Ralph Northam’s Power Play: Part Two

by Kerry Dougherty

This is getting to be a bad habit.

For the second Monday in a row Governor Ralph Northam kicked off the week with a heavy-handed executive order. This one was a body blow to the Virginia Beach economy.

Last week the governor prematurely closed all schools – public and private –  for the remainder of the academic year.

This Monday Northam issued a stay-at-home order for the entire commonwealth and closed Virginia’s spectacular beaches to swimmers and sunbathers until June 10.

(Note: At 10 Wednesday morning, the city issued a correction, that said swimming was not prohibited.)

An absurd 10 weeks from now.

Northam decided to keep his order in place past Memorial Day – a potentially catastrophic move for the Virginia Beach tourism industry – without even warning Virginia Beach officials of the timeline.

When I talked to him yesterday afternoon, Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer told me that Northam phoned him Monday morning to express his distress at reports that large groups congregated on the beaches over the warm weekend.

Dyer said they discussed “things in general” and he feared “the governor was going to shut everything down.” The mayor said he pointed out to Northam how important it was that residents be allowed to exercise and fish on the public beaches.

I asked Dyer if Northam had warned him that the beach closings would extend through June 10th, essentially killing Memorial Day for the Resort City and devastating the city’s tourist industry.

“No, he never mentioned a date,” Dyer said.

That’s an astonishing level of arrogance. The very definition of tyrannical government.

I warned you that Northam was spoon-feeding his despotic plans to the public. Some of you didn’t believe me.

Dyer told me Monday that he’d seen pictures on social media of large groups on the beaches and that he drove around the city last weekend to see for himself. Dyer said most of the people on the Resort Strip seemed to be observing appropriate social distances. On Chick’s Beach and at Mt. Trashmore, not so much.

As a result, Dyer issued a terse statement Saturday warning people to adhere to social distancing requirements and rules that forbid folks from gathering in groups larger than 10.

On Sunday, President Trump extended guidelines for Americans to stay home through the end of April, while holding out hope that the country would be on the way toward containing the virus and reopening businesses by then.

Twenty-four hours later, however, the governor of Virginia crushed those hopes when he issued his own draconian stay-at-home order lasting into June.

In one swift move, the impulsive Northam turned the Resort City’s favorite pastimes – swimming and sunbathing – into Class 1 misdemeanors, punishable by one year in jail or a $2,500 fine or both.

Yup, just as the sheriff is trying to get criminals out of the city jail, the governor is ready to toss sunbathers in.

Apologists for Northam were on social media Monday claiming that the governor had reserved the right to end the order before June 10 if the pandemic recedes.

Dare to dream, children.

Some of us are simply wondering which of our civil rights Northam plans to trample next.

Virginia is not the only state with a governor using the coronavirus as justification for enacting oppressive measures. And no, we should not be mollified because Northam’s approach is slightly less dictatorial than that of the Czar of Maryland or the Czarina of Washington DC.

It’s all excessive.

In a provocative Boston Globe Sunday column, “A Civil Liberties Pandemic: Where Is The Debate About The Toll Being Taken On Americans’ Freedom And Constitutional Rights?” Jeff Jacoby points out that while governors are wantonly exercising “godlike powers,” citizens seem remarkably unconcerned.

It is daunting to realize just how much absolute authority is entrusted to governors and the president once an emergency has been declared. In Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker is empowered by state law to “exercise any and all authority over persons and property” in whatever way he deems necessary to cope with the crisis. The law allows him to do virtually anything — from banning weddings to prohibiting travel to commandeering utilities to closing schools to throwing innumerable people out of work by declaring their jobs nonessential. Legislative approval is not required. Nor is a public vote. Nor is there any fixed date on which those godlike powers must be surrendered.

Similarly sweeping emergency powers are available to governors in other states… To be sure, these laws have been on the books for many years. But never have those powers been invoked so extensively across the entire country. Perhaps the governors and the president can be trusted to relinquish their authority to rule by decree the moment the end of the crisis is in sight. But power can be very addicting. Government officials are not always in a hurry to give it back. Especially when it was surrendered so unquestioningly in the first place.

