By KIM BELLARD

We are in strange days, and they
are only going to get stranger as COVID-19 works its way further through our
society.  It makes me think of Benjamin Franklin’s response when asked
what kind of nation the U.S. was going to be:  “A Republic, if you
can keep it.” 

SAUL LOEB / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

The versions of that response that COVID-19 have me wondering about are: “A federal system, if we can keep it,” and, more specifically, “a healthcare system, if we can keep it.”  I’ll talk about each of those in the context of the pandemic. In times of national emergencies — think 9/11, think World Wars — we usually look to the federal government to lead.  The COVID-19 pandemic has been declared a national emergency, but we’re still looking for strong federal leadership.  We have the Centers for Disease Control, infectious disease experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, and a White House coronavirus task force.  But real national leadership is lacking. 

Credit: Dayton Daily News/Marshall Gorby

States and cities are forming their own responses.  Schools are being closed.  Other types of businesses — e.g., malls, movie theaters, gyms, casinos — are being closed.  Bars and restaurants are only allowed to do carryout/delivery.   Curfews are being imposed.  Primaries are being delayed.  But none is being done on a national level, and, in many cases, not even on a state-wide basis.  As Gerald Seib said in The Wall Street Journal:

Put differently,
Americans have learned they can’t really count on Washington to deal with this
crisis for them. Local leaders, businesses, churches, sports leagues—all have
taken up the task, and done so more effectively than the political leadership
in Washington.

The House passed an emergency coronavirus bill last week, and now the Senate is  coming up with its own ideas.  When Congress finally passes what bill remains to be seen, after how

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