Lemons into Lemonade: Did President Trump Trick Dems into Going 'Full Authoritarian' during Virus Crisis?

President Donald Trump waves during an event celebrating American truckers, at the White House, Thursday, April 16, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Raise your hand if you saw this one coming.

Breitbart News reports that California Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D … of course) sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom Monday asking that Newsom suspend all firearm and ammunition sales in the one-party separatist state:

The letter begins: “Thank you for the work you and your administration have been doing to face down the COVID-19 pandemic. I am writing today to urge you to enact a statewide suspension of firearm and ammunition sales, with exceptions for law enforcement and authorized peace officers.” Santiago went on to cite the surge in firearm purchases, noting that guns are one of the things Californians began “panic-buying” after “Italy’s reported outbreak of COVID-19 cases.”

Newsom probably won’t take Santiago up on this latest effort to virtue signal at Democrat voters at the expense of the Second Amendment. But it doesn’t matter; the damage is already done. Americans with even a bit of common sense and a passing familiarity with the Constitution will look on the proposal and conclude no civil liberty is safe, not when Dems have any pretext to suspend them.

WHEN INSANITY IS GOOD NEWS

Public actions like the one proposed by Assemblyman Santiago are really good news for President Trump, when it comes to public perception.

Between them, the Democrat governors of California, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Mississippi, New York, et. al., have run roughshod over civil liberties during the Chinese virus crisis. Democrat mayors of metropolises like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco have followed suit. They have used diktats to, among other actions:

These were not ‘suggestions’ nor appeals to public conscience, cooperation, and consent. These were decrees enforced with fines, handcuffs, threats, and spying. Millions of Americans have watched the news in horror and disbelief as well-known Democrat executives and lawmakers across the country have gone full authoritarian in just a few short weeks.

As Roger Kimball writes about Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) in his acerbic and entertaining article Herd Immunity vs. Herd Mentality:

Among the many things she has banned are buying baby car seats from Walmart, driving between two residences you own, growing your own food, playing golf, or landscaping. Soon, one wag suggested, she might try banning travel between two rooms of your own house.

THE PRESIDENT’S HANDS TIED

From a political perspective, the president had no choice but to lock the country down once the Chinese virus became wildly known. The legacy media fell over each other broadcasting apocalyptic and highly speculative predictions of mass death, along with ‘expert’ opinions about what everyone must do–even when those opinions ranged far outside experts’ knowledge or authority.

President Trump could not say: “We will keep the country open but take precautions. Some people will die, but we have to grit our teeth and get through this without strangling our economy.” Had he taken such an approach, every death in the country from now to November would have been laid at the president’s feet and  attributed to his ‘flouting of expertise.’

Moreover, such a approach from the president wouldn’t have made much difference. Governors, mayors, and other politicians eager to demonstrate their concern and score points against the president would have locked down cities and states anyway, then filled the media with: “Compare our brave leadership with the president’s weak actions. See how bad and orange he is?”

Failure to take decisive measures would have been pointless political suicide.

VIRUS LEMONS INTO OVERREACH LEMONADE?

In spite of ordering partial shutdowns of the federal government under his control, President Trump has used a light touch otherwise. He has stressed that federal guidelines for safety are just that: guidelines. He made clear that the federal government considers gun stores ‘essential businesses’ that should be left alone to fulfill their Second-Amendment mandate. He has encouraged voting and religious freedom responsibly practiced.

Meanwhile, the president has criticized state and municipal overreach in response to the virus crisis, but did not interfere with local lawmakers and executives.

Was the president’s response calculated?

Did the president reason that, since public hysteria made a sane response to the virus impossible, why not sit back and let Democrat politicians nationwide discredit themselves and their party in the eyes of undecided and moderate voters?

A definitive answer is impossible, since we cannot read the president’s thoughts. But such a tactic would fit his profile. During the 2016 election, Candidate Trump baited the legacy media into demonstrating their bias against him to their catastrophic discredit, while at the same time giving him what amounted to billions of dollars of free advertising.

It would make sense for President Trump to take an analogous approach during the virus crisis: allow Democrats to demonstrate their tendencies for voters. Let the American people experience a taste of what they might expect from a Democrat chief executive and Congress in the future, extrapolated from the way Democrats across the country are behaving now.

As the saying popularly attributed to Napoleon goes: “Never interfere with your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

Like most modern American presidential elections, the 2020 election will be won by securing moderate voters, those who are undecided and not ideologically bound already. Voters on the fence are unlikely to warm to the manner in which Democrats have used the Bill of Rights to clean their crevices during the toilet paper shortage.

Americans, regardless of political party, do not take kindly to curtailment of civil liberties that affect them directly and immediately. Case in point: liberals who went to buy firearms for the first time recently, only to wind up shocked and outraged at how laborious and slow their own party had made the process.

Already, lines at supermarkets seem to have knocked Bernie Sanders’ ‘friendly socialism’ on the head. Breadlines in theory are quite different from breadlines you actually have to stand in, checking your watch and grumbling.

The president’s non-interference with Democrat overreach during the virus crisis will probably encourage many voters to ask themselves: what will happen if we get a President Biden, and he declares firearm deaths or climate change a ‘health crisis’ or ‘epidemic’? Will we see a similar flurry of decrees, seizures, business shutdowns, suspensions of rights, fines, and harassment?

Sometimes a little authoritarianism is good. It reminds us that we don’t want it permanently.