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Douglas Andrews / Jun. 23, 2020

Coronavirus Leadership Lessons

It's no surprise that states still mired in lockdown are faring worse economically.

From the “Told Ya So” files comes economic news that we all knew was coming: The lockdown states are stuck in the mud, while the free states are getting on with their lives.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, “The national jobless rate was 13.3% in May, but 10 states still have unemployment rates above 15%. From highest down, they are: Nevada (25.3%), Hawaii (22.6%), Michigan (21.2%), California, Rhode Island and Massachusetts (16.3%), Delaware (15.8%), Illinois and New Jersey (15.2%), and Washington state (15.1%).”

Looking at these 10 struggling states, one wonders whether any lessons can be drawn from their leadership … or the lack thereof. Perhaps there’s a pattern here somewhere, perhaps related to — why, yes! — the political party of their governors. Indeed, all but one of these states, deep-blue Massachusetts, is run by a lockdown Democrat.

Conversely, the states that reopened more quickly are also recovering more quickly and are thus reducing the economic hardships on their people. Perhaps even more damning, as the Journal notes, “It isn’t clear that those shutdowns reduced the rates of infection and fatalities from the coronavirus compared to other states even as they continue to do more economic harm.”

What was it President Donald Trump asserted back on March 22 — something about not letting “THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF”?

To be fair, this was uncharted territory. Never in our nation’s history had the temptation of statist heavy-handedness been greater for leaders at all levels. But our federalist system worked, and the states and citizens whose governors erred on the side of Liberty appear to have benefited from it — and resoundingly so in some cases. Deep-red Nebraska, whose Republican governor, Pete Ricketts, never caved to the pressure of a long-term lockdown, now leads the nation with a 5.2% unemployment rate.

“Today’s announcement that Nebraska now has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation is good news for small businesses and hardworking families,” said Ricketts last Friday. “This data shows that Nebraska is open for business and that people are getting back to a more normal life while protecting our hospital system.”

Of course, we’re not out of the woods yet. As the Washington Examiner reports, “Cases and hospitalizations have spiked in recent weeks, primarily in Southern and Western states. California, Texas, and Florida have each reported over 22,000 new cases of the coronavirus since June 15. … Arizona, which has seen the sharpest increase in new cases since the start of June, reported another record day for COVID-19 hospitalizations Monday. South Carolina has also emerged as a new hot spot for the coronavirus.”

Speaking of that spike in the Palmetto State, Power Line reports that local Black Lives Matter protest organizers are postponing future demonstrations or moving them online due to increased fears of coronavirus infection. So there’s that.

Ultimately, though, our nation’s battle with COVID-19 will leave behind a case study in leadership approaches: one Democrat and the other Republican, one statist and the other Liberty-based. As the Journal rightly concludes, “The most important decision is letting people return to the business of life and commerce.”

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