Here's how Trump's plan to pass the buck for coronavirus onto governors blew up in his face
President Donald Trump speaking about coronavirus in the Rose Garden (screengrab)

On Saturday, writing for The Atlantic, Peter Nicholas and Kathy Gilsinan argued that by trying to pass off the responsibility for fighting the coronavirus pandemic onto state governors, President Donald Trump did something very big that he hadn't meant to do — return federal power to the states.

"Democrats have long feared that in a national crisis, President Donald Trump would seize the chance to stretch his powers and sweep aside constitutional restraints," they wrote. "Yet as the pandemic rages, Trump may be creating an unanticipated legacy: By ceding some control to the states, he’s allowing the nation’s governors to reacquire executive muscle that has withered in the age of the imperial presidency."

"Trump’s posture has forced governors to confront a worldwide crisis they wouldn’t have imagined would be theirs to solve," they wrote. "They’ve had to venture into a chaotic global marketplace to hunt for masks and ventilators. They’ve forged alliances to figure out the smartest ways to reopen their economy and curb the virus’s spread. And they’re building systems to help them cope with future pandemics."

"Save for a brief post-Watergate pause, presidents in the modern era have steadily amassed power within the executive branch," they wrote. "Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, Dwight Eisenhower’s federal highway system, Ronald Reagan’s push for education standards that would later morph into the Common Core — all of these chipped away at states’ authority. Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act extended the federal government’s reach by helping states fund the expansion of Medicaid programs. Amid the pandemic, Trump has sounded as if he’s prepared to push a president’s prerogatives even further, claiming at one point last month that his authority as president 'is total.'"

Instead, however, he has largely kept his hands off, leaving governors to do everything from impose lockdowns to procuring medical equipment — de-emphasizing federal power.

"For Trump, elevating the governors may have already backfired," they wrote. "He can try to blame them for things going sour. But he’s also invited comparisons that have left his public profile diminished. A new poll shows that 64 percent of Americans think their governor is doing a better job handling the pandemic than Trump. Another poll showed approval for DeWine’s coronavirus-crisis management at 85 percent, versus 50 percent for Trump."

You can read more here.