Survival With Style!
Liberty Must Survive in Good Times and Bad Times
by Sean Gangol
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
The last two months of this lockdown has reminded me of certain realities about liberty in the time of crisis. Now that the infections are starting to level off, President Trump and certain governors are gradually trying to get American businesses running again. Unfortunately, there are governors and local leaders who want this lockdown to continue and are doing everything in their ability to keep the lockdown going indefinitely. These governors say that their refusal to open their states stems from safety concerns from the Coronavirus, though I think it is more due to their lust for power. They are trying everything in their ability to sabotage the recovery efforts set forth by the president, hoping that it will squash any hope of him being reelected this November. On top of that these local officials have shown that they have no quims about crushing individual liberty to keep this power play going.
We have a series of cases where governors and local officials have violated the First Amendment rights of church goers. In Kentucky we have seen the police record the license plate numbers of those who chose to attend Easter sermons. In Mississippi, the local police decided to disrupt church services that were delivered to a congregation that never left their cars. Recently, the mayor of Chicago authorized a full-scale raid against a black church that was holding services in her city. Sadly, it’s not just church goers that have had their rights violated. In Colorado there was a father who found himself handcuffed by the police for breaking social distancing rules when he played catch with his own daughter in the park. Yeah, you read that correctly, his own daughter. Even in my hometown of Houston you have Lina Hidalgo, the Judge of Harris County who is so overzealous that she needs to be consistently reminded by Governor Abbot and the higher courts that she doesn’t have the authority to release criminal inmates onto the streets, fine people for not wearing masks in public or single handedly passing a voting by mail initiative. In Dallas Abbot had to intervene when Dallas officials wanted to put a salon owner in jail for seven days for opening her shop a week before all hair grooming businesses were allowed to reopen in Texas. I do feel lucky living in a state that has a Governor and higher courts with enough sense to keep overzealous officials in their place.
Sadly, it is a completely different story for those living in Pennsylvania or Michigan. In Pennsylvania we have governor, Tom Wolf who cares more about playing politics than he does about the financial wellbeing of his people. He is now at the point where people in his own party are now rebelling against his shut down orders. There are even a few counties in his state that have decided to defy his orders and open up without his okay. In Michigan we have governor Gretchen Whitmer who has not only decided to keep the state shut down, but has decided to go the extra mile in making sure that the lock down measures are the most draconian by banning gardening supplies and child car seats. What do those two things have to do with the Coronavirus? You got me. None of Whitmer’s supporters have been able to justify these bans either. Then this same governor has the nerve to act indignant that her people are defying her stay at home orders by holding massive protests. Not surprising, she has accused these protestors of being racist for wanting to go back to work to support their families. She has even leveled a false charge about the protestors waving Swastikas. At least I am going to assume that it is false, until I see some actual evidence to back this claim. On top of that this noble governor decided that she had the right to revoke the license of a seventy-seven-year-old barber who decided that he had to reopen after being denied an unemployment check. This is an official that seriously needs to be reminded of her place.
After having a series of disagreements with Judge Andrew Napolitano over the dubious claims that he made about the Trump administration, I actually found myself agreeing whole heartedly with an article that he had written about the unconstitutional measures taken by local officials during the wake of the Coronavirus. Napolitano was absolutely correct that none of these governors or local officials have the authority to shutdown businesses and suspend civil liberties. It is really nice to hear somebody acknowledge that for a change. I know that Attorney General William Barr is starting to challenge some of these decrees passed by governors and local authorities, but it doesn’t seem like it is enough. There are just not enough people questioning the so-called authority of these officials to level fines and jail time with simple decrees. The idea that any local “authority” can override the Bill of Rights with a simple decree should disturb anybody who is not an authoritarian.
I know that many Sunny-time Patriots would tell you that the government should be allowed to ignore the Bill of Rights or any provision of the Constitution that limits the government’s power during a time of emergency. I would say that the very sentiment is dangerous when it comes to the notion of preserving liberty. I also find that sentiment both cowardly and asinine. If the Constitution can’t survive during good times and bad times, then there is no point to having one. The problem is that we have had an entire history of allowing the government suspend liberty during the time of emergency going all the way back to Abraham Lincoln. I know that leftists and certain conservatives try to defend the actions of Lincoln which include, suspending Habeas Corpus, shutting down newspapers, deporting a Congressman and even putting out an arrest warrant for a judge who called his actions unconstitutional. People who revere Lincoln love to make excuses about how he had to take these actions to save the Union, but they can’t deny that his actions have set bad precedents for other presidencies. You have Woodrow Wilson who used this same precedent to crack down on speech that he deemed detrimental to the war effort, which included a play that portrayed their British allies in a bad light. FDR would use Lincoln’s precedent to throw Japanese, German and Italian Americans in intern camps without due process. It was even used to the justify the Bush administration holding so-called terror suspects without trial.
What I find interesting about the current Constitutional crisis is that it isn’t occurring on the national level, which has actually been more restrained. It’s not to say that Trump’s response was perfect, since he seems to have a little too much faith in what his taskforce tells him. That being said, Trump never actually forced any of the states to shut down. He actually gave the states a set of guidelines that allowed them to choose the best course of action. Trump also shamed the FDA into setting aside their bureaucratic red tape to allow Corona patients to use experimental treatments. So, compared to the administrations of Lincoln, Wilson and Roosevelt, Trump’s record on emergency situation seems much less invasive.
Before I conclude this article, I want to pay homage to those who are standing up to their local officials who keep forgetting their place. All government whether it is on the national, state or local level, must be reminded from time to time that it exists only to serve its people, not to have dominion over them. Keep reminding them of that. I also tip my hat to the people stood in front of the shop of that seventy-seven-year-old barber in Michigan to keep Whitmer’s cronies from shutting it down. I give the same respect to members of law enforcement who have refused to enforce laws that are both unconstitutional and unjust. You guys have truly kept the oath that you all took to uphold the Constitution.
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