Tuesday, April 14
George Wallace and Lester Maddox couldn’t reverse the tide of ever increasing federal power. But Trump’s ineptitude and childish bullying seem to have facilitated a new assertion of states’ rights—coming, oddly enough, from the most liberal corners of the country.
Yesterday, the governors of seven Northeastern states said they would jointly explore just when would be the best moment to reopen their areas’ institutions and economies. The governors of California, Oregon, and Washington said they would likewise begin such a joint examination.
Emperor Trump waved his scepter, saying: I’ll be the one to make that decision.
The ten governors—all Democrats but one—indicated they’d be ignoring him.
“When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total,” asserted Mr. MAGA. New York’s Cuomo countered, saying to CNN: “You don’t become king because of a national emergency.”
The governors appear to have the edge here—after all, they were the ones to close their schools and to issue stay-at-home orders. Some weeks back, Trump himself said it was up to local authorities to figure out just how to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. And in early April, Dr. Anthony Fauci suggested to CNN that the federal government was remiss in failing to issue a national stay-at home order: “I don’t understand why that’s not happening,” Fauci said. “If you look at what’s going on in this country, I just don’t understand why we’re not doing that. We really should be.”
Trump has a problem: He first attempted to defer to right-wing coronavirus skeptics, including the governors of such states as Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. It’s up to you—he said. But now, that weaselly political calculation is running headlong into Trump’s Sun King impulses.
It’s an unusual position for an alleged American conservative to be taking. One of this country’s early, and most profound, conservative voices was that of John C. Calhoun, a senator from South Carolina and vice-president under Andrew Jackson. Historian Richard Hofstadter, in his highly regarded The American Political Tradition, described Calhoun’s faith: “The powers of sovereignty, he contended, belonged of right entirely to the several states and were only delegated, in part, to the federal government.”
Calhoun, of course, was a slaveholder who worried that the South was losing political sway to the capitalist North—and so he searched for an argument that would help stop that erosion. His solution was “nullification,” or the supposed right of states to refuse to accept federal law within their jurisdiction. The idea was at the center of a constitutional crisis in the 1830s—a crisis that the nullifiers lost. But Calhoun’s states’ rights notions have been central to American conservatism ever since, finding echoes in the words of Barry Goldwater, every southern governor during the civil rights era, and Ronald Reagan.
Trump, of course, sees every development through the lens of his narcissism. His only political principle is self-regard.
Is it time for me to take a walk? I worry a bit that my stamina is suffering as a result of all this staying indoors. Yesterday’s wild weather is gone, and now the sun is trying to shine. But it would be so much easier just to lounge about and read a book.
Tonight’s dinner: the last of the turkey meatloaf, green beans, lettuce-and-cucumber salad.
Entertainment: Two episodes of Finnish cop show Bordertown and one episode of Wales-based Hinterland. How come so many shows now have similar, locale-oriented names?