This epidemic may leave the economy in tatters, but economies grow back. Let us hope it doesn’t shred our civil liberties and democratic norms before it runs its course. Those aren’t so easy to regrow.

Here’s a thought. With the kids home from school this is the perfect time to find a copy of the U.S. Constitution and teach them about what our Founding Fathers so quaintly referred to as “inalienable” rights.

When you’re finished, mail your copy to the governor.

Note: There are updates to this post. The city of Virginia Beach issued a statement saying swimming, surfing and paddle boarding were permitted because they were exercise. Guess that means no standing in the breakers. You’d better be SWIMMING.)

This column was published originally at www.kerrydougherty.com.

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44 responses to “Ralph Northam’s Power Play: Part Two

  1. I think the date was chosen 1) to correspond with the latest possible dates for public school and 2) to send a clear signal to Republicans that there will be no primary on June 9 and they need another nomination method for their sacrificial goat against Warner and any congressional nominees. And as somebody who would be stuck in a poll all day, good, because I won’t do that this time.

    One must remember that Americans haven’t dealt with actual war within their borders since the Late Unpleasantness and the Yankee Occupation. Plenty of Europeans and others went through way way worse in living memory. We are luckier in this hemisphere. My conversations with my smart NP daughter are instructive, and wonderfully healthy and hale folks shed this virus like dandruff everywhere they go long before they realize they might be carriers, days and days. I’m hoping the hospital crunch won’t be so bad, and that might allow earlier relaxation. But thanks to her I get it better now.

  2. So, lemme see… VaBeach closed until June 10th. You think it should have been, what, May 15th?
    Lemme mansplain. Imagine it’s Black Friday. You’re a door-opener at WalMart. You’re supposed to unlock the door at 9 sharp. You unlock it 8:45, instantly realize your mistake, and try to close and lock them again…. Where should we send the body?

  3. Here a nice little piece on how my home city fared in the 1918 flu … freedom reigned until it was too late! Think it was because a President downplayed the dangers of transmission”?

    The so-called Spanish Flu (which actually originated in the United States) first hit in the spring of 1918. It went away over the summer, only to come back in the fall, more deadly than before. One of the cities hardest hit was Philadelphia, which saw up to 759 people die in a single day in October. And one of the big factors in the city’s death toll was a massive World War I parade held on September 28 that drew around 200,000 people.

    “Within 72 hours of the parade, every bed in Philadelphia’s 31 hospitals was filled,” Kenneth Davis wrote in Smithsonian in 2018. “In the week ending October 5, some 2,600 people in Philadelphia had died from the flu or its complications. A week later, that number rose to more than 4,500.”

    The parade went forward despite warning signs because the city’s director of public health didn’t want to cause a panic and because he was under pressure from federal officials to meet bond quotas. “Caught between the demands of federal officials and the public welfare, he picked wrong,” Davis wrote.

    Another factor was President Woodrow Wilson’s effort to cover up the seriousness of the flu—he wanted people focused on the war effort.
    Philadelphia’s leaders shut down the city days after the parade, but it was too late, especially with many doctors having been drafted into the war. The medical system was overwhelmed and morgues couldn’t keep up.

    • You could draw parallels and perpendiculars between Trump and any other President. It has been opined that FDR had advanced warning of Pearl Harbor, just as Trump was warned of COVID. The difference is that by 5 that afternoon, FDR knew the storm had arrived. Trump stood for two months, face to the sky, mouth open, drowning.

      • There was a little more to it than that. As I recall, Democrats and the media had one thing on their minds in January — impeaching and convicting Trump. That’s the one and only thing anyone was talking about. Trump was battling for political survival. If he dropped the ball on COVID-19, so did the Democrats. So did the national media. So did the left-leaning blogs. Once the impeachment fiasco ended, the Dems and media pivoted to COVID-19 without missing a beat. The new aim: to make COVID-19 Trump’s Katrina.

        • “The new aim: to make COVID-19 Trump’s Katrina.”

          That ‘splains January. But it was clearly a brilliant plan since Trump continued to play it down all by his widdle self for the next two months…

          If he’s that easily duped is he qualified? Oh, wait I forgot how well he was played by Putin, Xi, Un,… even McConnell.

