Progressivism Versus Popular Sovereignty

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Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall sent a letter Thursday to U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on behalf of himself and 15 other state attorneys general.

Marshall’s letter, which pertains to Biden administration policy on COVID-19, is important on its own merits, insofar as what it urges the new Congress to do. The letter also is more broadly significant insofar as the spotlight it helpfully shines on the insatiable desire of the American ruling class to govern via perpetual crisis.

The letter, which cleverly cites President Joe Biden’s own September 2022 admission that “the pandemic is over,” decries the Biden administration’s continued reliance on “emergency” powers to implement various policies related to COVID-19. It especially faults those pertaining to the “emergency-use authorizations” that enabled the government to develop, mass-produce, and mass-distribute the vaccines despite the fact that they still haven’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

“Things have changed,” the attorneys general argue in the letter to McCarthy, since “emergency authorization was granted two years ago to get the first vaccines distributed.” They continue:

In short, things have changed. The American people, in their characteristic spirit of resilience, have learned to live with COVID-19. Even President Biden noted that people generally are no longer wearing masks, and mandates to do so have disappeared from all but the most sensitive areas. Schools, shops, restaurants, and businesses are open. City streets are bustling. The idea that we are still in the midst of a medical emergency flies in the face of the facts on the ground. Yet, [the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] and FDA continue to perpetrate the myth that an emergency exists to aggrandize their power at the expense of people’s freedom.

The letter ultimately concludes:

We encourage the new Congress to move quickly to limit HHS’ and FDA’s ability to unilaterally declare an emergency and approve unproven drugs that could cause harm to Americans, override any remaining emergency use authorizations for COVID-19 vaccines, consider reforms to the sweeping liability shield created in 2005, and ensure that our liberties and system of government are robustly protected against any such future attempts at medical tyranny.

The attorneys general’s letter to the House speaker follows on the heels of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ similar successful petition to the Florida Supreme Court to empanel a grand jury to investigate COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers for potential wrongdoing and consumer fraud.

The 16 attorneys general are wise to amplify DeSantis’ recent move with an additional shot across the bow at the “unproven” mRNA vaccines, which are largely defective products that do not prevent viral transmission. (Notably, former President Donald Trump continues to be an enthusiastic advocate of the mRNA vaccines to fight the coronavirus.)

Even more important, these top state law enforcement officers are correct to call out the Biden administration’s unyielding desire to govern via continual crisis. This desire was evinced by the administration’s recent farcical decision to seek an appeal—nine months after Judge Kathryn Mizelle’s initial district court ruling—to restore the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s feckless, since-discarded mask mandate for public transportation.

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“This is not about an urgent matter of public health,” Brant C. Hardaway, the lawyer who represented the initial plaintiffs who successfully sued to overturn the mask mandate, said upon hearing last week’s news that the Biden administration would seek an appeal.

If this were an “emergency,” Hardaway reasonably observed, then Biden’s Justice Department would have acted with more urgency after Mizelle’s ruling in April, including seeking an emergency stay at that time (which, notably, it did not do).

Hardaway is correct that the Biden administration’s actions are not about an “urgent matter of public health”—or any other type of legitimate public “emergency,” for that matter.

Instead, the entire act, as I previously have noted, is emblematic of progressivism’s overarching ethos, best encapsulated by the infamous exhortation by former Obama White House chief of staff and former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

From the perspective of the American ruling class and the progressive elites who comprise it, the only relevant incentive is to latch continually—indeed, perpetually—onto any “emergency” fig leaf in order to justify “enlightened” rule, typically imposed in top-down, antidemocratic fashion.

This broader societal dynamic, in which a sizable (often outright majority) right-leaning portion of the body politic faces constant roadblocks from an insular, progressive elite, is hardly unique to these United States. Just last week, I highlighted the intense judicial reform debate now roiling Israel’s politics—a shockingly similar situation overall, albeit with elites represented not by the biomedical security state but by an equally unaccountable judicial oligarchy.

Other global examples abound. But whether the means are “enlightened” juristocracy, cloistered bureaucracy. or some grotesque combination thereof, progressivism’s loathing of “We the People”-rooted popular sovereignty and zeal for rule via unaccountable diktat have helped define the terrain on which today’s civilizational struggles are fought.

Here, there, and everywhere, especially in today’s more populist times, it ought to be the goal of conservatives and nationalists to repoliticize as much as possible the law and policy that have been previously depoliticized via administrative or judicial fiat. The repoliticization and democratization of our most pressing societal debates, away from the hands of unaccountable elites, is a worthy counter to globalism’s top-down, homogenizing modus operandi, personified by jet-setting elites’ recent rendezvous in Davos.

Our 21st-century civilizational battles, in other words, are those waged between the popular sovereigntists and the globalist progressives who cling to every would-be “crisis” or “emergency” in a desperate attempt to attain and weaponize ever-more power.

I happen to like the popular sovereigntists’ odds of ultimately prevailing. But for now, kudos to these 16 state attorneys general for admirably underscoring the battle lines.


The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation.

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The post Progressivism Versus Popular Sovereignty appeared first on The Daily Signal.

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