I think I have had enough of this “shelter in place” stuff. I practice social distancing as a way of life, I’m not a social guy. I know that sounds weird for a recovering politician, but it’s true. I not all that into hanging out with people on the natural. But, when the government orders me? My rebellious side kicks in, and I just want to shake everybody’s hand.
This whole virus thing could have been handled better. The problem is in New York and New Jersey. Infections per thousand (which is how the real impact of the disease should be measured), California has one of the lowest disease rates (25,000 cases out of 36 million people), .7 people/thousand (Compare with New York’s 10 people/thousand and New Jersey at 7 people/thousand). That isn’t because of the “shelter in place” order in California either. Texas, which does not have the order, has a lower infection rate per thousand (.5 people/thousand). So requiring us all to stay in place is absolutely unnecessary (except maybe in New York and New Jersey), and maximizes the economic harm we all must suffer from this incredibly bad government response to the virus.
We know how to handle this kind of communicable disease. Take the protocol for tuberculosis, a much more devastating communicable lung disease. If someone is found to have tuberculosis, public health quarantines that one person, then tests everyone with whom they have had contact. If any of those contacts have it, they are quarantined as well. If the government had started addressing the public health issues with this virus that way, instead of the panic response, the entire country could have avoided this pending economic disaster. A proper regard for the principle of individual freedom would have led to the right solution, rather than the current sledgehammer approach. The virus is a real public health issue, but the government’s response has been a lazy one. It’s just easier to stomp on people, than find the real health hazards, and separate them from the rest of us.
The Democrats like to use crises like this virus as an excuse for all types of expansions of government power. This allows them to club Republicans with the “Do what I want to do, or I’ll just claim you want people to die” mantra. The latest clubbing is from mandated “vote by mail” demands that the Ds want to add to the massive federal “crisis funding” bill. Ds say “if you don’t do this, Rs, you just want people to die after they go to the polls, and only the federal government can do this.” The typical R response is “that just increases voter fraud.” What’s voter fraud when people are dying? How can you fight that? We know fraud exists, it’s just hard to prove. That lets the Ds just deny its existence, and insist that Rs hate democracy and want people to die.
Get the principle right. The manner, method, time and place of voting is first in the hands of state governments, according to Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court has limited the power of Congress in this area, leaving most election issues to the states. If the Rs responded to the demands of Ds for the federal government to intrude on this state power, the Rs could respond “this is a state issue, the state’s control elections. Each state can draw up rules that fit the state’s situation.” A solution for New York won’t work in Texas, let each state fit its solution to its situation.” That’s getting the principle right, the solution: if California want universal vote by mail, let them do it. That is what the Constitution demands.
Rs are then upholding democracy and federalism, and making an easily provable argument. If state health and election officials think vote by mail is a public health necessity, they can enact it. Then if people want to risk getting the virus when vote gatherers come around, violate social distance rules, and invade people’s homes to get the ballots, then so be it. If the crisis is that bad, most voters won’t allow the fraudsters in their house. In addition, the cost of “vote by mail” may make the “mandatory” solution short-lived. If, however, the state can pass the cost onto the feds, the rules will be in place long after the crisis that justified the rules has passed. That’s why the Ds want federally mandated “vote by mail.” Right now, voters won’t let the Ds campaign workers near their homes. That won’t be true in November.
Of course, that also means that Rs cannot (and should not) argue for a nationally mandated voter id program. Same arguments apply. But, when we rely on the Constitution, we win. When we believe in freedom and federalism, we win. Reliance on the right principles would have generated a virus response that didn’t kill the economy, and preserved freedom. A right response to vote by mail demands protects federalism, and doesn’t make it look like Rs hate democracy.
Get the principle right, and the solution takes care of itself.