much greater than expected rate.

The protests are frequently reported as generated by Trump supporters and conservatives. But important political trouble could be brewing for the governor and elected officials as Democratic Party allies get frustrated with the economic situation. Pressure will build on the governor, legislators and local leaders from both private and public unions. Private unions need jobs, public unions need the taxes from those jobs. Both the jobs and the taxes are disappearing because of the shutdown.

All these consequences build momentum for political change. Even the boastful poll numbers of 70% support for the state’s coronavirus actions are a couple of weeks old. Meanwhile, frustrations with the stay-at-home order grow. The protests are an early warning to politicians to escape danger.

Ask former governor Gray Davis if concerns about handling a crisis can become a political problem.