Days after the 2008 election, Rahm Emanuel famously issued what’s known today as Rahm’s rule.
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” said Emanuel, then chief of staff to President-elect Barack Obama. “And what I mean by that is it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”
Emanuel argued the 2008 financial crisis afforded the Obama administration a window to promptly address problems that had previously been deferred indefinitely pending the long-term ripening of political consensus.
Fourteen years later, Emanuel’s now-famous phrase on crises has become standard practice in Washington, D.C., as officials in power regularly use what they deem “emergencies”— from viral pandemics to purported threats to democracy — to push controversial measures and restrictions on civil liberties that otherwise might fail due to pushback.
This trend was recently highlighted by President Biden declaring the COVID-19 pandemic over while still maintaining the national emergency declaration on the pandemic as his administration used COVID-19 to justify major executive action.
“The pandemic is over,” Biden recently told CBS’ “60 Minutes” in an interview. “We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over. If you notice, no one’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape.”
However, the Biden administration has yet to lift the public health emergency that was first declared in 2020 for COVID-19. That declaration has allowed the White House to use the National Emergencies Act to activate special executive powers, such as restricting hours of operations at U.S. ports of entry.