Who would engage in such a sweeping assertion of the government’s authority to tell private industry how to behave? None other than Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a man who fashions himself not only as a conservative but a potential 2024 candidate.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, and our best defense against the virus, but should remain voluntary and never forced,” Abbott said in a statement explaining his executive order.
But wait, you say. Aren’t Republicans like Abbott in the party that holds, as one of their core beliefs, that government should not intrude in individuals’ lives? That the government that governs least governs best?
And following that logic, Abbott telling private companies what to do is, literally, the exact opposite of that governing philosophy, right? Right!
How did we get to this point? And how can Abbott justify what would be seen as a massive government overreach if a Democratic governor had done it?
The answer lies in the politics of our moment, where the enemy of your enemy must be your friend.
See, President Joe Biden issued a vaccine mandate for federal workers and companies with 100 employees or more last month in an attempt to up the number of people vaccinated in an effort to mitigate the Delta variant of the coronavirus ravaging through the country’s unvaccinated population.
“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden said at the time.
Abbott is then trying to cast himself as a warrior for individual rights by, get this, telling privately held business what to do. It’s a remarkably un-conservative thing to do — justified solely by the distaste that the Republican base feels for Biden and his administration.
From a purely conservative standpoint, it makes zero sense. Using the government to regulate behavior of individuals as a way to counteract using the government as a way to regulate the behavior of individuals is a real doozy. This isn’t math. Multiplying two negative numbers doesn’t get you a positive number.
But this is what ambitious Republican governors have been reduced to as they chase the ever-elusive party base, which remains fiercely loyal to the whims and prevarications of former President Donald Trump.
Abbott’s order isn’t even in the ballpark of modern conservatism. Rather, it’s virtue-signaling to a Republican base that will lap up whatever appears to be anti-Biden — whether or not it makes any sense as a piece of Republican or conservative dogma.
It’s, quite literally, the opposite of the sort of conservatism on which the likes of Abbott have built their careers.