Two things are true: When you give politicians more power and fawning media attention, it almost always goes to their heads. And the impulse to impose authoritarian policies is never higher than in an emergency, like the coronavirus pandemic.
Take the Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, for instance. Amidst a flurry of softball national interviews and a campaign to be selected as Joe Biden’s running mate, the Detroit Free Press reported that she micromanaged her state’s commerce to the point that “purchases of Michigan Lottery tickets are still permitted, but buying a can of paint or a bag of seeds is off limits.”
Many Kentuckians wonder if the same thing is happening to Gov. Andy Beshear, who earned high marks for his early actions and “we are all in this together” tone. But over the last few weeks, Beshear, with a largely uncritical press looking (cheering him?) on, has made several decisions raising eyebrows, if not hackles.
Beshear crossed a line for many when he announced the state would record the license plates of people attending Easter church services. Since then, as big stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s swell with lines of patrons wrapped around their buildings, people wonder: Why can 500 people safely buy pruning shears, but 50 people cannot attend church?
Further antagonizing the state’s social conservatives, late Friday night Beshear vetoed Senate Bill 9, the bipartisan and overwhelmingly popular “born alive” infant protection bill that passed the House 70-16 and the Senate 30-2. Beshear shamefully kowtowed to his party’s extremist abortion masters who put their shoulder to the wheel during his narrowly successful 2019 campaign.
Hypocritically, after Beshear asked the state to pray for a 10-day-old baby stricken with the virus, he vetoed a bill that would save a 10-second-old baby from a failed abortion. Beshear called the bill “divisive,” a nasty habit used to deflect his most extreme positions.
Other citizens wonder if Beshear went overboard by banning out-of-state travel. During one court hearing in a citizen’s lawsuit, Beshear’s attorneys argued the governor could deploy the National Guard to Kentucky’s border to enforce his order. If you are worried about state troopers in your church parking lot, how do you feel about tanks on I-65, just south of Bowling Green?
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Beshear often denigrates Tennessee’s pandemic efforts as the reason for his travel ban, but Tennessee has tested two times as many people as Kentucky with a lower per capita death rate. Maybe the Volunteer State should have banned us first.
Finally, business leaders have expressed concerns about Beshear’s “Healthy at Work” initiative, which originally required individual businesses to submit plans to the state before being allowed to reopen. The Beshear Administration quietly watered down the order last week, but questions persist about how much control Beshear’s political appointees will wield.
Hastily built field hospitals sit empty. Regular hospitals, furloughing workers, report no coronavirus surge and thousands of open beds. And as surrounding states move to reopen, it is worth noting, as policy journalist Avik Roy said, “that the purpose of lockdowns is to prevent Italy-style overwhelming of U.S. hospital ICU capacity. We’ve done that. Time to stop annihilating the economy.”