To Be Conservative in a Pandemic

It was a post I saw on social media. It went something like this: Conservatives favor states’ rights–until now.

The commentator pointed out what seemed to be an inconsistency between the view that decisions made about reopening America’s economy should happen on a smaller scale rather than a larger one.

A states’ rights argument would make the case for allowing decisions about opening up our economy at the state level, rather than from Washington.

In the meantime, residents, usually conservative, of numerous states protest stay-at-home mandates these governors have maintained, even as some states like Washington and California (also governed by Democrats) begin to open up. .

This conflict touches upon the disputes that are flashpoints across our country and go beyond shutting down tiny communities with minuscule coronavirus rates.

The conflict is already there. The coronavirus is highlighting, without, we hope, regard to party loyalty, the inability (or refusal) to consider that governing a diverse population may require a conciliatory or at least diversified approach.

The term “states’ rights” came about during a time when America was largely rural. We think immediately of the issue of slavery and its inherent injustice. Ironically, the states looking to claim their rights found an injustice in having Washington tell them what to do.

Now our disputes are largely about education, gun rights, abortion, and social engineering.

Russell Kirk points to local governance as a pillar of conservativism: “[C]onservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism. Although Americans have been attached strongly to privacy and private rights, they also have been a people conspicuous for a successful spirit of community. In a genuine community, the decisions most directly affecting the lives of citizens are made locally and voluntarily.” 

And more from Kirk: “[T]he conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions. Politically speaking, power is the ability to do as one likes, regardless of the wills of one’s fellows. A state in which an individual or a small group are able to dominate the wills of their fellows without check is a despotism, whether it is called monarchical or aristocratic or democratic.”

That is the basis for the conservative call to make decisions at a local level. Perhaps “states’ rights” is a misnomer for an even bigger idea.

With such division today between city and country mentalities and populations, local control would seem to be the solution to many ills.

It is the unspoken concern that draws us to November. And beyond.

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18 Replies to “To Be Conservative in a Pandemic”

  1. Well said Ms. Nancy. Have been struggling for weeks to gain a better understanding between Romans 13:1, 1 Peter 2:13, and Acts 5:29. I’ve looked at the Greek, recognizing a difference between submit and obey. I’ve read commentaries and opinions. And while I will gladly accept worldly condemnation and punishment by choosing God and His ways, I’m seeking to better understand on this front. I’ve fought battles to defend this nation’s Constitution; I’m praying Christ’s return before I have to defend my Christian liberties.

  2. Thanks for always keeping us up to date on how such issues. It does seem like what happens in some areas, like New York, dictates how the whole country gets impacted even if way fewer cases.

  3. Since the last election cycle our nation has been divided. This pandemic has polarized us more, with many now attributing political bias to medical decisions based on scientific research. Wearing a mask is now seen as a political affiliation in some quarters. States have needed more freedom to make decisions, because what is happening in New York is definitely not happening in North Dakota. Can we come out of these years of pandemic as one nation under God, indivisible? That remains to be seen.

    1. I would say the division was sharp before the previous election cycle. It’s been ongoing for some time. Perhaps the idea that one makes a political statement in wearing/not wearing a mask depends on where you are. I haven’t seen that here, but we are only beginning to open up today. (Yay!)

      We didn’t stay united for long after 9/11. But this crisis has lasted much longer. We shall see. As ever, Melinda, thank you and God bless!

  4. Thank you for clarifying this point. We need to be mindful of our country at large, as well as the particular areas in which people live. In some areas, there is already wide social distance simply because it is less populated. May we be governed with wisdom and reason. Lord, help us!

  5. Something to reflect on for sure. In light of everything you pointed out in this debate, the state level does seem like a misnomer if the local level is in question as well. It makes sense that urban and rural areas are different and most states have both.

  6. I’m praying for our hearts to be awakened to the Lord and how we can live right by Him. Thanks for this, Nancy!

  7. It seems that our country moves more and more toward division. The divisive examples of our governing authorities are no help at all. It’s a constant cycle of selfishness. All the more reason we need to spread examples of godly unity in Christ.

  8. Thoughtful post and thoughtful comments.
    The dichotomy between states with large urban communities and states with rural (and therefore less populous) communities is the very reason for the Electoral College. Yet some are calling for its abolition because they don’t understand the balance it protects.

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