This article is not an argument about the validity of taking precautions for COVID-19. It is solely about who is responsible for the mandatory shutdowns, social distancing requirements, and other protections mandated by government officials. I invite criticism of what you find below, but only on my reasoning, not the wisdom of said mandates. Whether those mandates are justified or not is the subject for another debate.
I recently posted a remark on Facebook positing something about our current president. It read as follows:
I’ll likely lose some FB friends over this, but I’m just going to come right out and say it.
DONALD TRUMP IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MORE DAMAGE TO THE CAUSE OF LIBERTY THAN ANY PREVIOUS PRESIDENT.
Please don’t misinterpret this as an endorsement of that other guy who would likely replace him with this infamous distinction. Go ahead and vote for the lesser of two evils. I won’t do it.
Literally, no one who responded agreed with me, even my libertarian friends couldn’t see my point. So, here’s my attempt to lay out my case. I would greatly appreciate a thorough fisking on this. Yes, I want a line by line (if necessary) rebuttal showing me where my reasoning is wrong.
I’ll begin with this premise:
Never in the history of our country has the American public been subjected to such a massive suspension of so many of our freedoms, many of which should be protected by the Bill of Rights.
I strongly believe that statement is unassailable. Wait, you’re tempted to say, “yeah, but ….” No. It’s just a premise. I’m not making judgement yet on whether it was justified or not. It’s just a statement of fact. And yes, I know there have been many instances where smaller groups of the population have been subjected to this, but to my knowledge, not to the entire country (with the exception of South Dakota, a clear outlier). This part of my argument also has nothing to do with who’s at fault. I’ll get to that later in the article.
For those who don’t agree, let me list a few of the more important ones:
- Freedom to Make a Living. In this case, I’m speaking of keeping a business open. If you own a business, it’s your property. This is a violation of the 4th Amendment.
- House Arrest or Stay at Home Orders (conveniently identified as quarantine). This is a loss of due process. Forcing people to remain under house arrest when they’re considered high risk, with no due process is a violation of the 5th Amendment.
- Disallowing people to attend church services. This is a violation of the 1st Amendment.
- Disallowing travel. This is a violation of due process, another protection afforded under the 5th Amendment.
- Forced “protection.” The prime example of being forced to wear a mask in public. Another example is the arbitrary six foot rule for social distancing.
- Illegal discrimination. Forcing or allowing people of different demographics and ideologies to behave differently than others.
- Privacy. Think contact tracing. If someone tests positive and they show that they were exposed to you in any way, you can be cited and/or quarantined. This is a 4th Amendment violation.
- Disallowing Peaceable Assembly. This is 1st Amendment violation. It has also proved to be arbitrary given that certain types of protests are allowed to assemble, while others are not.
The full list is much longer, but that these things have been happening on a massive scale is indisputable. Again, I’m not arguing about the justification of these. I’m just pointing out that they have been happening. The justification argument is an entirely different matter at this point, and I’ll get to that later.
All of the previous is just to lay out the case that we’ve lost many of the freedoms we’ve become accustomed to as Americans. Here’s some more context for my argument.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
- January 29. Corona Virus Task Force created by the president.
- January 31. First of daily task force briefings on television.
- March 13. President issued a national emergency declaration with regard to COVID-19.
- March 13. Flatten the curve becomes widespread parlance.
- March 16: Professor Neil Ferguson, sometimes referred to as professor lockdown, issued a paper highlighting his model which was later soundly discredited.
- March 16. Vice President Pence begins the ’15 days to slow the spread’ campaign.
- March 27. President invokes Defense Production Act to force GM to make ventilators.
- April 1 to present. President claims his actions saved 2 million lives.
- April 12. First government shutdown order issued by government officials.
- April 16. President announces phased reopening.
- April 27. End of daily press briefings.
Now let’s move on to my assertion that President Trump is responsible for this.
