It's become a game. Every day at a specific time, each governor, and now even county executive, announces a press conference where, with the flick of the pen, they issue edicts that violate more inalienable natural rights than at any time in this nation's history. What started out as a prudent move has now devolved into a free-for-all of tyranny against peaceful citizens, as authorities release criminals from prison. It's time to demand that state legislatures reconvene and start setting parameters and guidelines. It's time to return to self-governance.
We all went along with the severe social distancing and the termination of all public gatherings to help safety during this epidemic. Even this is no picnic, because it includes the cancellation of all religious services as well as school. We must recognize the danger of unilateral executive actions halting the most sacred constitutional rights. Nonetheless, it was clear that these first actions were called for and passed the rational basis test of using the policies least restrictive of liberty to achieve a vital state interest.
Now, however, that states are moving to indefinite lockdowns without presenting any evidence that this is needed, over and above the severe distancing, it's past time for us to ask questions. Placing Americans indefinitely under house arrest without any due process, transparency, time limit, guidelines, or checks and balances on a single executive is something that should shake us to our core.
That is true even if we were dealing with Ebola and a 60 percent death rate. It would certainly be necessary in that case, but still we should be jarred by the short-term and long-term implications of one county or state official wielding such power and the economic, logistical, mental health, and physical health problems it's creating. Mark my words: This genie will not be put back in the bottle.
Here is the state of play at this moment. President Trump clearly understands the need for a proper balance and to more effectively target the quarantine while putting as many people back to work as possible. However, the governors have made it clear that they have an agenda to keep wielding this power indefinitely and won't even join the president in at least striving for a return to work – not even to normal life but just to the first level of social distancing – by mid-April. There is something very disquieting about what is motivating these governors to act so callously against liberty and not even treat this as an evil at all, even a necessary one.
Also, numerous blue city and county executives are ordering house arrest policies. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is threatening to cut off power and water to businesses. If these are the drastic measures they're taking less than two weeks into this, one can only imagine where they are headed unless we check their behavior.
Patriots need to prepare for this showdown if and when the federal government offers guidance to achieve proper balance and states still reject it for political reasons. Are we really OK with giving governors and county/city executives this much power indefinitely?
We want strong leadership during a time of crisis, and you can't have legislatures making every last decision. But there must be some checks and balances or at least transparency measures checking these emergency powers that violate the essence of the Declaration of Independence, especially when much of the science driving the underlying push for lockdown appears to be driven by the same politicized academia as global warming.
Moreover, there already are numerous cooks in the kitchen, with each governor and county leader drawing up his or her own royal edicts. So why not at least bring a few hundred legislators into the process?
It's time for patriots to flood their state legislators with calls and demand that they reconvene and deal with some of the liberty issues, crime, and logistical and fiscal issues inherent in this crisis. It's time to return to self-government. They must push legislation along the following lines:
- Require that any violation of the Constitution under the guise of stemming an epidemic expire after seven days. In order to renew it, the governor would need to submit clear findings to the legislature and publicize them online articulating why this is the least restrictive means necessary to achieve the goal.
- Address the parameters of why some functions are deemed essential and weigh them against the public safety concerns.
- No top-level state official may get paid until the severe lockdown orders are rescinded.
- Stop the unaccountable release of criminals.
- Within the home rule parameters of state laws, rein in the edicts of some cities that are taking these measures too far.
- There must be a rigorous debate about the underlying data driving specific strategies and whether they are really prudent.
These are very reasonable and simple ideas that still leave the governors with tremendous latitude.
Finally, President Trump must tell these local officials that if they continue to destroy the economy after these measures are no longer necessary, they own the mess. Right now, they are counting on getting bailed out from the economic mess and don't see any downside to their tyrannical virtue-signaling. The bill headed for Trump's desk now sends $150 billion to the states. That must change. They can't play up state powers in both directions – become dictators but then count on a federal bailout.
Patrick Henry famously said, "Give me liberty or give me death." We need not choose between liberty and death here, but if our Founders valued liberty to that extent, does it not behoove us to at least get on the playing field and call some red flags? As John Adams wrote in 1765, "Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood."