Executive Power Shrinks with Covid Cases

Our constitutional framework gives a great deal of power to the executive branches of our state and federal governments in times of emergency. We gladly handed over control to our fearless leaders when we were afraid last Spring. They’ve kept it since then. Now, a year later, some across the country want to take it back.

When an emergency ends, it’s only reasonable that governors should relinquish some control, or at least give it to the people’s representatives in the legislative branch.

Power, however, is not easily relinquished.

Image result for emperor palpatine

Watch any Star Wars movie for a quick lesson on the dangers of emergency executive control.

In the meantime, here’s what’s happening in 2021:

In N.Y., Cuomo is Being Neutered by His Own Party

Democrats in New York are upset with Governor Cuomo. They are attempting to limit his emergency powers, as we speak.

On Wednesday, State Senator Gustavo Rivera, a Democrat and chairman of the health committee, said it was now time for action. “We need to remind them that state government is not one big branch: There’s three of them,” he said.

Cuomo literally wrote a book on his covid performance.

Image result for cuomo covid book

Apparently, the people of New York don’t want anymore “leadership lessons.”

In N.C., Cooper Wants More Time

This week, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill to force open public schools. Governor Cooper said he supported reopening, but he didn’t do anything to actually open schools, leaving the decision to local schoolboards. This guaranteed gridlock, status quo, and frustration for parents and students.

Cooper came out against the new bill, wanting to hold onto the emergency power he was afraid to “execute” himself.

Local Democrats Billy Richardson, Kirk deViere, and Ben Clark voted for the bill, against Cooper’s wishes.

The only remaining question is whether Cooper will veto. As of today, he hasn’t decided what he’ll do. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

“Before taking action on the bill I have on my desk…”

That’s a ridiculous statement considering the crisis we’re in. Our kids deserve some action, Governor Cooper, one way or another.

If Cooper does veto the bill, he will likely be overridden. Unless something drastic happens, N.C. schools should all be open in March. It’s about damn time.

What it Means

These two Democratic Governors have higher office in mind, and they have been angling through the crisis to be a future V.P. or Presidential nominee of the Democratic Party.

Cooper didn’t write a book about it, but he would often brag about how N.C. was “doing better” than other states in the region. Now, we’re not doing better. It’s all about the same, wherever you go, regardless of restrictions and regardless of whether schools are open.

In the end, we’re left with two governors who tried to turn their covid performance into a political springboard.

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Tough break for them.

Good break for freedom.

Cooper’s Tired Tap Dance

This morning, Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly introduced a bill that requires all public school systems to provide at least some form of in-person instruction.

Click Here to Read Senate Bill 37

Here’s the key language:

Local boards of education shall provide the option of in-person instruction under Plan A (Minimal Social Distancing) or Plan B (Moderate Social Distancing) for all other students enrolled in grades kindergarten through 12 in that unit. It shall be in the discretion of the local board whether in-person instruction shall be provided under Plan A (Minimal Social Distancing), Plan B (Moderate Social Distancing), or both Plans as necessary to address the needs of different school. Local boards of education shall continue to provide remote instruction options for students to elect to participate in, at the discretion of the parent or guardian, for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year.

Note that you can still keep your kids at home, if you choose to. It’s up to the family, not the government.

Something else happened today:

Governor Cooper and Mandy Cohen actually recommended that schools re-open. This is a first. The timing is not a coincidence.

“It’s time to get students back into the classroom,” Gov. Roy Cooper said.

Well, then get them back in the classroom. You can do it with the stroke of a pen, Mr. Governor.

Instead, Cooper will continue his tap dance:

“I don’t think that’s the way to go,” Cooper said of the bill Tuesday. “I think the way to go is to get our local school boards to take this action. … They have to make some very tough decisions on the ground.”

I’m having trouble with his logic. Cooper shut down the schools. He can open them back up. Why force local boards to carry your political baggage for you?

What it Means

Roy Cooper has flown the banner of “public education” his entire political career. If he honestly believes in his heart that it is safe for kids to be in school, then he should do something about it.

On that note, if our “fearless leader” believes that it’s safe for kids to be in school, then she should do something about it.

I’ve got a suggestion. Instead of giving another press conference, try swinging by a school board meeting in Cumberland County (you can do it virtually) and educating our members about the science you love to tout when it supports closures, but not so much when it justifies getting things back open.

Instead Cooper and Cohen want to make everyone happy, simultaneously.

It’s a ridiculous dance, and it won’t work.

It never does.

Same Old Variants

We currently have vaccines that are 95% effective against Covid-19 infection. They are being distributed to the most vulnerable in our society at a fairly decent clip. Hospitalizations are down across the country.

The sting is wearing off. People are starting to see an end to this bleak winter.

The media doesn’t like that. It doesn’t sell. So this week, the scary new buzzword is “variants.” Today’s story on CNN:

Did you need an excuse to stay in your house for the rest of 2021? Maybe you wanted to give the NCAE more ammunition to keep public schools shut down as cases continue to decline into the Spring? You couldn’t ask for a better boogie man than “variants.”

