In a spiteful and vindictive move, California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered all beaches and parks in Orange County closed last week. The move, which was originally feared to apply to all beaches and parks in the state and was portrayed as such by the California Police Chiefs Association, was allegedly made in response to photos circulating of a crowd at Newport Beach in Orange County. With California seeing its first heat wave of the year last week, an estimated 90,000 people flocked to the beach, with many apparently not practicing social distancing.
The move appears vindictive for a number of reasons. For one thing, Orange County has long held a reputation for being one of the more conservative areas of Southern California. Thus shutting down beaches there could be seen as a move against Republican voters.
Secondly, the reason so many people were able to make it to the beach was because so many people are out of work right now. All the governor has to do to keep people off the beach is to let them get back to work. But he can’t do that, because he’s enjoying the exercise of his dictatorial powers too much.
Finally, the federal government allowed its social distancing guidelines to expire last Thursday. And let’s be clear: those were guidelines, not rules. Keeping six feet away from others was a mere suggestion, yet many states, companies, and individuals seemed to take it as gospel truth. Now that there are no more federal guidelines, there’s really no need to enforce them. People are generally good judges of what risks they can and cannot take. And if they want to go to the beach, let them, and let them suffer any consequences that may follow.
That rankles petty tyrants, however, and now that they’ve tasted a bit of absolute power, it will be hard for citizens and legislatures to rein them in. But that’s just what’s going to have to happen, lest we find ourselves slouching towards a totalitarian police state.