Abbott’s Texas Covid Strategy Isn’t Just Post-Conservative – It’s Post-Coherent
About a week after testing positive for Covid-19 himself, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning the use of vaccination warrants in the public sector and for companies that contract with the ‘State.
The Republican’s directives were sweeping – overriding both local control and private sector rights. Under his command, any “public or private entity that receives or will receive public funds by any means, including grants, contracts, loans or other disbursements of taxpayer money” can only require customers to they present proof of vaccination. “No consumer can be refused access to an establishment financed in whole or in part by public funds for failure to provide documentation concerning the vaccination status of the consumer. “
Abbott’s order was also a revealing indication of how the GOP now defines “freedom.”
So much for limited government, property rights, or conservative principles. Abbott’s order was also a revealing indication of how the GOP now defines “freedom.”
“So let me clear things up” a New York Times observer wrote in a letter to the editor, before Abbott’s most recent order. “Gov. Greg Abbott’s version of Freedom unfolds like this. Take advantage of all the protections available to yourself, including those you have access to because you are in a position of power and privilege – daily tests, vaccines plus a booster, treatment with monoclonal antibodies, access to healthcare top notch – doing nothing to protect your constituents from disease.
“It’s not freedom; it is institutionalized selfishness and irresponsibility.
Abbott insisted he was putting “personal responsibility” before “government mandates.” But, like the American Enterprise Institute Michael R. Strain rated for Bloomberg, Abbott has it back. His order, wrote Strain, “is an authoritarian government that prevents private entities from exercising their own understanding of what is in charge and what their customers and employees want.”
But the heavy hand has become the new orthodoxy of the GOP. Texas Senator Ted Cruz proposes federal legislation that would ban both masks and vaccines – and ban vaccine passports – even in the private sector. “My legislation also provides civil rights protections for employees against their employers,” said Cruz, a Republican, “to end discrimination based on immunization status.”
Certainly, not all Republicans agree with this statism. Despite his Trumpian credentials, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem says she is against government bans on vaccine needs by private companies. “I don’t have the power as governor to tell them what to do,” she said. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine is also publicly opposed to use state power to impose restrictions on schools and businesses in this way.
But Abbott is also not the outlier. Republican officials across the country are imposing draconian state-level regulations that undermine public health measures.
Republican officials across the country are imposing draconian state-level regulations that undermine public health measures.
Florida Republican (and Hope 2024) Governor Ron DeSantis went even further than Abbott, banning all businesses – including private businesses like cruise lines – from requiring proof of vaccination or even ask clients if they have been vaccinated. Similar bills have been passed or are pending in other states, including Alabama and Arkansas, which have seen dramatic spikes in coronavirus cases. Some invoices attempt to ban private health care providers require employees to be vaccinated.
DeSantis and other Republicans have also attacked local mask rules. Even though Republicans have long been proud of their support for local control, DeSantis threatened to punish local school districts that defied his order banning mask warrants.
Good luck in finding a cohesive strain of conservative principles behind these GOP movements.
Until about five minutes ago, the Conservatives opposed centralized and top-down regulations and fiercely defended the right of businesses to make their own decisions. They also understood that “personal responsibility” was not a license to recklessly endanger others.
Until the last war against vaccine passports, Republicans were also proud of their adherence to the principle of subsidiarity, which the former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan defined as the conviction that “the government closest to the people governs best”. A great government, he argued, ousted civil society, which is why conservatives argued “to have enough space in our communities for us to interact with each other and take care of the people who are are down in our communities “.
It all looks like the last decade now.
In its place, the Conservatives adopted less an idea than a slogan. Opponents of the vaccine and mask mandates insist they are fighting to protect “Freedom!” But their opposition to basic public health measures would have seemed bizarre to previous generations of conservatives.
The founders themselves understood that freedom required self-control and a sense of civic responsibility. They viewed unbridled individualism as a danger to the virtues required by a free republic, and they did not confuse narcissism and selfishness with freedom.
For previous generations of conservatives, it was more or less obvious; they embraced the balanced idea of ”ordered liberty”. They understood that rights were balanced against responsibilities, especially when it came to public health and human life.
But in today’s GOP – with few exceptions – these notions have been abandoned, along with so many other ideas and principles like fiscal responsibility, the rule of law, support for liberal democracy, and the fundamental concept depending on which character matters.
The result is a bias held hostage to its own post-coherence politics, in which bogus populism, tribalism, and libs ownership has eclipsed true conservatism.
Unfortunately, we are likely to measure its impact in loss of life.