No, President Trump Does Not Have Total Power Over The States

donald_trump_president-elect_portrait_croppedThis morning I ran a column in the Washington Post on the President’s claim that he has “total” and “absolute” power to order all states to lift their pandemic orders and re-open the economy.  Both Republicans and Democrats have objected to the President’s statementsin last night’s press conference.  The fact is that our Constitution was designed expressly to bar such claims.  Absolutes find little sanctuary in a Constitution designed for limited government with shared powers.

President Trump shocked many by his declaring that “When somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total. The governors know that.”  If they “know” that, they know little about the Constitution.  As I have previously written, the states and their governors hold the primary responsibility to prepare and deal with pandemics.  President Trump spent weeks correctly stating that basic principle of federalism — statements that I supported.  Now he appears to have done a 180 on the issue and claiming that, while governors can put these orders in place, he has absolute authority to lift them.  He stated yesterday that he allowed the governors to make these decisions but that they did so only because he let them.  He maintains that he always had total authority over these decisions. That position in constitutionally incomprehensible.

What is more interesting is why the President felt the need to trip this wire and draw the ire of not just Democrats but a broad array of conservative and libertarian leaders.  It is also entirely unnecessary. If the federal government calls for loosening these restrictions, many governors will follow suit.  Moreover, it will put huge pressure on others.

The problem is that President Trump is losing that persuasive authority with such unnerving statements about absolute power.  This is a baffling and alarming claim.  At a time when the President’s team is being praised for real progress on a number of fronts (and the virus appears to be generally declining or leveling off), the President quashed on the good press by triggering a debate over his claim of “ultimate,” “absolute,” and “total” power.  The only thing that is clear is that these claims are not even aspirational; they are incomprehensible under of our constitutional system.

269 thoughts on “No, President Trump Does Not Have Total Power Over The States”

  1. To repeat the original observation, I was struck by the similarities of mis-rule by our current King Donald the Mad and King James the Second of the United Kingdom of England and Wales and the Seventh of Scotland and who knows of Ireland. King James failed in his dealings with Parliament, among other mistakes. King Donald the Mad is doing much the same.

    1. King James failed in his dealings with Parliament, among other mistakes. King Donald the Mad is doing much the same.

      There are some similarities, but one very consequential difference. William the Orange with Mary took the throne from the tyrant James and realigned the relationship with parliament to function within the constitution. Donald the Orange was elected to restore the rule of law and drain the swamp of the political class in D.C. hell-bent on functioning outside the rule of law. And he’s doing just that. So yeah, this is our Glorious Revolution.

      Have a great day!

    2. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-four citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after seventy-two weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – The Donald is having trouble with half of Congress, but so is the other half. You really should read more history, however you should read it through the lens of the times, not today.

    1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-four citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after seventy-two weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – I have heard it is impressive.

      1. It’s a 3d tier city around the size of Allentown / Bethlehem, but less affluent. I’ll wager the historic architecture is handsome.

  2. Paul C Schulte — an impartial study of randomly selected topics had entries compared between major encyclopedias and Wikipedia. If anything, Wikipedia was perhaps more accurate than the others.

    The nice thing about Wikipedia is that if you discover error you can report on the Talk page and usually somebody will fix the problem.

    1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-four citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after seventy-two weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. corrections depend on the topic. I have fights in the Talk page that were longer than the item.

    1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-four citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after seventy-two weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – that is just an opinion.

  3. Yes, Paul C Schulte, it takes a long time to create and build intellectual capital to that height of greatness.

    1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-four citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after seventy-two weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – if you go back an look James C. Schulte read a Wikipedia article. BTW, I hate Wikipedia because it is generally inaccurate, however, some articles are accurate.

  4. Paul C Schulte —- On the contrary, it kept Scotland out of the hands of the Jacobites and hence the powerful and catholic French. As protestants, this set the stage for the acts of union in 1707. It also inspired the atmosphere of independent inquiry which led to “Wealth of Nations” , “A Treatise of Human Nature”, …

    🎓

    1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-four citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after seventy-two weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – for goodness sakes, it is almost a hundred years from the Glorious Revolution to Wealth of Nations.

    1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-four citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after seventy-two weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – if you read the article, you will see I was right. Scotland was a footnote.

  5. Paul C Schulte, his full title was King James II and VII. II of England and Wales, VII of Scotland.

    Of course, you could have looked this up in Wikipedia rather than exposing your ignorance for all to see…

    1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-four citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after seventy-two weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – he is best known as James II of England. Scotland doesn’t count.

