On April 13 Rolling Stone published an article by Professor David Cohen titled “No, President Trump, You Can’t ‘Reopen America.’”
As much of the country follows stay-at-home orders issued by mayors and governors in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that the power to “reopen America” rests with him, going as far as calling his authority “total” during a White House news briefing.
“Trump’s understanding of the Constitution and the relationship between the federal government and the states is nothing short of a complete rewriting of the basic structure of this country,” Cohen argued, after describing fundamental principles of the United States’ constitutional democracy.
While the president can tell federal employees to return to work, he is limited in other ways. “[W]hat he can’t do is issue a binding order to America’s governors that overrules their independent judgment about what is best for their states,” Cohen wrote.
Ultimately, Cohen continued, U.S. citizens will determine when the country reopens. “If we continue to be scared of this virus and the possibility of follow-up waves of infections when restrictions are lifted, then we are the ones who will keep the country shut down and the economy closed, no matter what any politician — governor or president — says.”
The co-author of Obstacle Course: The Everyday Struggle to Get an Abortion in America, published in February by the University of California Press, Cohen is an expert on the Constitution and gender and the law.