On April 13, Donald Trump created yet another storm of controversy by asserting that state governors would need his permission in order to authorize businesses to reopen. Governors argued otherwise, citing the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, and the president eventually took back his stance. This short and ultimately unnecessary controversy represents a dangerous trend in the president’s behavior of undermining the authorities who are responsible for getting Americans through the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the New York Times, over 22 million Americans are now out of work as a result of the pandemic, and the president is clearly feeling the pressure to assume some sort of control over the situation with the election just six months away. This effort on the Trump administration’s part materialized in the form of a largely superfluous 18-page set of guidelines, cleverly titled “Opening up America Again,” outlining how the governors should proceed to reopen once their states recover. The New York Times noted that Trump’s guidelines describe “much the same strategy that a number of local and state governments have already adopted.”
In the meantime, Maine’s governor, Janet Mills, has been working with New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and Vermont Gov. Chris Scott in order to determine when and how to reopen their economies. According to Maine Public, when asked about the president’s remarks regarding states’ powers, Mills replied, “It’s hard for me to keep on top of all the statements coming out of the White House… I don’t respond to them.”
Mills’ efforts to communicate with other states in the region, along with her business-like attitude regarding the pandemic, are far more reassuring than the president’s bold statements and false promises. Trump is not on the campaign trail, and it’s not votes that are on the line. Instead, it’s peoples’ lives.
Yuval Levin, director of social, cultural and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute wrote in a recent Washington Post opinion article that, “the only way to reopen the economy is… if the federal government and the states cooperate to create the conditions for public confidence.” While the president’s Twitter remains as combative as ever, he has displayed positive signs of deferring to authorities other than himself. On April 15, the president assembled a bipartisan task force, to which both Maine’s Sen. Collins and Sen. King were appointed, to advise on reopening the nation’s economy.
According to the Bangor Daily News, Sen. King asserted that he would defer to the experts first and would not settle for “an arbitrary date on the calendar,” such as May 1 or Easter Sunday, both of which being dates the president had previously set as ends to the widespread lockdowns.
While the task force and even administration guidelines represent steps towards supporting thought-out plans by the states, the president still has a lot left to make up for with regards to assuring Americans that they ought to put their confidence in their own local and state governments. Should he continue to direct his effort towards generating conflict between himself and other authorities and representatives dealing with this crisis, it could have fatal consequences for countless Americans.