Power-creep through states of emergency declarations is a problem. The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered many largely unprecedented government actions. These are actions by which officials at all levels grasp for temporary powers. The result is some potentially explosive pandemic politics.
In the beginning
Some of these actions began as suggestions, guidelines for movement, and behavior. Those suggestions quickly became mandates. Violations were made punishable by law in some cases. Thus they are begging the question: Is this even constitutional? If not they are power creep.
Throughout history, crises have been used all too often. Crises are used to rationalize government officials securing more power and control. They must be kept in check. Have you read Crisis & Leviathan, by Robert Higgs? It is an examination of the way this pattern has played out in the past.
Want to see an example of authoritarian power plays attributable to the pandemic? All you have to do is look at Western Europe. We should not think ourselves immune to the overreach now common across the Atlantic. Simply look at the individual states here in America. You will see the despots in the making.
Thankfully, this vulnerability is not being ignored. State overreach is on the Department of Justice’s radar. Attorney General William Barr is calling some of these restrictions “burdens on civil liberties.” The definition of excess is states continuing these strict orders with declining case numbers. The DOJ says it will not hesitate to take legal action should this occur.
The DOJ is continuing to watch these mandates closely. If they see states going too far they will lean on the governors to readjust. If that fails and members of the public file lawsuits. At that point, the DOJ will file statements of interest and side with the plaintiffs. This is a welcome step in the limitation of power creep.
That said, the DOJ hasn’t been totally innocent of overreach in the name of pandemic response. POLITICO reports the DOJ is seeking the authority to indefinitely detain Americans.
The strict social distancing rules put in place by some states are not going unnoticed by the White House. President Donald Trump stood by his tweets. He’s calling to “LIBERATE” Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia, in response to each state’s strict orders.
The State’s responses…
Measures by state government leaders in Virginia, Minnesota, and Michigan have led to protests. Residents are experiencing frustration with the most extreme regulations. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, was once under consideration for VP. She is releasing strict restrictions.
Those regulations are causing a severe backlash. Among the orders, Whitmer requires big-box stores to close sections. Specifically, those “dedicated to carpeting, flooring, furniture, garden centers, plant nurseries, or paint,” aka, non-essential products.
Several thousand people gathered at the capitol in Lansing, MI. They were carrying signs calling for an end to the shutdown. Business owners held signs defending their need to be open in order to survive.
In Minnesota, protesters are outside the Governor’s mansion. They are calling to “Liberate Minnesota.” The people are calling to reopen small businesses. People need to be able to provide for themselves and their families. Michele Even, the protest organizer, said people want their “rights restored.”
On Wednesday, April 22, ReOpen Virginia organized a drive-in protest. Virginians are calling on Governor Ralph Northam to bring the state economy back. The group’s Facebook page has over 30,000 members. It describes itself as “A grassroots group of people and small business owners that want to get back to work!”
It’s politics, not health…
These movements are political ammunition against President Trump. Leftist politicians and late-night show hosts alike are in alignment. Stephen Colbert is expressing his outrage: “To be clear, Trump is now encouraging people to protest his own recommendations—that’s how much he needs to hear a chanting mob.”
On the other side of the crisis, some states are releasing overly cautious plans to reopen. Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut says plans to reopen include “voluntary” quarantines. He is looking at enforcing by cell phone technology and medical surveillance programs. Big Brother loves you… to death. Voluntary with a penalty isn’t voluntary at all…
Eliminating the sale of home improvement equipment and tools will not eradicate this virus. Shutting small businesses down for so long they become dependent on government bailouts or even declare bankruptcy, won’t either. All this does is to pick big companies as governmental partners while killing off smaller competitors. Understand what we are looking at.
We are using the backstop of the country’s state of national emergency. State government officials are issuing orders that, if not unconstitutional, are certainly unethical. Connecticut has a proposal to monitor those in quarantine via cell phone technology. It sure looks like a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Some orders are leading to the closure of gun and ammunition stores. They are dangerously close to violating the Second Amendment.
These overreaches must be checked by citizen engagement. We can be sensitive to those who have genuinely been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The DOJ and White House are very encouraging with their stand. They are supporting the constitutional rights of the American people. They demonstrate this by their public declaration of their willingness to take swift action.
We the people want our livelihoods back. Don’t be mistaken. This will be the issue in November. Many of us will determine where our votes go by the actions taken now. If there are mistakes to be made, let’s err on the side of freedom, self discipline and personal responsibility. We must reverse and remove power creep.