In 2020, COVID fears enabled American elites to grab a record amount of power — and they love it and don’t want to give it up. But if the American people don’t take back our constitutional rights in 2021, it could be much more difficult to ever get them back.
There are many rational reasons why so many Americans oppose the severe lockdowns imposed in so many states. Indeed, contrary to accusations against us, we do care about human life, we do believe in science and we are willing to make rational sacrifices for the public good.
But we do not like it when government takes away our most basic God-given, hard-won, constitutional rights (like the freedoms to worship, assemble and protest). This is all the more so when the same government officials imposing such public diktats privately flout their own rules.
Many of us are troubled by all the massive problems fueled by the government-imposed economic lockdowns: huge upticks in unemployment, crime, “virtual” education, alcoholics and drug addicts relapsing, drug overdoses, domestic violence, family breakdown, mental illness and suicide in our nation, and threats of starvation in many tourism-dependent Third World countries.
Many of us question the expertise (and honesty) of many public health “experts” pushing for lockdowns. For example, Dr. Fauci initially said we need not fear COVID. Then he changed his mind. Then he said masks were a waste of time. Then he said they were important. Then there were images of him sitting with people in a stadium and he was not wearing his mask. Then he claimed he was eating, but pictures showed he was mask-less while not eating.
It also looks like a lot of classism here. Is it a coincidence that the highly credentialed bourgeois government elites, elected politicians, bureaucrats, doctors and others in the professional class demanding we shut down so much of the economy never lose their jobs because of the lockdowns? Instead, it’s overwhelmingly non-college-educated, blue collar, service sector, poorer, non-White and younger Americans whose jobs and lives have been most disrupted by the lockdowns (like workers in restaurants, hair salons and other small businesses).
Is it coincidental that, while the lockdowns have destroyed so many small businesses, big businesses are booming? Indeed, when restaurants and churches were forcibly locked down by many Democratic governors, Wal-Mart, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple and other major corporations were spared — and they made huge profits in 2020. Were big businesses exempt from the lockdowns because they donate far more money to politicians’ election campaigns?
Could the fact that most big business campaign donations go to Democrats while most small businessmen tend to be Republicans have influenced Democratic governors to impose far tougher lockdowns on small businesses?
Is it right that these same Democratic governors order churches locked down as “non-essential” businesses but abortion clinics and marijuana shops (Democratic donors) are allowed to continue business as usual since they have been declared “essential”?
As to the claim that America needs one centralized (and even more authoritarian) national anti-COVID policy, thankfully our Founding Fathers gave us a federal government. To paraphrase Justice Louis Brandeis, the beauty of federalism is that it gives us dozens of state government lab experiments. Each state can handle challenges in whatever ways are best for itself, and each state can learn from others’ successes and failures.
So let’s compare how well different states’ COVID policies have worked. The Founders thought this best for a big nation encompassing many different people and cultures. In fact, federalism (with its flexibility and healthy competition) is a big reason why our country has historically done phenomenally well.
But the COVID lockdowns have shown Lord Acton’s warning to be as valid as ever: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Yet in 2020 we learned how easily vast numbers of the American people could act like passively obedient sheeple or even fanatical conformists ratting out less neurotic fellow citizens. Still, may we recall that only a minority of Americans supported our revolution against the British tyranny.
Precisely when our rights are most under assault is when “the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot” that Thomas Paine warned us about will abandon the fight.
Instead, may those of us who value liberty emulate a true patriot who not only risked his life for his country’s freedom, but gave it. Near the end of his inaugural address, President Kennedy declared: “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it.”
Douglas Young is a retired political science professor from the University of North Georgia.