by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
As the coronavirus pandemic worsens, governors across the country are understandably ratcheting up quarantine orders. …
… What to make of all this? The conventional wisdom in Washington is that this is all about President Trump and his failure of leadership, with governors now acting like mini-Trumps, eschewing the federal government, going their own way, and sowing chaos.
This way of thinking is best exemplified by Politico Playbook’s headline for Monday: “Trump’s nationalism has gone domestic.” The general idea seems to be that governors exercising police powers in an emergency is somehow the equivalent of Trump brushing off the United Nations. …
… It’s also exactly the wrong way to think about what’s happening in state capitols right now. The relationship between the federal government and the states isn’t at all analogous to the relationship between the U.N. and its member states—and to suggest so is to misunderstand completely the nature and structure of our constitutional system.
For all the sickness and death the coronavirus is causing, and for all the economic ruin our political leaders have sown in their response to it, this crisis is a powerful reminder that state borders matter, and that a federal republic like ours divides sovereignty between federal and state governments for a reason.
Simply put, there is no way the federal government can make decisions about who should be subject to a two-week quarantine, how to enforce such an order, or for how long to keep it in place. Such decisions properly fall under the purview of state governors, whose police powers in an emergency far exceed those of the president—hard as that might be for Washington-based journalists to fathom.
Follow Carolina Journal Online’s continuing coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic here.