THE BULLY PULPIT
For two full months, the president presided over the daily briefings, rolling out a long list of experts (Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx, et al). This was the the bully pulpit being used in it’s most viral form. Whether it was intended or not, this gave rise to public fear rarely seen in our history, perhaps only rivaled by the attacks on 9/11. Thus began a daily parade of experts wielding models, charts, opinions, and “guidelines.”
THE FLAWED MODEL THAT SCARED THE WORLD
Note the date the Ferguson model became public. This set the stage for the mass hysteria that followed. It’s astounding to me that this professor’s paper was given any credibility at all, given that Ferguson has a long list of discredited predictions based on his models. One has to wonder why he was not vetted prior to using his model for something as enormously important as the ensuing pandemic. His missteps have been public for years. The hysteria persists long after these apocalyptic projections have been debunked. While much of the blame can be given to Ferguson, in the end, he had no role in setting in place government mandates. All he did was provide recommendations, which are widely accepted by a huge swath of the public, even after he was forced to resign in shame from his position from the Imperial College. Yes, thousands of doomers are still talking about the bodies stacked in hallways, unattended gurneys in hospitals, and refrigerated trucks awaiting the bodies of the dead.
CONFUSION, RETRACTIONS, AND CONTRADICTIONS
First, we should never forget the constant confusion, retractions, contradictions, etc., that rolled out of those press briefings. You know, like masks, ventilators, treatments (think hydroxychloroquine, remdesivir, plasma from survivors of the virus, light therapy, etc.). Also keep in mind the emphasis on flattening the curve. We were advised that once we flattened the curve, the intent of which was to keep our health care system from being overwhelmed, we would be able to get back to normal. We clearly avoided the calamity of our hospitals being overwhelmed, yet the loss of freedoms persist.
From January 29th through March 26th, the task force and the president presented all guidelines as recommendations, although there was strong emphasis on voluntary compliance. On March 27th, the president took the step of invoking the Defense Production Act, seizing control of a major corporation to manufacture ventilators. This set the stage for government mandates. It was a pivotal act. Shortly thereafter, the first governor issued executive orders for shutdowns. The other states, with the exception of South Dakota, followed in short succession.
CLAIMS OF SUCCESS
Beginning on April 1st (some would say an appropriate date) the president began claiming credit for saving two million lives. He continues with that rhetoric today. If he is to be believed, it can only be so if the Ferguson model was even remotely accurate. Clearly it was not. However, this claim only gives further support that the actions by governors are justified, as nearly all of them are using fear to justify their mandates. Again, the bully pulpit is used in support of the suspension of a vast number of our freedoms.
Here’s the part where my reasoning is not provable, which makes my argument subject to fair criticism. I suggest all of the information presented above is sufficient to lay the blame squarely at the feet of President Trump. I claim the decisions to declare a national emergency, give credence to a flawed model, parade his experts on TV on a daily basis (stoking fear), issue guidelines that were in a constant state of flux, invoke the Defense Protection Act, and claim that his actions saved two million people, emboldened the governors to act as they did.
While I can forgive much of the initial fear and concern due to lack of data and knowledge about the virus, I cannot forgive him for not publicly acknowledging that our reaction to this virus was seriously overblown once we learned enough about it to do so. The man seems to be incapable of admitting being wrong, even when it is perfectly acceptable to do so with our early lack of knowledge. When protecting one’s ego is more important than ending the suffering of millions, we have a serious problem in leadership.
None of us knows when or if all of the freedoms we’ve lost will be restored. The goalposts are constantly shifting and most of the governors are showing no indication of letting go of their “emergency powers.” Most of the governors have finally been embarrassed by this so badly, that they’ve finally established a threshold that we may never achieve–the almighty and enshrined development of a vaccine.
I pray at some point the populace will finally rise up and declare in the immortal words of Howard Beale, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more!” May that time occur sooner than later.
I’m saddened to say, without reservation, that our Bill of Rights has been rendered useless with the stroke of 49 pens. While many of these freedoms have been under attack for decades, never before have such strokes effected every single citizen of this country. I’m about to give up on our Constitution because it has demonstrated a failure to establish the necessary protections to defend itself.