As members of Congress debate the terms of the trillion-dollar-plus coronavirus relief package for businesses and individuals, they would do well to remember our recent history.

Most people in professional Washington hate the populist era we are going through. The populist period exists because Americans already feel like their elected officials are more responsive to large corporate interests than to the individuals who elected them. This played out big-time after the Wall Street bailouts fueled the tea party on the right and Occupy Wall Street on the left.

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America has faced great challenges in the past, and we have always gotten through them stronger than we were before. From the Civil War to the Great Depression to World War II, we have been through some horrific stuff. In the Civil War alone, we lost 750,000 people, or 2% of our population at the time. That would be 7 million deaths at our current population level. In World War II, we suffered another 405,000 deaths. Since World War II, we have faced many challenges, including wars and terrible tragedies like 9/11, but as far as the scale goes, we may be entering a period of hardship like none we have seen in decades.

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One of the first rules of weathering a crisis is to remain calm. Freaking out never helps. It's not yet clear how big of a crisis the new coronavirus will be, but panicking over even the most minor matters has become an American specialty these last few years. In our politics, we have jumped from faux crisis to faux crisis with such speed that most Americans have started tuning it out. This is not the ideal state of affairs as we prepare to enter a period of potential real crisis that could affect millions of people and result in the loss of many lives. Our country has a tradition of coming together to face crises, but this time, it's hard to imagine. Let's hope our leaders -- and all of us -- can rise to the challenge.

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It's rare that President Donald Trump ever seems to misread a communications matter. From the earliest 2016 debates, it became clear that he is a lot better at communicating with the American people than your standard-issue Republican politician. He's also a master at the media game. The liberal press would never admit it, but he's the best political communicator of our time. That's why his treatment of the new coronavirus is so surprising.

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Now that Sen. Bernie Sanders is surging and a populist-left Sanders versus populist-right Trump race looks more and more likely, it might finally be time for America's leadership class to start looking inward and asking what's going on. People don't throw out all their normal political leaders for a TV-host billionaire and a socialist who honeymooned in the Soviet Union when they are satisfied with the state of affairs in their country. Something's going wrong for the American people. They are desperately searching for new political leaders who will shake things up.

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After watching the Las Vegas Democratic debate, it's becoming less and less clear how the Democrats plan to defeat, or even challenge, President Donald Trump this fall. As a conservative Republican watching just for kicks, the debate was amazing -- tons of drama and entertainment value. But if you are a Democrat committed to getting rid of Trump, it was probably not so much fun. In fact, it had to have been depressing to watch. There were fireworks and interesting storylines, but when the smoke cleared, who was left to take on Trump?

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Sen. Bernie Sanders is winning. If the election of Donald Trump wasn't enough of a wake-up call that Americans want radical change, the Bernie surge should finally get America's leaders to start thinking more clearly about what's happening in our country.

For a lot of people, it's been easier to stick their heads in the sand and pretend we are still a Romney-versus-Obama country than to wrestle with the tough issues that are driving American politics today. Why are people so hungry for serious change? That's the single most important question -- and it's the question nobody ever talks about. How is Sanders winning primaries? How did Trump take over the Republican party, knocking out every major established Republican politician, with such ease? The answers you hear in Washington are almost too superficial to discuss. It's not because of Russia. It's not because too many establishment Republicans divided the vote against Trump. It's because people are truly sick of our leaders.

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