        • Jim, you surely hit that nail squarely on the head. Now we got nothing but plagues of all sorts all around.

        • “There was a little more to it than that. As I recall, Democrats and the media had one thing on their minds in January — impeaching and convicting Trump.”

          Impeaching yes, conviction wasn’t realistic given the makeup of the Senate and Trump’s stranglehold on the party.

          “If he dropped the ball on COVID-19, so did the Democrats. So did the national media. So did the left-leaning blogs. Once the impeachment fiasco ended, the Dems and media pivoted to COVID-19 without missing a beat. The new aim: to make COVID-19 Trump’s Katrina.”

          No. Trump made COVID-19 Trumps Katrina – all by himself. It’s 2020. It’s not like there isn’t evidence available that Trump downplayed the whole thing for two months:

          https://youtu.be/2eB_xCk5ABw?t=122

          The video linked above from CNBC pretty much covers it. I linked specifically the moment where he calls the coronavirus a liberal hoax at one of his rallies.

          • Trying to word this to meet Jim’s standards:

            That video is damming enough but it’s only one of many and inexplicable that some folks pretend these things did not happen or that they did but all of it is the Dems fault.

            The idea that Trump was “defending himself” from the Dems as THE reason why he was “forced” to NOT order the rest of his administration, literally thousands of govt workers at his command, to take action when it was clear in January that there was a pandemic is incredulous as a defense.

            And to tie this to Virginia – yes – we do not, right now today, have enough test kits and other equipment because apparently Northam was waiting for the Feds to take the lead and yes, he clearly made a mistake on that and apparently he has not been willing or able to step up like some other states have. Northam should have acted when it was clear that Trump was not.

            There WAS a glimmer of hope tonight – as Trump did stand aside and let the scientists speak and then turned around and said that he had been on board with it all along. When asked about the earlier “hoax” comments, he went off on another tirade.

            I do not think in the end that “it’s the Dems fault” is going to fly.

            He’s a proverbial bull in the china shop.

  4. Wasn’t Northam’s order to stay home Order 55? That just means that we’re 11 orders away from Order 66 and the end of the Republic.

  5. Northam, and most all the other Governors are sending a message to the scofflaws who are “interpreting” the current guidance to have loopholes that allow activities like going to the beach, etc.

    The message now is emphatic and it’s got a June date on it to let folks know that this is not going to loosen up soon. If things getting better before then, they can back off, but they’re not going to do a short date than have to fight to extend it.

    So now, Northam has folks on both sides hammering him for either being slow and timid or an authoritarian taking folks rights and name calling to boot.

    No Joy here. It sucks, but some of us are starting to sound like bratty kids who don’t like the rules and so gonna kick up a fuss so we know how they feel about it.

    Time to be an adult. No one is enjoying this but it’s a reality we all have to deal with and we have more than enough bellyaching already.

    geeze.

  6. The Northam announcement of a June 10 shutdown expiration vs. Trump’s prior announcement of a two week expiration of social distancing with the possibility of extensions, reflects the essential difference between the two men and between Republicans and Democrats.

    By initially announcing two weeks while at the same time announcing flexibility and “we may have to extend it”, Trump proposed a time period which reflected hope and optimism; by contrast, Northam’s message reflected pessimism and despair: “It’s going to be really bad. We have to have a really extended date ”

    Built into Trump’s approach is the fact that as each of his expiration dates approach, the public will already know whether or not the date will have to be extended and will have anticipated the need to do so. In the meantime, the public is given hope that maybe we can return to normal. We are also educated to the fact that we must return to normal if we are to survive economically.

    The Northam approach has an opposite effect. The “little people” don’t know what’s good for them so we’ll tell them. If it works out that we don’t need until June 10, the big hand of government can extend its grace to the “little people.” Hope and optimism? Or pessimism and despair? Which leader would you rather have?

    More cynical folks are ascribing political motives to Northam in setting the expiration of the shutdown to one day after the Virginia primaries, but I’ll leave that argument to others.

    BTW, you could fool me about the impact of all this on the economy. Sometimes when I have time (now is one of them), I go to the local Vulcan quarry to pick out stones for a garden project we’re doing. In all the times I’ve been there, I’ve never seen so much activity. Apparently construction workers have the good sense to ignore Mr. Northam when his edicts don’t really apply to them.

