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.

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.

The Final Sales Pitch (Trump’s Exit)

Our President is a salesman. He’s sold everything from steaks, to wine, to online college. His latest pitch is getting his supporters to pay him 150 million dollars to “litigate” his claims of “election fraud.”

Much of the money raised since the election is likely to go into an account for the president to use on political activities after he leaves office, while some of the contributions will go toward what’s left of the legal fight.

Trump has no chance of winning these claims and has lost in every state he’s tried.

But he tried.

He tried to overturn an American election, in a pandemic. This should not be forgotten.

Donald Trump mocked for giving Thanksgiving speech from tiny desk | South  China Morning Post

There is a lot of debate in the political sphere about Trump’s influence in the Republican Party after he leaves office. Will he still “control” the party? Will he be a gatekeeper in Republican primaries with his army of loyal supporters? Will he run again in 2024?

I’m of the opinion that America will move past Donald Trump. Ex-Presidents are powerless figureheads in the American political system. They are irrelevant. The system is bigger than one man. It has been that way ever since George Washington stepped down after eight years in office.

But Washington left us with a warning:

Early Imprint of George Washington's "Farewell Address" Booklet, | Lot  #25691 | Heritage Auctions

The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false&doc=15&page=transcript

Our election was fair.

The President lost.

The President knows that once he leaves office he will become the man he was before he got a free house and a free plane. He’ll just be the man who sleeps with Stormy Daniels and sells steaks on T.V.

That’s why he’s trying so hard to hold on.

In trying to hold on, he’s shown a willingness to destroy the American democratic system. It’s not even throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It’s taking a wrecking ball to the house.

He is the enemy Washington foresaw.

But fear not. Our democracy remains the “main pillar” of the edifice of your independence, tranquility, peace, safety, prosperity and liberty. Don’t let 2020 “weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth.”

Washington Monument reopens after years of construction | CNN Travel

We’re going to be alright, and we have a lot of brilliant men to thank for that.

The First Rule of Politics

One of the wonderful things about a Republic is that a national politician’s interest often varies by state. It’s a check on power.

Exhibit A:

After all the talk from Donald Trump about ending the vote count on election day, we have arrived here:

This map is very possible, maybe even probable. Biden may take the presidency because he won a single electoral college vote in Nebraska.

All of this is a bit ironic and made me think of this:

Fortunately, we’re not in 17th Century N.Y.C., though our President looks to be headed there in January.