Thinking Citizen Blog — Governors versus Presidents Power Struggle

John Muresianu
3 min readJul 13, 2020


Thinking Citizen Blog — Sunday is Political Process, Campaign Strategy, and Candidate Selection Day

Today’s Topic: Governors versus Presidents — what should the division of powers be in this COVID-19 crisis?

Does this national emergency require national measures? Or do different conditions in different states warrant state-level measures? In March, Trump declared that he had “total authority” over the emergency. But since then he has deferred to governors. Was this the right decision? What Governor has done the best job? By what metric? Is it too early to say? Today, first an argument that governors have too much power. Then, a discussion of the 10th amendment and the concept of “police powers.” Third, a very negative assessment of Trump’s failure of leadership. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

“A WOLF IN EMERGENCY CLOTHING” — Allen Guelzo on Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf

1. “Three days after Mr. Trump’s emergency declaration, Mr. Wolf ordered the closure of all schools and public parks. Three days after that, he issued a complicated and draconian order that closed all “non-life-sustaining businesses” and threatened “enforcement actions” for those that stayed open. At the beginning of April, Mr. Wolf handed down yet more orders, mandating that residents stay home and wear masks while outside.”

2. “These orders caused Pennsylvania’s economic output to decline more than twice as much as it did during the 2007–09 recession, and with more than twice the job losses.”

3. “Many of Gov. Wolf’s actions have seemed arbitrary and capricious. He didn’t hesitate to issue 6,124 “exemptions” to selected firms in Pennsylvania, from Alexander’s Well Drilling in Adams County to the White Horse Diner in York County. (One such waiver was for Mr. Wolf’s former business, a kitchen and bath supply company, but it was revoked when a story on the exemption appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer.)”


1. The 10th amendment to the US Constitution reads: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

2. The most important powers traditionally relegated to the states are the so-called “police powers” — the “health, safety, and welfare” powers.

3. Is this federalist tradition an obstacle in obstacle to solving the Covid-19 crisis?


1. “Rarely has the president claimed more power while doing less with it.” (See last link below)

2. “The lack of preparedness and organization in Washington prompted governors to fend for themselves.”

3. “Only the federal government can use its convening authority and the Defense Production Act to set priorities and make a market for needed resources — and at a scale and a speed that a crisis demands. As Texas law professor Chesney explained, the federal government can compel industries to act in ways no state can do.”

NB: “The four wheels of a car need to spin in the same direction at the same time.” (Janet Napolitano, former Governor of Arizona).

Trump or governors: Who’s the boss?

As Washington stumbled, governors stepped to the forefront


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John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.