    • CrazyJD brilliant lesson in leadership follows:

      “Trump proposed a time period which reflected hope and optimism; by contrast, Northam’s message reflected pessimism and despair: “It’s going to be really bad. We have to have a really extended date ”…

      The Northam approach has an opposite effect. The “little people” don’t know what’s good for them so we’ll tell them. If it works out that we don’t need until June 10, the big hand of government can extend its grace to the “little people.”

    • re: Trump vs Dem Govs.

      Wow! Trump is such an ignorant idiot, it’s hard to say where to begin. This all started out as a Liberal Hoax on FOX and with Trump. Are folks blind?

      He’s telling the Governors that he hasn’t heard about the need to test – for weeks.

      Dozens and dozens of Governors and Mayors – both Dem and GOP have begged for test kits and other equipment warning that lives are at stake.

      This is just the latest of his numerous inane and ignorant pronouncements he’s made, virtually every time he gets up to speak.

      It’s not about GOP and Dems – plenty of GOP are also rolling eyes.

    • “The Northam announcement of a June 10 shutdown expiration vs. Trump’s prior announcement of a two week expiration of social distancing with the possibility of extensions, reflects the essential difference between the two men and between Republicans and Democrats.”

      It does. One is giving you realism and telling you the facts instead of trying to tell you this coronavirus doesn’t exist or will be resolved by Easter. It’s the physician – the person with actual medical training and experience who knows more about medicine than we do. Our society pays physicians to know more about medicine and public health than we do – and that’s good.

      By initially announcing two weeks while at the same time announcing flexibility and “we may have to extend it”, Trump proposed a time period which reflected hope and optimism; by contrast, Northam’s message reflected pessimism and despair: “It’s going to be really bad. We have to have a really extended date”

      Northram’s message reflects reality, unfortunately.

      “The Northam approach has an opposite effect. The “little people” don’t know what’s good for them so we’ll tell them. If it works out that we don’t need until June 10, the big hand of government can extend its grace to the “little people.” Hope and optimism? Or pessimism and despair?

      I get where you’re coming from in that sometimes it seems like people are trying to tell you how to live and that you don’t know what’s best for you. But frankly, do you have a medical degree of some sort, some experience in medicine, are you some sort of expert on public health? At some point you have to admit that you don’t know things. That’s why we have people that specialize in things so we don’t all have to try and know everything. Part of that exchange is admitting that one doesn’t.

      “Which leader would you rather have?”

      The adult. The person who gives it like Cuomo gives it in New York – as a leader should. He gives you the facts of the situation, whether you like it or not, and offers optimism when appropriate. I want the facts; I want the reality of the situation.

      “Apparently construction workers have the good sense to ignore Mr. Northam when his edicts don’t really apply to them.”

      No – it’s that they don’t make a lot of money and need the money to live versus filing for unemployment.

  7. What a bunch of hogwash JD.

  8. Why, Spencer, is it hogwash? The fact that you chose to call it out as hogwash without explanation of your thinking tells me all I need to know.

    Leadership is leadership. Just look at the historical precedents. Neither Roosevelt (a Democrat, by the way) nor Churchill, in the face of much more dire potentialities, ever fell victim to the kind of thinking endemic to today’s Democrats, which completely embraces victimhood. It was a modern day Democrat, Obama, who sent Churchill’s bust packing from the White House. Spare us.

  9. One recalls Phil Gramm’s wonderful advice. If you are going to catch hell whatever you do, do the right thing. I think Trump and Northam are trying.

    One recalls another great leader, bloke who runs a big shipbuilding firm, and his attitude that making any decision and moving on it is the key. My few interactions with him rank in my memory with my time with governors.

    • Steve, I never said that Northam wasn’t trying. If I wasn’t clear before, I would point out that the actions he is trying reflect a very pessimistic world view, like that of too many Democrats. 😉

      • The Baltimore Orioles last year tried too. Yet they were still losers.

      • Another nail hit squarely on its head.

      • HOGWASH.
        You don’t deserve a thoughtful critique because your thesis is ridiculous, but here goes….

