Today’s Campaign Update (Because the Campaign Never Ends)
In a series of Executive Orders issued on Friday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott laid out the initial aspects of his plan for re-opening the Texas economy. The plan will be managed by what Gov. Abbott is calling a “statewide strike force” chaired by Austin banker James Huffines. If these initial steps and the governor’s statements about them are any indication, the reopening in red-state Texas will be little different than the process in many blue states around the country.
First what the Governor did do:
– He allows all retail businesses to reopen, but most will be limited to “drive-up” shopping – where customers place orders over the phone or online and then pick the merchandise up at the curb outside the store – or delivery;
– He left all public and private schools closed for the remainder of the school year, with a target for reopening in August for the fall semester;
– He reopened all state parks beginning on Monday, but with the same social distancing restrictions in place;
– He loosened restrictions on medical appointments and elective procedures, which will be a godsend to the mostly-empty hospitals around the state, many of which have had to lay off workers due to lack of activity;
– He said that updates on places that host large gatherings, like restaurants, churches and entertainment venues, will come “later.”
All of which is in line with the guidelines coming out of the Trump Coronavirus Task Force, which is fine. Sadly, these actions will do precious little to begin restoring the jobs and livelihoods of the hundreds of thousands of Texans who have been thrown out of work by the government’s response to the Wuhan Virus.
The disappointment comes in the lack of any effort whatsoever to distinguish Texas, which has had far fewer cases of the Wuhan Virus than much smaller states on the East and West Coasts and even Louisiana, from the approaches that will be taken by those other states. For example, why no attempt to treat the 100+ Texas counties who have had 5 or fewer cases of the virus differently than the big-city epicenters of Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin? 64 counties have reported ZERO cases of COVID-19. Why continue the absurd situation in which residents of small communities with names like Skidmore and Papalote and Poteet and Post and Troy remain subject to stay-at-home restrictions that make no real sense in their communities?
That latter may be more of a criticism of the Trump Task Force, which promised to deliver geographically-targeted guidelines but so far has not done so. But let’s also admit that 8 governors, all Republicans like Abbott, have never issued a stay-at-home order for their states. So, the President has certainly given governors a lot of leeway in dealing with these guidelines.
But that’s a leeway that Gov. Abbott was unwilling on Friday to take advantage of for his state. Equally as disappointing was the Governor’s apparent failure to attempt to balance his ongoing restrictions and mandated deprivations with the fundamental rights of all citizens. Indeed, in his statement on the orders, he laid out only two factors that would influence his decision-making:
“This [reopening] will be driven by two things: what our medical team advises and what the data shows,” Abbott said.
If it’s disturbing when a Democrat governor like New Jersey’s Phil Murphy admits he “wasn’t thinking about the bill of rights” when issuing his own draconian shutdown orders, it is perhaps even more disturbing when the Republican Governor of Texas admits he won’t be thinking about the fundamental rights of all Americans as he moves timidly forward to reopen his state. At least give it some lip service, Governor.
With protests now beginning to spring up in Michigan, Colorado, Minnesota, California, Washington, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Virginia over the deprivations of rights of assembly, speech and religion by the Democrat governors in those states, it is only a matter of time before we see similar protest actions begin to take place in many red states as well. Abbott was sued on Friday by a group of pastors on the grounds that the Governor’s edicts violate the religious liberties of their parishioners, a contention that is manifestly true.
Yes, the governors in Texas and other states do possess extraordinary powers during declared emergencies, powers that are important for them to possess when fast decisions must be made to save lives. But there is no real “emergency” in the vast majority of the state of Texas. The seasonal flu has taken hundreds more Texas lives than the Wuhan Virus will, but there was no similar declaration of any emergency. Texas has seen 459 Wuhan Virus related deaths thus far; yet, we lose roughly 3,600 people every year to car accidents without reacting by closing down a single business or school or highway in response.
Texans like me expected more from Gov. Abbott on Friday, in large part because he has always done a fine job of delivering so much more for Texas during his time as the state’s Attorney General and Governor. Hopefully he will use the weekend to give some real thought to the fundamental rights of his citizens and start delivering more come Monday.
That is all.
Today’s news moves at a faster pace than ever. Whatfinger.com is my go-to source for keeping up with all the latest events in real time.