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Trump’s Federalist Approach To The Virus Is Working

Donald Trump, Mike Pence and the Coronavirus Task Force speak to the press in February. Official White House Photo/D. Myles Cullen.

By empowering and assisting states and businesses the Trump Administration has led a robust effort to combat the coronavirus.


As has often been the case during his presidency, Donald Trump is facing two distinct challenges at once, leading the country through the crisis of the Chinese virus and battling a news media that refuses to accurately report on that response. The prevailing wisdom in newsrooms is that the administration has sat on its hands while Trump himself downplayed the threat. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Last week, The Federalist laid out the myriad actions taken by the administration in January and February, actions largely ignored by the press. Now White House and other agency documents show just how aggressive and federalist in nature the response has been. At every turn the White House has worked to empower states, localities, and business to fight the deadly virus in concert.

During the month of March as the coronavirus began its deadly spread through the United States, the administration took strong action to provide both states and businesses with the guidance and tools needed to fight the pandemic. These moves garnered little attention in the media, which is no surprise but put together, they show a robust response that the American people deserve to know about.

On March 16, just as the nationwide shutdown was beginning the Food and Drug administration moved to remove regulatory hurdles in order to expedite Covid testing across the country, it also allowed states to pursue their own testing more freely. The next day the Small Business Administration relaxed the criteria for small businesses to receive disaster assistance.

On March 22, the White House Coronavirus Task Force announced that the federal government would cover the cost of National Guard deployment in the states while allowing governors control over the units. On March 27, a partnership with Panera Bread and the Children’s Hunger Alliance was struck to provide meals for children across Ohio, with an eye towards expansion to other States. The administration also struck deals to waive co-pays for coronavirus treatment.

In early April after Trump invoked the Defense Production Act, the Department of Health and Human Services moved to allow licensed pharmacists to conduct coronavirus tests, vastly expanding availability of testing. The same day it reached a deal with DuPont to secure the delivery of 2.25 million protective suits to healthcare workers.

The above is but a partial list of actions taken by the executive branch of the federal government to combat the coronavirus crisis. Most of it went drastically underreported as the news media, as it always does, chose to focus on Trump’s unorthodox rhetorical tone, and not the actual work being done at the White House.

Trump’s many critics have seemed confused over the past two months over whether they would prefer him to take national control over the fight against the virus or to take a federalist approach in which he empowers the states. Trump decided on the latter, and suddenly the media that regularly accuses him of being an authoritarian fascist was alarmed that he wasn’t exerting more personal control. The rule seems to be that whatever Trump decides is the wrong decision.

There is an old saying that a lie can circle the globe before the truth gets its pants on. That was originally quipped before the rise of partisan cable news and social media. But the truth is the truth, and armed with it the American people can see through the lies of the media and understand that an aggressive and broad response to the virus has been coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue since early January, even before China reported its first coronavirus death.

As both Republican and Democratic governors across the nation have begun reopening their economies the president has taken a cautious approach, urging them to wait until the White House guidelines are met, which they have not been yet, but also allowing for the fact that governors need the flexibility to do what is right for their individual states.

There is a reason that California Gov. Gavin Newsom and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have offered such high praise of Trump even as the media lies about his efforts. It’s because the White House understands federalism, it understands that the country works best when it adheres to the principles of the founding and assists, rather than compels state action. Throughout this crisis that is exactly what President Trump has done.