        Trump isn’t aspirational. If you find comfort in baseless claims of victory (then denial of having uttered them, then blaming others for calling you on it) well then you’re special. If you think being told that the pandemic will be a threat until June is akin to “victimhood”, well you’ve just got thing for cheesy buzzwords (imperial clown show, plantation class…) because you cannot actually believe that.

        Spare me the platitudes before the crisis even begins. Cases in Virginia aren’t expected to peak until May 17th. The models have been pretty accurate so there’s no reason, now, to believe that the trend won’t hold. Y’all think people will be going to Virginia Beach for Memorial Day? Those hotels will still be used as hospitals then.

        1,200 cases in VA today. The numbers double every few days. May17th is very far off. But yeah. I’d feel much better if Northam had promised us margaritas on the beach by Memorial Day (Who wouldn’t rather believe that).

    • Jim – your pyramid – typically applies to people talking to each other or several in a group but it does not apply to their opinions about public figures.

      Ad Hominems and name calling both usually are considered to the person to which you are conversing

      If you want the pyramid to apply to a wider realm – then tell us all right now – that it’s your rules so we all know your rules and enforce it uniformly.

  10. All political conversations these days seem to veer toward Trump. There are thousands of outlets where Virginians can vent either for the President or against him. But there are very few where we can discuss public policy at the state/local level. The focus of Bacon’s Rebellion is state/local policy. Let’s try to maintain that focus.

    • Jim – are you saying that there should be no discussion of Federal issues that affect Virginia?

      I just want to be clear what you are saying AND that you apply it uniformly to all commenters as well as the folks who post.

      It seems almost an impossible task to discuss the pandemic solely on a state basis – but if that is your rule – let’s all do it.

    • Wait. Who was it that felt compelled to explain how the Democrats have cleverly led Trump to his Katrina not more than 6″ up the page?

      Focus? Here’s focus. Trump is gonna focus … all us.

  11. Tests per 100,000 – (March 30 in brackets), today not in brackets

    DC – (459) / 559 … +21.8%
    Tennessee – (312) / 353 … +13%
    Maryland – (246) / 276 … +12%
    North Carolina – (190) / 230 … +33%
    West Virginia – (169) / 208 (data may be in question) … +23%
    Virginia – (144) / 160 … +11%
    Kentucky – (136) / 154 … +13.2%

    The numbers tell the tale. Ralph Northam is failing.

    • Northam calls on Trump to address supply shortage, open federal coronavirus testing site

      https://www.pilotonline.com/news/health/vp-nw-coronavirus-jump-cases-20200327-fxrz4xdibjhhzp3gnhpd6ngeka-story.html

      Virtually every single Governor , GOP and Dem have asks for more test kits.

      Without enough test kits, we cannot determine the levels of infection and that requires draconian stay-in-place restrictions. We cannot open up the economy sooner without more test kits.

      • Here’s a question, Larry, hypothetical though it may be. What would you do if there weren’t “more test kits”? Have you noticed what Sweden has decided to do? You could look it up. Yeah, that Sweden, the one that all the Socialists want to cite as their model for America. What have they decided to do about coronavirus? Wait for it……. Nothing.

        • @Crazy – I would do what the scientists are telling us and what they did in South Korea and Germany. (yes I know about Sweden and Mexico).

          Most all of the epidemiologists are saying that the more you can test, the more you will find those infected and be able to isolate them so they do not infect others.

          Right now, even people who think they might be infected, even medical personal, ambulance drivers, police – cannot get tested because of the shortage.

          Even if YOU do not believe this – virtually every epidemiologist and Governor believe it and believe it is how South Korea and Germany controlled their infections and are getting back to work.

          When Mr. Trump said that he had not heard about that “need” – for weeks – when it’s hard to have the news on without hearing it – one wonders what the heck is going on.

          and .. Obama got rid of Churchhill ? WTF? It seems like just about everything – no matter what it is – is Obama’s fault?

          No flame wars… we can discuss this – and if you feel I have insulted you, please say so and I will instantly apologize…

      • How do the other states have so many test kits compared to Virginia? Vermont has tested 629 out of 100,000 residents. New Mexico – 601. Utah – 535. We’re at about 25% of those numbers.

