By Andrew J. Manuse
Science and experience has demonstrated that governments worldwide overreacted to the COVID-19 threat and perpetuated misleading information to manipulate the public and consolidate power. Despite these revelations, Gov. Chris Sununu is poised to extend his no longer “State of Emergency” order yet again next week so he may continue acting as the state’s new supreme autocrat.
In His Excellency’s mercy, Sununu has now allowed you to have a workout class with others and stay-six-feet apart, but you can’t use the rowing machine by yourself that was already six-feet apart from everything else before COVID hit. You can eat outdoors under a tent if the restaurant owner is lucky enough to have the space, but you can’t eat indoors in a large banquet hall with the same distance between tables. Your hair stylist can see three clients back-to-back for one hour each, but Gov-forbid you have one appointment that lasts three hours. And these are just some of the arbitrary dictates.
Ultimately, Gov. Sununu is personally responsible for flattening the New Hampshire economy, and more people are going to directly suffer because of it. As of last count in April, unemployment was at 16.3 percent and rising. He has destroyed businesses, relationships, and livelihoods by changing the narrative and keeping us all at home months after his original objective was met. Hospitals have been at less than 10 percent capacity this entire time. We had the supplies. We had the staff. We were ready to handle the outbreak that never came. And now, hospitals have had to furlough workers, leaving public health in peril.
At the same time, His Excellency and the bureaucrats who oversee licensed residential care facilities have grossly mismanaged our most vulnerable population, doing little to protect the elderly. Three-quarters of the deaths from this virus have occurred in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. These are our moms and dads, our grandparents, our aunts and uncles and our friends. Because of Gov. Sununu’s tremendous incompetence, we failed them.
The problem is this: We have entrusted the whole of government in the hands of one ineffective, incompetent man and his appointed team of attendants. In the height of our fear, we were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt to manage what appeared to be a real emergency. Now, in a time where the facts have contradicted all of the original fears, there is verifiably no health emergency and the only people perpetuating the fear narrative are those who personally benefit from it. This form of government can only be described as one approaching a dictatorship.
The hard truth for authoritarians like Sununu is that they have no legitimate power outside that which has been granted to them by the People. The authority of the government exists because of the consent of the governed. And this consent is enshrined in our state constitution—a constitution designed to protect the minority that cannot be suspended or abrogated, no matter the circumstances.
But beyond this compact, a just government requires, among other things, rule of law and recourse for the People. If the government has no bounds beyond that which pleases the leader, and the People have no recourse against his arbitrary dictates, the People will soon come to realize that the government has become unjust and the rule of law no longer applies.
How much oppression are the People willing to put up with? For those businesses who defy orders, Sununu might ask officials to take licenses away. But if the businesses are already going against unlawful orders, why would they not continue to operate without a license? What’s next, fine them? Will business owners even show up in court when the edicts have no constitutional basis? And what happens if they don’t show up in court? Does the governor send men with guns to imprison them?
We have already seen people reopen their businesses and do with them what they choose, and customers who are willing to patronize them. We’ve seen churches reopen with more than 10 people. At some point, I hope police officers tasked with enforcing His Excellency’s orders will also recognize the excess of those actions, honor their oath of office, and tell the governor to enforce his own edicts. With these acts of defiance, the People show the governor that he lacks authority to do what he’s doing.
The governor has two choices right now, and only one of them leads us back to the liberty we once celebrated on July 4 every year: 1) Allow the emergency orders and the State of Emergency to expire, apologize for his overstep, and let everyone slowly get back to normal, or 2) Continue down the road of injustice and face the necessary consequences of that path. There is no in-between.
Andrew J. Manuse is chairman of ReOpenNH.com, an organization devoted to getting New Hampshire back to work via a petition drive and coordinated demonstrations against arbitrary government power.