Trump Can’t Tell the States To Do Anything

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On Friday March 20 (almost 30 days ago) I drove my daughter to her University to move her out of her dorm. It was around this time that colleges and universities were advising their students to move home to avoid the burgeoning contagion that we were just becoming familiar with known as the Coronavirus. 

While we were loading up my SUV, the Governor of Illinois J. B. Pritzker announced around 3:30 PM that he was issuing a shelter in place order for all residents of the state. This was the determination made by then a handful of Governors around the country to deal with this potential health emergency while our pusillanimous president was still calling it a hoax, a democratic plot, and another attempt by the deep state to derail his otherwise successful presidency.

States by state began to close to mitigate the health scare that was slowly moving its way from sea to shining sea. Today we find ourselves in mid April.  And while we find ourselves having lost 16M jobs, a stock market off its Q1 highs, thousands of companies closed and trillions of dollars being appropriated to deal with the economic sword of Damocles hanging perilously above our country’s heart, Trump has announced that he is musing whether to open the country back up for business the consequences be damned. 

During Trump’s daily press briefing today, during which he dispenses an ever growing brazen torrent of prevarications about his past and present performance in dealing with the virus, he announced his pending decision to decree that the country has reopened. All hail!

For once the press pushed back on Trump’s precarious proclamation. Their question was simple. Do you as president have the authority to override the governor’s and open the government?  In what has come to be recognized as Trump’s petulant style, he insisted that while he hasn’t made a final decision that he alone can proceed. The Governors, well they are just Governors, but I am the chosen One. Ok he didn’t say that, but he did insist that as President that he definitely can decide to open the country and a Governor cannot stand in his way. The journalists interrupted with references to the tenth amendment. 

The Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution states the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Before we proceed it is germane for us to review the powers afforded the president in the Constitution. The powers of the president as enumerated in Article II Section 2 of the Constitution are as follows:

Commander-in-Chief of the Military

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; 

Executive Over Secretary Departments

he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, 

Pardon Power

and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

Treaties and Appointments (Judicial and Ambassadors)

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments. The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

Section II of Article II of the Constitution does not mention the presidential power to instruct the states to do anything. Furthermore, the 10th Amendment to the Constitution states that since that power is not given to the president in the Constitution, then the States retain that power to regulate activity within their borders.

Which means two things. No Trump cannot unilaterally open the States because he says so, and if he tries he is in violation of the Constitution. If you have followed my blog, or just been alive in the past four years, you will know that this is not new territory for Trump. In fact he has made it his business to look for every opportunity to abuse the Constitution whenever he can. 

This is made all the more infuriating when you remember the countless times when Republicans have waxed poetic about the founding fathers. Republicans wrap themselves in the flag at every opportunity. They proudly wear their flag pins whenever they are in public just to remind everyone that their patriotism and love of country is above any and everyone else’s.

But on this what seems the simplest of tests of one’s allegiance, they fail yet again spectacularly. Their sycophancy has them beholden only to Trump. The Constitution may as well be written on one of the reams of toilet paper that Americans have hoarded in the past month, and flushed just as easily. 

The Constitution is an inconvenience at moments like these. Any reference to their hypocrisy is dismissed as a misremembrance…by you. Republicans have neither the time nor the inclination to be bothered with the voters whose sensibilities are set aflame by their vacillations: one moment constitutional fundamentalist and liberal interpreter the next. 

All that matters is what gives them the predicate for the decision that needs to be made in the moment. All that matters is right now. Power is the goal and the journey is a means to an end. The Republican party’s morals have become as malleable as Trump’s consistency.  I wrote a blog post where I blame Trump’s voters more than Trump, but now right now there is only one person to blame. Trump. 

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