While the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) have established global and national guidelines to keep people safe during the coronavirus, U.S. governors and mayors have led the American response.
The federal government has recommended that people avoid large crowds, and that senior citizens stay at home unless absolutely necessary. However, the responsibility of closing down businesses and shutting down events ultimately falls on state and local leaders. (RELATED: ‘Not Racist At All’: Trump Defends Calling Coronavirus The ‘Chinese Virus’)
Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has been on the front-lines of the government’s fight against the virus, and his decision to recommend that fans be banned from NCAA Tournament games in his state was ultimately the first domino that led to the tournament being canceled entirely, and the sports world coming to an indefinite halt. DeWine later became the first governor to close all the bars and restaurants in his state on Sunday, and Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker followed suit later that day. DeWine and Pritzker sparked action throughout the country, including the shut down of bars and restaurants in major hubs like Washington D.C. and New York City.
These decisions came as outraged materialized over young Americans who flooded the bars over the weekend to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, despite warnings from health officials to practice social distancing. Photographs and videos of young Americans partying and flaunting their revelry went viral throughout the weekend, and appeared to serve as a turning point in the fight against the coronavirus. (RELATED: MLB Reportedly Expected To Suspend Operations Over Coronavirus)
your gonna kill someone’s grandparents because you couldn’t stay home from the bars for one weekend https://t.co/2Rn0CIf3GN
— Josh Billinson (@jbillinson) March 15, 2020
“I’m not about to put my life on hold because this is going around,” said a **NURSE** from Colorado who flew in to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with his Chicago friends. ???????????? https://t.co/jxj8u1BsmG
— Nader Issa (@NaderDIssa) March 14, 2020
In recent days, throughout the country, governors and mayors have used their executive power to close bars and restaurants, suspend schools, and even lock down their state or city. Democratic San Francisco Mayor London Breed banned the nearly 884,000 people who live in her city from leaving their homes, except in cases of emergency, calling the virus a “defining moment” for the Bay area. Democratic Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Browser ordered bars and restaurants in her city closed, while Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio did the same, and also warned the eight million residents of his city to prepare for a “Shelter-in-Place’ order.
In addition to states and cities shutting down dining and entertainment avenues, several states are taking the unprecedented step of postponing elections. Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Alabama are among the several states that have decided to postpone primary elections for federal and state office.
DeWine made perhaps his boldest move yet when he shut down polling places throughout Ohio, despite a judge ordering that the election must continue as scheduled. DeWine’s decision to prevent Ohio voters from going to the polls came as three other states held their primaries, including Florida, which has one of the oldest and largest populations in the country. All three primaries were overwhelmingly won by former Vice President Joe Biden, who is now widely considered to hold an insurmountable lead in the delegate count. If Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders ends his campaign in the near future, Biden would become the party’s presumptive nominee, Democrats could close their primaries, and people would no longer have to worry about waiting in long lines to vote.
States have the authority to oversee elections, and are the ones that decide if they are postponed or not. This is particularly important to remember if the epidemic carries over to November, and impacts the presidential election. In that case, governors who have been lauded for taking bold, decisive action will once again be under the microscope as they decide how their states will proceed in the presidential election. While that election almost certainly won’t be canceled or postponed, states that are still suffering from breakouts could decide to close the polls and conduct the election through mail-in and absentee voting. This would be unprecedented, but may be worth thinking about in light of recent events.
The coronavirus outbreak has led to a renewed appreciation for federalism from progressives, who have decried what they see as the federal government’s slow response to the pandemic.
Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg stated that “we’re seeing mayors, governors, and unsung state and local officials leading on the front lines.”
As Americans come together to confront the effects of coronavirus, we’re seeing mayors, governors, and unsung state and local officials leading on the front lines. The quick, decisive action and innovation so many have shown is critical to how we will get through this.
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) March 14, 2020
Meanwhile, left-wing Daily Beast editor Molly Jong-Fast bemoaned that states are “basically governing themselves,” because of Trump’s response.
“So the states are basically governing themselves because our president doesn’t know how to president at all?” Jong-Fast asked.
However, it would be untrue to suggest that all progressives are unhappy with the federal government’s response to the pandemic. Democratic Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California have both praised the Trump administration for helping their states manage the crisis. While the federal government has been more active over the past week, the U.S. system of government allows state and local officials to manage the crisis as they see fit. (RELATED: Why Congress’ Flawed Coronavirus Package Could Still Benefit Millions Of Americans)
America’s governors are leading America’s response to the coronavirus, and perhaps that’s the way it should be.