Sometimes, it’s like living in a commercial for the sale of fear:

“Today, we’re reporting on new and improved strains Covid-19, from exotic locales like Brazil and South Africa. These are far more deadly and contagious than tired, old American Covid. Better to avoid all everyday activities for the foreseeable future.”

I’m not falling for this one. Old and weak people are protected. That’s good enough for me.

The rest of us need to take some reasonable risks and move ourselves, our families, and our Nation forward.

What kind of world do you want to live in? Your answer to that question has a lot to do with the result.

The Hidden Danger of Safety

The need for safety during Covid has caused a withdrawal from public life. We’re not participating in communal events like church, school, and family gatherings. Our institutions are going through the motions in zoom meetings, waiting for the pharmaceutical companies to save the planet. The recent presidential election made government seem important, but once it was over, a lot of the issues that had folks fighting in the streets have receded from our consciousness. Look at the Fayetteville City Council’s Agenda this month. Hard decisions on the future of the Market House have been pushed off to 2021. It’s just zoning changes for the rest of the year. The North Carolina General Assembly hasn’t done anything since Covid began besides spend some federal money. Don’t get me started on Congress.

It’s stagnant.

But I need to look in the mirror. Maybe I’m projecting? Although writing a political blog is a hobby, I feel a sense of responsibility to point out the truth on local issues as I see them. But I’ve withdrawn to my little covid safety routine, as I’m sure many of you have. I quit writing for a while. Once you stop putting in the work, it’s harder to start up again.

Death Spiral?

A recent article that popped up on my newsfeed got me thinking about the dangers of sitting in our safe, private spaces.

The Death Spiral of Public Life

It’s worth a quick read. It argues that our withdrawal from public life will permanently degrade our public institutions. Public schools are hit the worst, as many upper-middle class families are leaving for private schools (that are actually open). These families aren’t coming back. Public transportation isn’t being used because people aren’t going to work or travelling. Each of these public services will lose funding and each will suffer long term ramifications that will last well beyond the pandemic.

The result is this:

  • An increasingly large (and increasingly expensive) à la carte menu of necessary private services for those that can afford them.
  • Crappy government services for the poor.

Income inequality widens. America suffers.

The C.S. Lewis Answer

I’m going to throw some religion on this fire:

In his famous book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis has a demon, Screwtape, writing to his nephew (also a demon), giving him advice on how to capture a man’s soul. In a relevant correspondence, Screwtape offers the following:

The great thing is to prevent his doing anything. As long as he does not convert it into action, it does not matter how much he thinks about this new repentance. Let the little brute wallow in it. Let him, if he has any bent that way, write a book about it; that is often an excellent way of sterilising the seeds which the Enemy plants in a human soul. Let him do anything but act. No amount of piety in his imagination and affections will harm us if we can keep it out of his will. As one of the humans has said, active habits are strengthened by repetition but passive ones are weakened. The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.

Feel numb to it all lately? You’re not alone.

You’ve been told to stay indoors, cover your face, hide your kids, hide your wives! Don’t do anything! Just sit there! A vaccine is on the way, next year! Your little county is now code level burnt orange due to rising positivity rates, so don’t even think about seeing your elderly parents this Christmas!

What active habits that don’t involve a screen have you actually done more of? Are even those becoming dull? Thought of writing a book about it? A blog post?

Inherent Design Flaw?

When I was in public school, I did have some screen time, and we got to play “educational” games. The best was the Oregon Trail. Your mission was to get your party from Missouri to Oregon in a covered wagon. The worst thing that could happen in the game was disease.

You have died of dysentery,” and what the Oregon Trail video game still  teaches us about health | by Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District | Medium

But you kept going. Sitting still wasn’t an option. A wagon is made to roll. Similarly, a human being is not made to sit still for years at a time. We’re designed to create, to move.

I would argue that the American political system is built on the recognition of this truth, and maybe that’s why we’re so bad at pandemics. The constant strain of personal freedom vs. the public good combined with a lack of leadership has caused a spiritual sickness in this country. We’ve lost our ability to act and our ability to feel is right behind it.

We’ve got to get moving soon. It’s who we are.

“Tie Goes to the Runner” – 2020 Predictions

If you played kickball or baseball in the 1990’s, you quickly learned one of the schoolyard’s most basic principles: “Tie goes to the runner!”

The gist is this: if the ball and the runner reach the base at the same time, the runner is safe.

Tie goes to the runner, dude!" Or . . . maybe not - MLB | NBC Sports

A few days ago, the idea popped in my head to apply this rule to politics.

Political “Field”

First, some basics to set up the analogy:

The “runner” is the challenger. He’s trying to score.

