Is The Federalist Just Straight Up Trying To Kill People?

Journalism

The American Right loves the idea of people dying for their freedoms. They like to talk about soldiers dying for "our freedoms" even though our country has not fought a war in which "our freedoms" were even sort of on the table since maybe World War II. Korea? Not so much. Vietnam? Well, we kinda lost that one, and guess what? Still have all of our "freedoms." The Gulf War, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq — none of those wars had anything at all to do with our "freedoms." But people still like to talk about soldiers dying for them, since a) That makes it more enticing for them to enlist in the first place and b) It makes our "freedoms" seem even more special. Who even wants freedoms no one has to die for?

Now many of those on the Right have come up with a fun new way for people to die for their freedoms — contracting COVID-19 by behaving recklessly. For freedom.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, The Federalist — the conservative op-ed site run by Meghan McCain's husband, Ben Domenech — has been primarily concerned with two things: referring to the virus in extremely racist ways while insisting they are not racist for doing so, and getting people and the government at large to stop taking it seriously. Of course, Meghan McCain and Ben Domenech are currently self-isolating, but they don't quite fit the class profile of those who are supposed to "die" for freedoms, do they?


On Monday morning, The Federalist published an op-ed titled Americans Need To Start Pushing Back Against Draconian Lockdowns, in which attorney Molly McCann argues that experts may be experts in coronavirus but not on our freedoms.

The incessant bleating of prominent health leaders over the lack of federal control in this crisis only underscores how little they understand or respect this country's Constitution and the freedoms it seeks to protect. Although the White House certainly has emergency authority to mandate all number of efforts to respond to crisis, and obviously can pressure local leaders, the coronavirus has highlighted the structural nature of the Constitution and that one of the saving graces in the insanity we are living through is that lockdowns are local.

Just goes to show you how one person's "totally reasonable suggestions and warnings from experts on how to best deal with a pandemic" is another person's "incessant bleating." McCann, like the majority of columnists at The Federalist, literally does not care if people die or if their reckless behavior results in them infecting and killing someone else.

Now, McCann makes clear that she really loves states rights and does not want the federal government to do anything that might make people safer. She likes that local governments, in some cases, are not doing things with uniformity, allowing governors like Ron DeSantis of Florida to "buck trends" and take forever to get shit locked down. As someone who just left Florida, I can tell you that I do not really see this ending well.

(Some governors are also overruling localities' lockdowns. Isn't that fun?)

She then makes an incredibly convoluted argument about how states rights are good and all but Donald Trump should use his federal authority to reopen the economy on May 1 because local governments aren't letting Mike Huckabee hang out on his private beach.

This week we have seen multiple lawsuits crop up across the nation as citizens balk at draconian enforcement measures. In North Carolina a group of homeowners have filed suit against local leaders who are blocking their access to their vacation homes on the Outer Banks. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee is one of several homeowners in Florida suing because local authorities have told Huckabee and his neighbors they cannot use their own private beaches at their oceanfront properties. [...]

Although the president doesn't implement the lockdowns, he has tremendous leverage to encourage or discourage them. The president is under tremendous pressure to keep the country closed and needs (and wants!) to hear that freedom-conscious Americans support his best instincts. Worried Americans should be supporting the president and governors to reopen the economy on May 1.

We might be able to reopen the economy in some ways, in some places on May 1, depending on how much we are able to test people for the virus and for antibodies/immunity by then. We might not. In the meantime, people really just need to stay the fuck home, because it's not just about them. It's also about other people. Granted, the idea of doing things to make sure other people don't die is not as romantic to Federalist types as people dying for their freedoms, but it's equally noble and far more realistic.

To recap: States rights and local rights until Donald Trump doesn't wanna.

This is, actually, far from the most ridiculous coronavirus-era op-ed published in The Federalist. Last week, they published a column by former California assemblyman Chuck DeVore that was actually titled Freedom Means Letting Americans Make Their Own Risk Calculations About Coronavirus. DeVore argued that people ought to be able to make whatever choices they want for themselves, even if they were bad choices, because liberty.

Imagine for a moment that the nation were ruled by dictatorship of doctors. Private ownership of guns would be curtailed. All tobacco products would be outlawed. Sugary drinks would be heavily taxed. Taxes on alcohol would go even higher. Football, boxing and other dangerous sports would be banned. [...]

Americans should chaff at such intrusions. It's why we struggle over questions like involuntary commitment for the mentally ill on the streets, gun control, and risky activities. Now we chaff at being told when we can return to work or go to a restaurant.

There is a difference between making bad choices that only affect oneself and making bad choices that affect others around you, against their will or without their knowledge. When people drink "sugary drinks" they are only affecting themselves. When people play dangerous sports, they know what they are getting into and they are, again, only hurting themselves (although probably some regulations to prevent brain damage might be good). Even with "tobacco use," when smoking in bars was allowed, one could make the decision to go in or not go in, knowing that people in there were smoking. There is a world of difference between that and contracting a virus from an asymptomatic carrier behaving recklessly in the grocery store you just walked into. That, like guns, falls into the category of "hurting people who did not sign up for that."

In the month of April alone, columnists at The Federalist have pondered why grocery stores can stay open but churches can't (maybe because people need to be able to get food so they don't die?), argued that "experts" aren't more likely to be right about things than anyone else, and proclaimed that it was good and right that Captain Crozier was relieved of his command, on account of how it is his job to die for our freedoms. No, really:

Each and every sailor on that ship initialed the line in his papers that said he is willing to endure injury and possibly death from the requirements of his service. This cheering indicates a lack of that willingness to sacrifice for mission accomplishment and musters the question that if these sailors aren't willing to fulfill this duty in the face of an invisible enemy, what makes anyone think they will do so in the face of a combatant one? [...]

Part of service is sacrifice. If you are unwilling to make sacrifices, including utilitarian ones, then you are unfit to serve, and certainly unfit to lead. Simple as that.

Are we living in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery? Or The Wicker Man? Because it's starting to feel that way. It's almost as if they think their "freedoms" require human sacrifice. That some people have to die so that they can be free ... to hang out on their private beaches.

Ben Domenech, by the way, is currently practicing self-isolation with his pregnant wife, Meghan McCain. He's not out there trying to catch COVID-19 and putting himself, his wife or their unborn child at risk for "freedoms." He's staying indoors. Comfortably. While publishing article after article pushing others to defy the rules and put themselves at risk, because "freedom."

And yeah, he should practice self-isolation. Because it's a virus and it's contagious and people can spread it to others without even knowing they have it. It is the responsible thing to do, not just for him and his pregnant wife, but for everyone. It would be nice if he could push his readers to do that as well.

[The Federalist]

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse

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