Dealing with realities II
In our last issue, we discussed the new realities that face the country, the state and the city as we move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Connecticut is part of the tri-state area that saw most of the cases along in the East and it seems we are now in a downward turn. Connecticut is seeing fewer new cases of the virus, and though nothing to celebrate, the bulk of deaths here, and throughout the region, seem to be those with serious underlying conditions.
We talked in the last issue about dealing with new cases that may come about once the state begins to open; the need to probe why experts’ models were so off base, something they willingly admit; and the need to help those who may have trouble recovering from the financial burdens the shutdown created. But the realities we must face go beyond that and are not necessarily negative.
The nation has received a very good lesson in our republican form of government – that’s “republican” with a lower case “r.” In our Constitution we have separation of powers, and powers given to the sovereign states. Over the last 120 years, those limits, and state powers, have been blurred due to the rise of the administrative state. An alphabet soup of agencies, departments and subsets of those have become governments unto themselves, hurting not only separation of powers, but the sovereignty of states.
In this pandemic, President Donald Trump’s administration has, to its credit, not arrogated to itself more power, but kept the proper delineation between the federal and state governments. The federal government has been the provider of goods, resources and materials, but it has left the distribution and details to the states.
This is something that has been commented on by various think tanks and commentators. The President did make an unfortunate declaration of having absolute power in an emergency, but that was followed up by admitting the governors would make the call, not he or his administration. As with much Trumpian, one must watch what he does and dismiss some of what he says. Something his detractors should take to heart.
Another reality is the converse of the civics lesson mentioned above. Governors, and, in many case, mayors have claimed too much authority to the point of becoming authoritarians. One need only look at Michigan to see it as well as Arizona. Meanwhile, state legislatures, including our own in Connecticut, have abdicated their responsibilities and allowed the executive to micro-manage. It will be interesting to see if the General Assembly will attempt to wrest back its privileges, or allow an expansive executive branch. The Assembly represents the people, a component of society that seems forgotten in some of the decision-making.
Finally, one new reality that is certainly a good thing is the rediscovery of the nuclear family. Over the last two decades or so, parents have abdicated their responsibilities to sports, clubs, schools and other activities, with the long-revered family dinner becoming a thing of fond memory.
This hiatus has allowed families to reconnect. In some cases not only have nuclear families reconnected but that has expanded to the extended family. Parents who once thought themselves too busy to interact with children, or were stretched by professional obligations that inhibited that interaction are seeing the benefits of quality time. That does not mean that things will go back to an era long gone, but it will undo some of the damage, we hope, that modern life has inflicted on families. A recalibration of a balance between making a living and family would not be unwelcomed.