May 23, 2020
Pennsylvania is a diverse and complex state. From the vineyards of the Erie shoreline to the skyscrapers of Philadelphia, from the beauty of the Poconos to the three rivers of Pittsburgh, our Commonwealth has it all. Farms, factories, lakes, mountains, suburban shopping, bustling urban streets, culture, coal mines, heritage, and religious diversity. You can also find just about everything in between in the Keystone State, along with the communities, cultures, and traditions which have been built around them.
I've run three statewide political campaigns, and I consider myself fortunate to have traveled Penn's Woods extensively over the years. I truly appreciate the diversity and complexity of Pennsylvania, and my respect for the various shades of regional uniqueness are why I've championed a constitutional amendment to change how we elect our statewide appellate court judges to a more sensible geographic approach.
I'm not so sure Governor Tom Wolf appreciates our diversity and complexity. If he did, his plan (if you can actually call it a plan) for re-opening the state after his oppressive COVID-19 lockdown wouldn't be limited by only three of the crayons in his box. By using the three basic colors of a traffic light in the lifting of his ham-fisted lockdown, the Governor further cements his apparent ignorance of the difference between what is simple and what is not.
His "life-sustaining/non-life-sustaining" business classifications ignored the complexity of supply chains. His "waiver system" presumed a handful of Department of Community & Economic Development staffers could issue waivers in a rational and uniform manner. His policy on a topic as simple as masks requires citizens to hunt down information from three different websites, only to be left even more perplexed than when they began. And his refusal to heed a clear warning on nursing homes a week before he declared his disaster emergency has rendered such facilities in Pennsylvania into death traps for the most vulnerable.
Just as the Commonwealth has 67 distinctly different counties, crayons are available in 64-count boxes. Contemplating the difference between using 64 different crayons and playing around with just three requires not only thought, but an understanding of how subtle differences of shade applied in different places will color the final results.
Wolf could have easily had a 253-member blue ribbon panel of community experts to help him negotiate the exit strategy. But just as he ignored the General Assembly on the way into his lockdown, he's largely ignoring it on the way out as well.
Let me restate that: Governor Tom Wolf has shown nothing but disdain for Pennsylvania's legislative branch throughout these last couple months. I suppose it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to me, as it's merely an amplification of how he's regarded the People's representatives since he first took office in 2015, but it is disappointing nonetheless.
Despite his disdain, the only reason Wolf is now moving to re-open parts of Pennsylvania at all is to save face in light of aggressive legislative pressure and the dwindling popularity of his oppressive actions. He can no longer cite science as his metric, as there are plenty of examples of him abandoning it, and of his science being tainted and errant.
But here's the thing: if he weren't all gung-ho for treating Pennsylvanians like children, bossing them around, and not giving a flying leap about their constitutionally-guaranteed right to enjoy their lives, he wouldn't be focused on how to implement and enforce restrictions. If his political philosophy wouldn't revolve around shaping society by controlling others, his long practice of isolating himself from the real world and what happens within it wouldn't work against the potential for successful governance.
Micromanaging restrictive government mandates for 12.8 million people is a messy and complex task, especially when you seek to turn tradition on its head by treating healthy people as if they're dangerous and contagious. Honoring the very American concepts of Liberty and having faith in the people who elected you, on the other hand, is a much simpler proposition.
Pennsylvania doesn't need a "new normal" and we don't need a box of crayons (which is a good thing, since Governor Tom Wolf shut down the popular crayon factory in the state). No set of 67, 64, or especially three crayons would ever be useful in appropriately addressing the needs of the Commonwealth's immensely diverse and complex population and set of industries.
Instead, we really only need one color to serve all our needs. That color is the golden hue of a weathered parchment which has withstood the test of time – our Constitution – within which we've declared, and which forever guarantees, our God-given rights to enjoy our lives, pursue our happiness, to enter into contracts, to work to feed our families, to freely assemble, to worship, celebrate and petition our government, and to protect all other things sacred to us as free men and women.