On the 27th of December, President Biden addressed the 50 Governors of the United States and said, in no uncertain terms: “there is no federal solution [the pandemic] gets solved at a state level”. Supporters of the President were shocked at his matter-of-fact statement. Having been promised a total shutdown of the virus by the executive branch, many were dismayed to hear what they interpreted as an admission of defeat and a proverbial waving of the white flag.
In some moments of national crisis, the federal government comes to realize that it cannot unilaterally fix an issue and cedes primary authority to state and local governments. To this point, the COVID-19 pandemic has spanned several years and multiple presidencies. Multiple vaccines have been produced to combat the rising death tolls, yet variants of the virus have presented new issues. In several instances, there has been an undoubtedly reasonable case for the mobilization of federal resources. This sort of mobilization is far from unprecedented. Organized industrialization during World War II provided arms and machinery for American troops and lifted the United States from economic depression. Simply put, federal efforts in times of crisis are not inherently heinous or destructive, just as they are not inherently noble or successful. It was only appropriate for the government, which viewed the virus as an enemy and the pandemic as a war, to mobilize early in the pandemic; the guns and missiles becoming masks and vaccines, and the tanks and ships becoming ventilators and ICU beds.
As the pandemic has worn on, many have come to learn, some quicker than others, that the novel coronavirus and its variants are often so spreadable that mitigation, not prevention, is the only viable goal. The role of the federal government has become less clear. Many see the development and rollout of the vaccines as marking the end of legitimate federal involvement.
In a country so vast and so diverse, a uniform solution from Washington D.C. is rarely popular or effective. Decentralization is frequently controversial, but it centers on a basic truth: states and localities are far better equipped to address the needs of their populace than the federal government. It is a simple reality that the spread of the virus and its lethality are dependent on various demographic factors, from age to health conditions. Some communities are younger and healthier, some are older and consequently more vulnerable. It is an absurd contention that a uniform solution would be appropriate for every community in a country of 330 million people.
The President’s declaration also comes amidst conversations over the possibility of the Supreme Court overturning the infamous precedent in Roe v. Wade. Conservative circles with visions of a pro-life America have discussed the implications of ending federal protections for abortion, and have begun preparing for the inevitable battles in state legislatures and courts. There is little doubt that a delegation of abortion status to the states will result in equally extreme, though not morally comparable, legislation on both ends of the spectrums, with complete bans on the practice in Republican-dominated states and guarantees of full accessibility in ones controlled by Democrats. There are obvious parallels between this discussion of abortion policy and that surrounding COVID-19. This is of no great shock, as the pandemic has become a new cultural lightning rod of comparable divisiveness to abortion. Consequently, the responses of some states and cities to the enduring pandemic are analogous in that they are diametrically different, not to mention uncoincidentally along partisan grounds.
Despite the inconveniences sure to be faced in the months to come for the millions of Americans in cities like Chicago and New York, it should be clear to all conservatives that a battle to reopen states and cities is preferable to one on the federal level.
Conservative Americans should take care to hold the President to account for his words, to continue to fight federal overreach. Challenges to the proposed Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) vaccine mandate for American workers should only get stronger. The President’s words can serve as the next step in a conservative-led recovery from a pandemic that has been destructive for the lives and liberties of so many Americans.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.