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April 24, 2020

Opening Day in Georgia — Will Anyone Show Up?

Trump may have thrown Kemp under the bus, but the governor is correct.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced Monday that the Peach State would begin to reopen today. The Republican governor’s move followed last week’s issuance of White House guidelines for doing so. President Donald Trump gave Kemp a green light on reopening, praising him on Tuesday as a “very capable man” who “knows what he’s doing,” only to turn around on Wednesday and insist he “totally disagrees” with Kemp’s decision, which he claimed is “in violation of the Phase One guidelines.” The president further ripped the governor on Thursday, saying, “I am not happy about Brian Kemp.”

Gov. Kemp, meet the bus’s tire treads. So what happened?

First of all, this is Kemp’s decision, not Trump’s, and the president repeatedly acknowledged as much. We operate in a federalist system in which states, not the federal government, have the authority in these cases.

Kemp’s decision was made with the approval of Georgia’s health experts, as the Leftmedia insists it should be, and it’s also not nearly so free-for-all as reports imply. “The entities that I am reopening are not reopening for ‘business as usual,’” he noted Monday. “Today’s announcement is a small step forward and should be treated as such.” He has not deviated from that all week, issuing fairly strict guidelines that businesses must follow if they are to reopen. Hair salons and tattoo parlors might generate a lot of unfavorable and hysterical headlines, but when it comes right down to it, Kemp’s guidelines provide serious benchmarks that will be tough to meet.

Second, for Trump, his disagreement was perhaps a wink-and-nod political move. Kemp doesn’t have the “baggage” of Trump’s approval, while the president avoids responsibility if things go south in Georgia (or Tennessee, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Colorado, and other states that are moving in the same direction). He’s essentially saying, “The best we can offer is the federal guidelines, and it’s up to states to follow them.” Trump just has, well, his own way of saying things. In fact, he says all the things, apparently hoping to be able to later point back to having said one of the right things. It certainly keeps his opponents guessing, but it’s beyond obnoxious because it keeps his allies guessing too, and it leaves conservatives scrambling to justify whatever dumb thing Trump just said when the Leftmedia inevitably overreacts to it. We’d like to get off that ride now.

Third, reopening will increase the number of cases and deaths, which the Leftmedia will trumpet every hour of every day — especially when hanging those deaths around the necks of Republicans.

Kemp accounted for that. “When we have more people moving around, we’re probably going to see our cases continue to go up,” he conceded. “But we’re a lot better prepared for that now than we were over a month ago.” (That was, after all, the original goal of shutting down everything.) Moreover, he added, “I believe we’ll be able to stay on top of it. But … if we have an instance where a community starts becoming a hotspot, I will take further action.”

Every state will have to reopen eventually, and we need to be prepared as a society for the inevitable tradeoffs and consequences. At the same time, no one wants to be the first guinea pig, so both businesses and individuals will be slow to return to normal. Businesses may not open, and people may not leave their homes. Kemp’s guidances, for all the haranguing he’s endured, don’t throw anyone out of their homes or into barber shops against their will. Millions of Georgians are not going bowling tonight.

The governor has done well to emphasize the fact that the state aims to protect both people’s health and their liberty. His actions and announcements have conveyed hope and offered the opportunity to begin revitalizing our economy. We should all be cheering for the Peach State to succeed.

As a parting observation, Colorado Democrat Gov. Jared Polis is likewise working toward reopening his state, though somehow without the Leftmedia harassment. And he mentioned two words that are pretty key to this whole thing: “personal responsibility.”

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