        Are we getting shortchanged by the federal government? Do test kit material suppliers hate Virginia but love Vermont?

        New York has tested 942 out of every 100,000 residents. That’s almost 6X the rate in Virginia.

        What manner of voodoo are these other states using to get their testing done?

        Don’t you think that’s a question Northam should be answering?

        Of the ten states testing at a slower pace than Virginia five don’t report all the tests. They may well all be testing more than us. Virginia gets an “A” for test reporting data. Unfortunately, we get an F for testing adequacy.

        I think Virginia is in for a very rough ride – some of which could have been avoided by more aggressive testing.

        • I don’t know the answer to that but supposedly there are big differences in what the Feds have given to various states.

          I don’t know if there is a standard test or many different ones or who is manufacturing the tests or how they get distributed.

          I don’t know if some states have developed their own tests and others not.

          The point here is that we simply don’t know right now. There may come a time when we do know more and if it does turn out that Northam was irresponsible – you’ll have me on board also but we just don’t know right now and the people who have been critics of Northam before now – they lack credibility on this in my view.

          He’s getting hammered from both sides..

          we agree on one thing – and that’s that we need a lot more test kits and just yesterday the POTUS said he hasn’t heard this need for weeks. Does that affect the Federal response to Virginia and other states and leaves it up to them to figure out?

        • Is it maybe possible that these other states are simply placing larger orders for test kits than Virginia is?

  12. Meanwhile, amid the debacle, the heroes are found at the usual heroic stations 24/7, saving lives by the hundreds daily:

    “Nurses Are the Coronavirus Heroes
    They marinate in risk as they spend more time than anyone else tending to patients.

    I write this an hour after finishing my shift in the hospital emergency department. It’s 1 a.m. A nurse I have known for a long time said to me as she left the shift, “In 18 years, I never felt the need to take a shower in the staff locker room so I could feel safe to go home.” Earlier she was at the bedside in a negative pressure room, wearing a powered air-purifying respirator as she helped intubate a possible coronavirus patient who’d crashed. The precaution and gear make the work feel more dangerous. “Will that equipment be enough,” she asks, “to keep the virus out of my body?”

    Nurses are the underappreciated heroes of this crisis. One, normally the coolest of heads, checked in to the department after her shift. “I am anxious for the first time in my life,” she said. “I’m usually the face of calm. I tell family members of patients, ‘Look at my face, when this face gets worried, then you worry.’ ” … End Quote

    For on these heroes by Paul Dohrenwend see:
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/nurses-are-the-coronavirus-heroes-11585608987

  13. It’s fine to discuss federal policy as it affects Virginia on this blog. It’s fine to discuss Trump insofar as his words and actions affect Virginia. My point is that insulting Trump (or any other public figure, or participant in this blog) does not constitute an argument. We all fall prey to the temptation to cast insults or conduct ad hominem attacks. I just try to discourage it. If a discussion degrades into a flame war, I will cut it off.

  14. Jim,
    I hope that Spencer’s “hogwash” comment about my post would not be considered “ad hominem” or “name-calling”. I do not think there is enough of a comment to make that judgment. It probably fits best in the yellow tranche of your triangle: “hogwash”, as a descriptor of my post, could be considered a criticism of tone. Clearly there was no attempt to address the substance of my argument, and there was no opposing case stated, with or without supporting evidence. But name-calling? Maybe I missed it, but I was not aware he was calling me an “ass hat”, though I’ve been called worse.

  15. Although the last twenty-some articles posted have concerned a raging house fire, please limit discussions to the mice fleeing from the crawl space, and refrain from mentioning the man with the elephant and the gasoline jerrycans.

    BTW – that’s the pyramid pinnacle.

    • Please refrain from mentioning the man who can’t figure out where the fire hoses and fire hydrants are, hoping for instructions from Washington to help him accomplish that goal.

  16. Funny that obama and clinton were fair game on BR. Why protect Trump?

    • exactly, “coonman”, “leftists”, “elitists”, “social justice warriors” and a plethora of related and other name-calling seem to have been regular features… here for a while. Perhaps Jim needs to provide a list of “acceptable” pejoratives!

  17. Jim. Larry’s right! Why don’t you come up with a pyramid for pejorative names?

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