Kelly Leak Topps (1976) Bad News Bears | The bad news bears, Movie card,  Bad news

The incumbent is on defense. The incumbent controls the field and generally has more money and people trying to help his/her campaign. These advantages pay off. The incumbent generally wins. It’s aggravating at times.

Derek Jeter's number retirement ceremony was peak Yankees

Sometimes, for various reasons, an incumbent will face a close race for re-election. Here, we can infer political momentum because the incumbent’s inherent advantage must have dwindled for a reason. Perhaps the incumbent did something wrong? Perhaps the incumbent is swept up into national partisan trends? Or, perhaps, the particular challenger happens to be a bad ass.

Recent Media tagged bad news bears - Skymeteor

A general rule emerges: If a race is close as election day approaches, you should bet on the challenger. The reason: the momentum that he/she used to close the gap will more than likely carry him/her to victory.

“Tie goes to the runner”

The 2020 Ticket

We’ll start at the top:

President: Biden has not only closed the gap on the incumbent, he’s favored in every poll. Biden’s going to win. So you’ll know I’m consistent, I wrote a post in July called “Trump is Going to Lose.” It’s the most unoriginal title I ever came up with, but my feelings haven’t changed. Unless something drastic happens in 2020, we’ll have a new President in 2021.

  • WINNER: RUNNER (BIDEN)

US Senate: This is a race where my theory gets put to the test. Cal Cunningham was leading in most polls against the unpopular incumbent, Tom Tillis. You had to like Cunningham’s chances. Then, Cal got caught sexting with a woman in a different state. Cal’s basically in hiding now, refusing to answer questions. He’s trying to run out the clock.

I still like his chances. Why? He’s in a close race with an incumbent that’s coming down to the wire. People obviously didn’t like Tillis to begin with, and Cunningham’s personal mishaps aren’t going to change that. “Tie goes to the runner.”

  • WINNER: RUNNER (CUNNINGHAM) by less than 2 points.

Governor: This race has never been close, so our theory doesn’t apply.

  • WINNER: COOPER

U.S. House (District 8): Incumbent Richard Hudson faces his most serious challenger yet in former NC Supreme Court Justice and Fayetteville native, Patricia Timmons-Goodson.

The partisan makeup of the 8th District favors a Republican. The middle, rural parts of the district are solidly “red.”

8th District.png

For a Democrat to win, they have to drive up Democratic vote on the “ends” of the District (Cumberland and Cabarrus).

If Trump keeps imploding, he could turn “lean Republican” races like this one into “toss-ups.” Tie goes to the runner in toss-ups.

The cracks are forming in the Trump foundation, but there’s a whole lot of MAGA in the middle of NC’s 8th District that will fight (and vote) to the end.

As a side note, this race is somewhat personal to me. My old man ran for this seat in 2002 when I was a senior in high school and lost in the Democratic Primary. In addition, I clerked for Justice Timmons-Goodson while I was in law school. She’d be an excellent Congresswoman and Fayetteville would benefit substantially from having a resident member of Congress. Hudson has never held a real job outside of politics and lives in Washington D.C. Let’s get Hudson some work in the private sector.

Please vote for Timmons-Goodson.

  • WINNER: TRUMP SAVES OR KILLS HUDSON

If Trump implodes and loses nationally by >8 points, then this race goes to the “runner,” Timmons-Goodson. If not, Hudson keeps his seat.

NC Senate District 19

Kirk deViere vs. Wesley Meredith, Part II.

This one is always fun to cover, and I’ve written about it extensively. This seat is the epitome of North Carolina’s purple politics and produces close and expensive races.

I never miss the chance to remind folks that I called this race within .03 of a percentage point in 2018, and I kept the receipts:

https://crosscreekdivide.com/2018/11/16/dont-get-caught-watchin-the-paint-dry/

Surprisingly, the race seems quieter this time around. I keep waiting for a bombshell that hasn’t materialized from Meredith, the king of attack ads. From what I can tell, its been mostly a mailbox battle. Maybe Meredith’s not getting as much money from the Republican Party this time around?

Regardless, the race is likely to be close again, but it’s hard to say if our baseball theory applies this time. Meredith’s only been out of this seat for one term and held it longer than deViere prior to losing in 2018. Who’s the runner? Who’s in the field?

I think this one ends up a lot like 2018, with deViere gaining a little more ground due to Democratic enthusiasm. I’ll call it to the 10th of a percentage point to see if I can re-create my crystal ball magic:

  • WINNER: Kirk deViere 51.3%, Wesley Meredith 48.7%

Wrap-Up

After I wrote this post, I googled the “tie goes to the runner” rule. I came across a post on a blog for umpires. There’s a blog for everyone nowadays.

It turns out that “tie goes to the runner” isn’t an actual rule.

There’s no such thing as a tie in baseball. You either beat the ball to the plate, or you don’t.

Umpires have to make the call.

You can make the call starting tomorrow with early voting.

Fee free to yell at me in the meantime.

Baseball leslie nielsen 32 GIF - Find on GIFER