By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
Putting aside the discussion of whether or not actions taken by various elected officials were reasonable, the hurried effects suffered by the public during the COVID-19 virus pandemic at the behest of politicians should if anything prove the potential for damage caused by unscrupulousness or incompetence in government.
Today’s events should be by now a self-evident reminder of the great importance of putting the right people in office and the folly of settling for very fallable politicians. The next coming weeks will make that point likely more for you, with less consideration to your rights or interests.
I want to take a moment to emphasize, because it frequently will be the case that many fail to recognize this article is authored by someone other than Jonathan Turley: My opinions are mine alone and not necessarily his. His realm is among political leadership and mine is not, so what I write should not be confused with his.
The last two weeks were to varying degrees dependant upon political approaches and facts on the ground; we’ve objectively speaking seen a significant erosion of individual rights and the assertion of sweeping, and unquestioned executive power on behalf of state governors and mayors of cities (in the U.S. example)–ostensibly out of necessity to contain the spread of COVID-19 contagion. Whether or not one agrees with the efficacy of such power, it is wielded to fight a perceived threat. The public and the courts will in the end need to decide whether this erosion was in their interest or was constitutional.
Objectively, let us look at what has been mandated or granted by executive branch declarations of emergency:
- Churches, mosques, temples ordered closed
- Curfews ordered during night time (Kauai)
- Prohibitions on more than ten citizens lawfully assembling
- Political assemblies shuttered
- Certain healthcare facilities ordered closed
- Travel restrictions
- Education denied (school closures)
- A governor given carte-blanche by legislature to nearly limitless spending
- Persons denied property right to pursue chosen business or trade (mandatory closures)
- Forced confinement in homes or facilities
- Open ended time tables for enforcement of restrictions
- Threat of arrest for violating executive orders
It might just be my observation alone, but to me it almost seems there is a competition or at least a mantra for some politicians or officials to impose the hardest or most novel restrictions on the public, comparing those in neighboring jurisdictions. One example was that Seattle mandated a “no eviction” policy during the “crisis” and a few days later, WA Governor Jay Inslee imposed the same mandate state wide. I do not see how a tenant that fails to pay rent or causes a nuissance to the property somehow affects the propogation of viruses but one can always piggyback atop a crisis and bypass the legislature when the fear is abound. Or when Oregon’s Governor imposes a restriction of 150 people occupying the same event, Washington’s governor quickly follows suit, or was it the other way around? It can be difficult to know which number to use, can we just settle on 57? A governor can even double-down on their last executive order and decrease the number to 50 then 10. Do I hear two? Maybe even conjoined twins must be seperated.
The rubric of a “threat” or “enemy” is so often utilized by those at worse intending the seizure of power or at least the imposition of a policy. But there is a definite hubris that can tempt some to use their fear invoked powers and punish those who do not agree there is a perceived threat and do not behave accordingly.
Arbitrary action sometimes results from unchecked power
The website “Geekwire” featured an article that demonstrates this very well. In the story, WA Governor Inslee discussed his claimed “data-driven” strategy for his numerous state of emergency declarations. And according to him, too many Washingtonians are not cloistering themselves enough and therefore should expect greater restrictions if they do not fall in line.
“Tolled roads in Washington show a “relatively steady” decline in travel, Inslee said. But the Washington Department of Transportation data shows some roads with 20-40 percent traffic declines or less, which Inslee stressed “is not enough.”
“It is clear that we have continuation of too many social interactions in our state,” he said.
Somehow Governor Inslee could derive from DOT data exactly the purpose and intent of every vehicle occupant on the road and whatever that might be, it apparently is unacceptable to him. So what level of vehicle travel is too much or too little to prevent a pandemic? It apparently constitutes too much social interaction for his personal taste, but because it is incorporated into an executive order involving a state of emergency, his pet peeve is now enforceable against the Washington population. I have to take exception to that. I fail to see how a person driving himself alone in a car on State Route 167 poses any public health emergency. It seems enough people are not, as perhaps Cartman might say, respecting his “authoritah”. Perhaps he is taking logic lessons from President Erdogan.
I believe it is incumbent upon citizens of any nation to engage themselves in a thought experiment where they place themselves in a lifetime in which they are living under today’s restrictions, (which will likely become more stringent before they are fully liberated). That is exactly at a minimum what can happen if we allow incompetence and malfeasance in public office: settle for bad politicians, suffer the benefits of that decision. There will always be a threat or promise that can be whipped up into a vortex by an opportunistic policical leader. Or equally as damaging he/she might be so inept at leadership that bad decision making can lead to swift economic downfalls or social upheavals.
Simply look at how fast businesses shuttered and jobs were lost based on the mandates of political leaders. Public health might have been the reason today, but stupidity and incompetence might be the reason later. It was not the Corona Virus itself that caused businesses to downfall, people to avoid each other, or treasure to be lost. In fact, the scientific community itself argues whether a virus is definable as a living organism. It was the actions and mandates of politicians–for better or worse–that caused or invoked nearly all of this. Take it to heart and be forewarned. You may believe today it was for the better good, but you will not find it acceptable if such problems are imposed upon you later when lesser politicians are granted power over your lives.
Now that you’ve had a bit of a taste of what it is like to lose some of your liberty, you might want to be a little better guarded when you go to the polls in future elections. You very well could actually get the politicians you deserve. The choice is entirely up to you, and what you hold most dear.
By Darren Smith
The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.