HOW can the president, governor, mayor, whomever just do this? (issue stay-at-home orders, arrest people for being outside for non-essential reasons, close down businesses, spend, 2 trillion dollars, etc.) CAN they just do this?
Let’s explore this issue from a Common Sense Civics and Citizenship perspective.
The government can do what is necessary to “promote the general welfare” of We, the People. The phrase “promote the general welfare” appears in the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution. We live not in a democracy but in a representative republic. When We, the People elect our president, governor, mayor, sheriff, and other public office holders, we are entrusting them to promote our general welfare. That is, the general well-being of the citizenry.
Here’s a teachable moment. How do you vote for your officials? Do you vote by the number of campaign signs you see with their name on it? Do you vote the party line because your mother did? Do you let PAC ads or your favorite media stars choose your candidates? Or do you look up the candidate’s credentials and their knowledge of the issues in your area? It always amazes me when adults don’t understand that voting has consequences for their own well-being in a crisis. The president cannot meet your direct need in a crisis, but your sheriff and local officials can. And guess who they have to deal with? The Governor. Guess who the governor has to negotiate with to get aid? The president and unelected officials who run agencies. The rub? They, along with business and industry, all have to work together while following the dictates of city/county charters, state constitutions, and the U.S. Constitution.
We’re in a crisis, and decisions are being made that we don’t necessarily like. After all, we are a free-born people. We have a Bill of Rights. The federal government has limited and enumerated (spelled out) powers. The state, however, can enforce laws that reach much closer to home, and so can the county.
Another teachable moment: The government has the legal and constitutional authority to take the steps being employed in this COVID-19 crisis because of the effect of the virus on the general public. Methods we are seeing are emergency measures and can be enforced by the police or military.
Again, we should all take voting very seriously, because, in a time of crisis, some citizens will trade liberty for security (I’m not one of them). Others will blindly follow out of fear. Still, others will challenge the government at its different levels. In fact, we are seeing all of these responses to the COVID-19 crisis.
The U.S. is not a simple central government with unlimited powers. We are a Constitutional Republic with shared powers. The 10th Amendment gives the states certain powers. It says:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
If you are having difficulty with the restrictions being placed on you, investigate who is enforcing those orders and on what authority they are doing so. Look up Supreme Court precedents. Then, vote wisely.
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship. ??