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Phase II: The Empire Strikes Back: As I write Friday morning, Governor Brown continues to review Deschutes County’s application to enter Phase II of Brown’s reopening framework, which would allow the opening of pools, bowling alleys, other recreational activities and increase the size of permitted gatherings. She has already approved 25 counties for Phase II. Apparently, the hangup with the Deschutes application is that in the week of May 25-31, of the nine new Covid cases in the county, more than 30% were not traced to a known contact. The county has provided additional information to the state apparently showing that some of the cases had a history of recent travel and thus were not indicative of untraced community spread. The county expects to hear back from the Governor today, hopefully with a green light to enter Phase II.
Protesters have “Changed the Science Behind” the Lockdown: After a Baker County Circuit Court judge sided with churches threw out Governor Brown’s stay home orders recently, she responded by saying, “The science behind these executive orders hasn’t changed one bit. Ongoing physical distancing, staying home as much as possible, and wearing face coverings will save lives across Oregon.” This is a true statement. A judge’s order cannot change science.
The judge’s order didn’t change the science, and neither did protests against the stay home order last month, but protests against the killing of George Floyd, an African American, by a white police officer in Minneapolis, were apparently the scientific breakthrough the world has been waiting for. Here’s what Brown said about those protests:
“On Friday thousands of people gathered at several peaceful protests across the city. This was a cry for action. A call for reform. A community in mourning . . . To everyone who is hurting right now, I want to say I see you. I hear you. I stand with you. And I add my voice to yours.”
A gathering of thousands of people is a direct violation of the Governor’s order, but she’s not worried about that, or the deaths that she insists will result if her orders are violated for any purpose other than this particular type of protest, and in fact she’s ready to stand with them in violating her own order. Hopefully someone is getting plasma from the protesters so the rest of the population can be similarly inoculated from the virus.
The killing of George Floyd sure looks, based on the video, like an outrageous murder. There is no question that people have the right to peacefully protest such an act, and to be honest with you, I’m glad they did. But here’s the rub, people also have a right to exercise their religion, go to work, associate freely with friends and family, and protest against the Governor’s orders. The rights of Oregonians have been abridged in all kinds of ways in order to minimize deaths from Covid.
The Governor’s response to Oregonians exercising their rights, or seeking to exercise their rights, sure seems to depend on whether she agrees with what they’re doing or saying. That’s a big problem in a number of ways. First, legally, she may find it even more difficult to enforce her orders against Oregonians attending church or gathering with friends, or opening businesses because she has explicitly embraced the violation of her orders by the protesters. Second, Oregonians have been told for months to “Stay home, save lives,” and are now wondering whether that was true to begin with or whether lives are expendable if the reason for leaving home is something endorsed by the Governor.
The Governor is right now painstakingly parsing the cause of as few as three Covid cases in Deschutes County in order to determine whether residents may lawfully play pickleball, while embracing without question the serial gathering of thousands of protesters in close proximity. The Governor has eviscerated her case for the ongoing lockdown, and I suspect Oregonians will increasingly ignore her orders, just like she has.
Colin the Chicken: A state that is ruled by one party for a long time will inevitably develop intra-(that is, within) party disputes. Politicians basically compete for attention, and if there are no meaningful rivals in the other party, they find ’em in their own.
Which brings us to the spat between Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, over Wheeler’s request for Oregon National Guard troops to help maintain order in his city during rioting. It seems undisputed that Wheeler asked Brown to send in the Guard, but he didn’t like how she characterized it. Here’s Wheeler, per OPB:
“The idea that I would ask the governor for the National Guard for the purpose of direct confrontation with demonstrators on the very same day that Donald Trump is saying that the military should be deployed into states to crush even peaceful demonstrations, that is potentially incendiary.”
Wheeler’s beef is not that Brown disclosed the request, but that she disclosed the request on “the very same day” Trump urged deploying the military.
And herein we find an interesting pattern. I’ve written before that Brown didn’t show much interest in reopening Oregon’s economy until right after Trump said that he, not the governors, had the authority to open the economy.
Oregon’s (very) Democratic leaders sure seem to arrive at a lot of their policy and communications strategy on the basis of doing or saying the opposite of what Donald Trump does or says, which in a really weird way gives Trump more control – consciously or not – over what happens out here than he otherwise would. For example, I think it’s at least plausible that Trump said he was going to reopen the states to trigger a pavlovian response in reluctant Democrat governors to take the initiative.
I understand that Trump is about as popular in Portland as a chicken with inadequate pedigree, but not all political questions need to rotate around Trump. Republicans do this too on the other side, of course. We all have to get used to the idea that Trump will either be out of office or a lame duck in January 2021 and evaluate policies more or less on their merits.
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Have a great weekend!