Americans Protest Progressives' Abuse of Coronavirus Emergency Powers

Fundamental constitutional liberties at stake.

Americans understand the extraordinary circumstances in which we find ourselves as a result of the China coronavirus. But we will not allow ourselves to become infected with the disease of Chinese authoritarianism. We have been willing to radically alter our normal routines and obey strict social distancing guidelines to get past the worst of this pandemic. Indeed, the American people have made extraordinary sacrifices and endured economic hardships unprecedented in our lifetimes to slow the virus’s spread. But it’s one thing to temporarily disrupt the normal pattern of our day-to-day lives and the economy in order to ensure that our health system would not be overwhelmed by an unprecedented surge of critical cases of the coronavirus. It is quite another to continue keeping onerous restrictions in place based on flimsy what-ifs. The original mission of social distancing was to flatten the curve.

As commentator and attorney Barak Lurie noted, however, “The mission seems to have changed. Now the mission seems to be that no one gets infected.” Even worse, some of these restrictions are overly burdensome and arbitrarily administered to advance progressive policy priorities. Liberty-loving Americans will not stand by for long as power-hungry governors try to dictate arbitrarily every aspect of our lives in violation of our fundamental constitutional rights. That is the reason for the protests cropping up in certain states. People are beginning to see how some governors are exploiting the coronavirus crisis and destroying our way of life in the process.

The Left is weaponizing the coronavirus crisis with a narrative intended to demonize President Trump and his supporters. The New York Times recently ran an article with the headline “Trump Encourages Protest Against Governors Who Have Imposed Virus Restrictions.” It falsely charged President Trump with “egging on demonstrators and helping to stoke an angry fervor that in its anti-government rhetoric was eerily reminiscent of the birth of the Tea Party movement a decade ago.” It is the left that engages in mob violence, not the Tea Party movement ten years ago nor the demonstrators protesting unreasonable restrictions on their liberties today.

President Trump’s symbolic calls by tweet to “liberate” three such states – Michigan, Virginia and Minnesota – came after the peaceful protests spontaneously began. He did not instigate the protests. People tired of having their liberties trampled on for no good reason instigated them. Somehow, defending the right of Americans to exercise their constitutional rights to free speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition their government – even when at safe distances from each other – is wrong in the minds of the New York Times correspondents who wrote the article. That should be no surprise considering that one of the article’s authors, Michael Shear, co-authored another New York Times article that said, “Brutal as they were, China’s tactics ultimately worked.”

Thomas Friedman wrote an op-ed article in Sunday’s New York Times with the sneering title, “Trump Is Asking Us to Play Russian Roulette With Our Lives.” Friedman wrote that “Trump was cynically trying to curry favor with his base by implying that the Democratic governors, following his own national guidelines, were unfairly locking people up, depriving them of their livelihoods.” Nothing could be further from the truth. President Trump is simply saying that some state governors have overreached rather than focus solely on protecting the health of their citizens.  

For example, Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam issued an executive order that criminalizes holding or attending a church service with more than 10 people. As Terence P. Jeffrey, editor in chief of CNSNews.com, asked rhetorically, “What would St. Thomas More think of a government that made it a crime to gather and pray in church? What would the framers of the First Amendment think? What future ‘emergencies’ will inspire future governors to act on Northam's precedent?”

Northam subsequently directed all hospitals and health care providers to stop performing elective surgeries or procedures but exempted “family planning services” from this prohibition. Family planning services include abortion. Governor Northam has classified abortion as an essential medical service. But he said that “things like prostate cancer, things like breast cancer that don’t need to be done emergently” are “elective surgeries.” It’s OK, Northam has ruled, to divert scarce masks, gloves, and other critical personal protective equipment from handling critical coronavirus cases to conducting abortion on demand medical procedures. Cancer patients can wait.

On Good Friday April 10th Northam signed the Reproductive Health Protection Act. It repealed health and safety protections at abortion facilities and made it otherwise easier to obtain abortions. At a time when the coronavirus was taking lives in Virginia, increasing about 10 percent from the day before, Northam facilitated the taking of more lives of the unborn by signing radical pro-abortion legislation. Also, on April 10, Northam signed a host of stringent gun control bills that encroach on the Second Amendment rights of Virginia’s law-abiding citizens to defend themselves during these treacherous times.

Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer was one of several governors in addition to Northam to allow abortions to continue during the pandemic. She defended her decision on a podcast hosted by former Barack Obama political strategist David Alexrod. “A woman’s health care, her whole future, her ability to decide if and when she starts a family is not an election, it is a fundamental to her life," Whitmer said. “It is life-sustaining, and it’s something that government should not be getting in the middle of.” The previous week Whitmer issued a draconian executive order on April 9th entitled “Temporary requirement to suspend activities that  are not necessary to sustain or protect life.” Abortion on demand, which ends a life, falls into the category of an activity necessary “to sustain or protect life” in Whitmer’s bizarro world.

The government must not get “in the middle of” any abortion activities, she declared. Yet Whitmer’s executive order places her government in the middle of decisions that should belong solely to Michigan residents such as traveling between their own homes within the state or buying seeds and paint. Demonstrating the arbitrary and capricious nature of Whitmer’s order, in-person lottery sales are not prohibited. A resident can use a canoe but not a motorboat. Whitmer’s executive order goes so far as to prohibit “private gatherings of any number of people occurring among persons not part of a single household.” (Emphasis added) In other words, two friends, even if they have both tested negative for the virus, are prohibited from getting together socially in one of the friend’s residences. How would that dictate be enforced? Tracing a person’s whereabouts via cellphone location? Police peering through the window or a peep hole? With such a broad invasive prohibition that reaches far beyond any medical necessity, Whitmer has trashed the Fourth Amendment right of people to be secure in their own homes.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy admitted that he “wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights” when he issued his stay-at-home mandate. “That’s above my pay grade,” he said. Katherine Timpf of the National Review expressed her disgust with this flippant remark, writing that “Murphy’s comments represent an ideology that is completely unacceptable for a government leader in the United States.” She added that the philosophy of governance he espoused “was that not of an elected official in a free country but of a tyrant.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaking from her plush home in California rather than from Washington D.C. where she belongs to do her job, said it was “really unfortunate” people were out exercising their First Amendment right to protest the draconian, arbitrary stay-at-home restrictions in some states. Pelosi said she did not understand what was driving the protests. That is because Pelosi does not understand the Constitution nor the freedom-loving spirit of the American people.

Some progressive governors have abused their powers. They are using the coronavirus emergency as an excuse to intrude further into peoples’ day-to-day lives than ever before. They regard abortion on demand as a medical necessity meriting the diversion of scarce masks, gloves, and other critical personal protective equipment during the pandemic, while being ready to delay some cancer treatments. Americans have the right to protest such abuses and demand a return to normal life as the pandemic recedes. They are not willing to give up their fundamental liberties in return for false promises of security.

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