The Coronavirus Is Making (State) Borders Great Again By John Daniel Davidson for The Federalist
The media don’t seem to understand federalism—that governors, not the president, are the proper authorities to manage quarantines and disaster response.
As the coronavirus pandemic worsens, governors across the country are understandably ratcheting up quarantine orders. On Sunday, Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott expanded a two-week quarantine requirement on out-of-state travelers from Louisiana, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, and Miami. Previously, the order covered anyone flying into Texas from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New Orleans. Abbott ordered state troopers to enforce the order on motorists driving into the state from Louisiana with the possibility of a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail for those who don’t comply.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Friday the state police will stop anyone with New York license plates and ordering them to self-quarantine for two weeks, which New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo denounced. On Sunday, Raimondo revised the order—by expanding it to include motorists from all states.
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The governors of Florida, Delaware, and South Carolina have all issued some version of a quarantine requirement on out-of-state travelers. Alaska and Hawaii have had such orders in place for more than a week. Expect more states to follow suit in the coming days.
What to make of all this? The conventional wisdom in Washington is that this is all about President Trump and his failure of leadership, with governors now acting like mini-Trumps, eschewing the federal government, going their own way, and sowing chaos.
This way of thinking is best exemplified by Politico Playbook’s headline for Monday: “Trump’s nationalism has gone domestic.” The general idea seems to be that governors exercising police powers in an emergency is somehow the equivalent of Trump brushing off the United Nations, that by making decisions without waiting for the federal government’s say-so, governors are “helping Trump create an alternative narrative of culpability: that the ‘open borders’ crowd in the blue states let the virus in, while he tried to keep it out.”
Like McKay Coppins’ recent article in The Atlantic about the supposed “social distancing culture war,” this is an awkward and lazy attempt to project partisan politics onto the vicissitudes of pandemic response in a way that makes Trump and his supporters look bad.