March 30, 2020
Coronavirus Reshaping Texas Ruling Party that Cannot Expect
Return to Past after Dramatic Priority Upheaval for Survival Sake
Texas Republicans face the elephantine task of scrubbing words like big government and socialist from their state party platform and campaign talking points if they care about credibility in a world that will never be the same in the aftermath of the coronavirus.
The Republicans who've been waging war on local control in the Lone Star State in recent years are going to owe a massive debt of gratitude to mayors and county judges for saving countless lives with the initiation of social distancing and stay-at-home orders that had conservatives howling initially.
Compassion has suddenly replaced competition as the guiding priority in a nation where science is suddenly the new salvation and old-fashion religion is putting lots of true believers at considerable risk. Liberty University could be the ultimate case in point of a holy institution that might not survive the coronavirus age thanks to leader Jerry Falwell Jr.'s defiant decision to reopen the private school in Virginia where at least 11 students who returned to campus have the coronavirus now.
President Donald Trump - a Republican who'd proclaimed himself to be the king of debt in his personal financial dealings - is the all-time champion of red ink spending in America now after signing the $2.2 trillion coronavirus emergency plan. The bill that almost every Republican in Congress supported is the New Deal of the century in a country that could be track for an economic meltdown more severe than the Great Depression almost 100 years ago.
Working Americans prevailed at the expense of corporate America in the historic stimulus measure. Democratic U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had more impact from a singular perspective on the shaping of the final product than all of the Republican leaders in Congress combined.
The president who'd been tantamount to a messiah in the eyes of the hard right wanted to kick a conservative congressional member out of the GOP for grandstanding that threatened to delay the vote on the most liberal piece of legislation that's ever come down the pike in the USA.
A principled Texas conservative - rookie Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Roy of Austin - might have committed political suicide when he told Trump to shut up for all practical purposes when Trump attacked U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky for the procedural stunt on the bill with the highest price tag in history. But Roy will at least be able to look at himself in the mirror and feel proud for standing up for what he believes if Democratic challenger Wendy Davis ousts him from office in November like she'll be favored to do in November.
Trump in sharp contrast has appeared to be reinventing himself in the past few days after depicting the coronavirus crisis just one month ago as a fake news scam that the Democrats hatched in a desperation bid to torpedo his re-election bid. The president has cancelled his plans for an Easter miracle that he'd been touting less than a week ago with visions of life in America returning to normal in a couple of weeks. Trump said on Monday that he was cautiously optimistic that the coronavirus could be peaking in the U.S. by the time the Easter weekend rolls around.
After contradicting medical and scientific experts repeatedly for a couple of months, Trump announced today that he would be adhering to their advice from this point on when it comes to social isolation and the temporary closing of the economy.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has undergone a significant transformation as well as leader who's applauding local leaders for combating the coronavirus with the maximum use of powers that he's been trying to weaken. While Abbott has resisted calls for a statewide shelter-in-place mandate, he's used the power of state government in maximum fashion for the sake of protecting Texans from the disease, themselves and others.
Attorney General Ken Paxton - one of the most conservative statewide officials in Texas - hasn't seemed like the same free market advocate with warnings about serious retribution that businesses if they attempt to capitalize on the crisis with price-gouging tactics.
GOP leaders and lawmakers eventually are going to face the same hard choices in Austin that their congressional counterparts in the fight to survive the contemporary terrorist that the coronavirus has become. With the state destined to be in the midst of a budget crisis that no one could have ever imagined until now, the Legislature might have to decide between a record tax increase or the closing of the public schools and the prisons here.
But the GOP playbook vernacular that the Reagan revolution spawned has become obsolete for the Republicans who don't want to live in a state of denial in a world where they will owe their lives to big government.
Mike Hailey's column appears on a regular basis in Capitol Inside