Across the country, government officials are tightening and reimposing curfews, stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, and other restrictions as COVID-19 numbers climb. But with public patience over lockdowns wearing thin, many individuals and local authorities openly reject rules that drive people to poverty and despair. County sheriffs in California, New York, North Dakota, Oregon and elsewhere say they’ll have nothing to do with enforcement efforts and spar with governors who resent such independence.
It’s the rebellious spirit of the earlier sanctuary city and Second Amendment sanctuary movements, amplified by the pressures of the pandemic into an eruption of what some legal scholars call “punitive federalism.” Get used to it, because our politically polarized era offers fresh soil for such dictates and defiance.
California’s revolt is especially widespread. “All told, over a third of Californians live in a county with a sheriff promising not to enforce the governor’s stay-at-home order,” Reason‘s Christian Britschgi pointed out this week. Ironically, when Gov. Gavin Newsom threatened to withhold funds from jurisdictions that ignore his dictates, Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco snapped back that the governor was behaving just like President Trump, who California’s elected officials have criticized for using money in an effort to extract compliance.