  6. I just read Wiki on King James II and the so-called Glorious Revolution. I noticed several analogies between King Donald the Mad and King James II and VII.

    1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-four citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after seventy-two weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – who the devil is James VII?

  7. I have enjoyed Mr. Turelys blog for years, I’m a libertarian through and through and most of the time I’m on the side of his on many subjects. The older one gets however, it becomes impossible to believe that America even exists at this point. These bailouts and disgusting cronyism highlight perhaps the most “legally” corrupted nation on the planet. Wild projections about millions dead, even wider spread mass surveillance, and good old CNN with death toll figures on screen 24/7 yuck!!!! (I believe Turley himself referred to this in an earlier piece)
    What I’m getting at is for those of us who believe in strictly limited government, the rule of law, freedom, this system needs a complete collapse and to be totally decentralized. I mean every effort libertarians and some conservatives make for states rights, smaller govt, like the 10th amendment movement is quashed and this bankrupt empire just keeps creating trillions of monopoly money out of thin air for its lackeys. The whole spectacle is sickening, and I’m a Canadian. After reading 1984 as a child I’ve always had a healthy distrust of big brother government, American history (some of it) was always something one could point to as a way forward, freedom, rule of law, limited government, but those days are long behind. I’m not pessimistic, I’d just rather these corrupt leviathans we call states collapse under their own hypocrisy and we can decentralize everywhere. Locking down billions of people for something with a similar mortality rate as a severe flu is just another example of why government is such an obnoxious task master, it cares not for us just its own power.

    Loyal reader and fan

    Dave S

    1. “this system needs a complete collapse and to be totally decentralized.”

      Dave though I have much of the same feelings as you, when one looks at history one notes there is only one U.S.A. The others failed to reach America’s plateau. Therefore, one could estimate the odds of a comlete collapse to br followed by a free government to be very low.

      1. Agreed, tyrants much like during the soviet revolution use times like these to promise change, yet simply consolidate power. I for one believe however we are near a precipice of large state failure. How long can America sustain such unsustainable debts, people will abandon the dollar and the empire shall surely follow. I sincerely believe that is our chance, not violent revolution, but disregard for those who have disregarded humanity. Natural law, individual rights, and care for the common good are a shadow of what they should be, most people innately understand this. It’s not discussed in this manner in my experience often, but its there and tangible. Don’t vote. Don’t listen to CNN, tell your friends to do the same. Put the same illegitimacy back upon them as they do to us with the same contempt they do. Politics, especially representative democracy has clearly failed, it is the most tribal and divisive thing one could ask for. Take majority rule out, simple rules, individual liberty and small government localized based on what people are actually willing to pay is the only honest solution. Anything has to be better than this modern quasi socialist “capitalism” that today’s politburo espouse.

        1. “How long can America sustain such unsustainable debts,”

          That is why Paint Chips Peter is so joyous because the collapse of the American economy can cause his ideological goals to be realized. That he knows little to nothing about socialism is obvious. He knows little to nothing about political theory and is about as shallow as a person can be. He gains prominence through stupidity and happiness through a virus that destroys human beings.

          The US is more powerful than people imagine, but I agree there are limits. We need to devastate the Democrats in the next election by supporting truly conservative Republicans and get rid of the Rino’s. We have to keep Trump. We will require a lot of power pushing in the right direction to get rid of our horrendous debt. It can be done especially since we spend so much inappropriately and we have an economic engine that is held back by the ideologues, rent seekers and our own leaders that are more interested in getting reelected than in working for the people.

          We need term limits, more federalism, we need states to also learn how to keep in budget. We need to focus on America and not globalism. The WHO spent about half the money we provided on travel expenses, why do we support them. The WHO is run by a Marxist ( that is my understanding) with close ties to China. The World Trade Organization has scr-wed us right and left. Imagine the WTO favoring China because it is a developing nation. The Paris accords once again favoring China the “developing nation” which means an industry with mild polution ends up in China with very heavy pollution while our jobs are exported and the federal government (and states) expands to provide food stamps, welfare, unemployment, job training all while losing a lot of tax revenue from the out of work employee. On and on it goes.

  8. Paul C Schulte doesn’t read so good.

    Republicants, got it now?

    A better translation might be “spirits”. Shinto animism has plenty of evil spirits.

    🐲

    1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-four citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after seventy-two weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – either god or spirit works.

    1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-four citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after seventy-two weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – Kanmai means “god dance.” Therefore these would be masks for gods. Therefore, the Republicans are gods.

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