By David Taub
“We the People, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
These magnificent words, the Preamble to our hallowed Constitution, set forth the role of “government” in our republic.
During previous perilous crises that have befallen our nation since its birth, our government stepped up and provided capable, competent and dynamic leadership. Our nation’s citizens looked to its government to conquer evil villains, humans and diseases. And thus, we survived them all, and we became better off thanks to government.
There can be no question about the essential role our government must play for our “general welfare,” our Liberty, and our Union. In spite of Reagan’s declaration to the contrary, Government is not the problem; rather the problem is a lack of good government. And because of that, our faith and confidence in government today has reached a depressingly low point.
In the midst of the great existential challenge from COVID-19, our Federal government has abdicated its central and essential role; it has chosen not to govern.
POTUS told the nation that we are “on our own,” and that he, the leader of government, bears “no responsibility, at all.”
How can this be?
The government “sets the rules” but now refuses to accept responsibility for the consequences that derive from the rules it created. This is a fundamental violation of the most important oath taken by our leaders, as they must before taking the helm of elected leadership. Each and every one of them seals this sacred oath by swearing, “…so help me God.”
It seems to me to be a bad career move to violate an oath to God. Ask Moses about that.
Sadly, the staggering reality of the past three months provides proof positive that our government has failed us. Almost without pause, POTUS continues to ignore scientific and medical evidence to the detriment of more than 75,000 unnecessary deaths already, with more dying each day. We lead the entire world in this pathetic metric.
POTUS adds to this tragedy by endorsing opening the economy – against the recommendations of his administration’s experts – which will without doubt add vastly to the death rolls. If POTUS had only heeded the early warnings from his own intelligence community and others, and then followed the scientific/medical advice, it is likely that the nation would not have been forced into extreme lock-down responses that have impacted the economy so drastically.
Now we face the worst of all possibilities: staggering deaths with more than 2,000 added each day, unimaginable, increasing levels of unemployment, and an unavoidable recession that may well approach or even exceed the economic and personal losses experienced during the Great Depression.
In his rejection of governance, POTUS opines that a free people can govern themselves or even better, that “the market” will sort it all out. The “market place” never solved such crises, nor should the country’s leaders really expect it to.
There is no precedent or need for a nongovernmental approach to this global crisis. If our elected national leaders wish to abdicate their responsibility to govern, then they should just step down. How have we come to this deep dark and uncertain place?
Currently, our federal government’s inept attempt to address this challenge paints a canvas of chaos and dysfunction. The White House does follow one of its medical dictates, to wash hands frequently. Unfortunately, this process has not been to encourage or enhance disinfection. Rather, the current administration has washed its own metaphorical hands by pronouncing to the state governments that “You are on your own. Good luck.”
Wasn’t that what Pontius Pilate said, that he was “washing his hands” since he wanted no responsibility?
This abysmal failure of our current government to provide competent leadership has resulted in the greatest division of our republic since the Civil War. Lincoln said, “A House divided cannot stand,” and we are already on our knees.
Fortunately, most of our State governors have picked up the banner of leadership POTUS threw down on the battlefield of the war on the coronavirus enemy. And with a few extraordinary exceptions (I did not anticipate that any governor might think getting a tattoo was worth a human life, but what the hell do I know?), our governors have shown that government can and will provide the bold leadership needed to survive this calamity. God bless the leadership these governors have shown. Amen!
David M. Taub was Mayor of Beaufort from 1990 through 1999, and served as a Beaufort County Magistrate Judge from 2010 to 2015. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.