The isolation of quarantine, the daily barrage of deaths, the hazy uncertainty of the future: these are times that test the fortitude of our personal doctrines. Some Texans have found a redoubled strength in the belief that a higher power will pull us through, or in a stoic acceptance of the moment. For others, pandemic has led to a complete recalibration of personal philosophies. Take Dan Patrick, who lately seems to have descended into full-blown nihilism. A month ago Texas’s lieutenant governor said that “lots of grandparents” would be willing to die for the economy out of patriotic duty and the grim acceptance that their lives were nearly over anyway. Despite the backlash those comments received, Patrick doubled down on that assertion this week, gazing once more into the abyss of Fox News’s Tucker Carlson and declaring, “There are more important things than living.”
Lest anyone take this as some bleak devaluing of human existence, Patrick clarified that what he was talking about was money. “I don’t want to die,” Patrick said. “Nobody wants to die. But man, we gotta take some risks and get back in the game and get this country back up and running.”
The fact that Patrick issued this call for sacrifice from his cozy, tchotchke-strewn office—rather than between volunteer shifts at an emergency room or even manning a grocery store checkout—has fed more backlash. Many responded, “You first,” while some have even accused Patrick and likeminded Republicans of comprising a “death cult,” eager to toss Grampa’s body onto the altar to appease an angry market. In a more official response, the Texas Democratic Party said of Patrick and Governor Greg Abbott, who will soon announce plans to reopen retail stores and hair salons, under certain conditions: “They would see our family members die to bail out Wall Street. The lives of our families, our friends, and our communities have no dollar amount [sic]. Texas Republicans can no longer claim to be the pro-life party anymore.”
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Patrick’s new position does seem to be something of a reversal from his January 26 reminder of his “principled belief that all human life is sacred.” Life may be precious, but it’s apparently not priceless.
Dan Crenshaw: Calmer Than You, Dude
While Patrick is reciting his dark poetry, Texas’s other famous “Lieutenant Dan,” congressman Dan Crenshaw, has served as a more measured voice for a cautious reopening of the state. As he explains in a recent op-ed for the Houston Chronicle, he believes reopenings must be balanced by continued risk mitigation and social distancing, rather than just letting senior citizens fall where they may. His is a pragmatic strategy, one that foregrounds the need for increased testing (Texas still ranks number fifty in COVID-19 tests per capita) and public messaging. He also calls out the false choice that’s being presented—by the likes of Dan Patrick, though he doesn’t name him—between saving lives and saving the economy, a debate he derides as “disingenuous and counterproductive.”
It’s this kind of reasoned response that’s made Crenshaw a constant media presence of late. Somewhat paradoxically, those media hits have made him the de facto voice of Republicans, who are focused less on enacting his pragmatic strategy than on “Debunking the Left’s COVID-19 Narrative,” as the title of one of Crenshaw’s latest videos proclaims. President Trump himself has championed Crenshaw’s clip as “Brilliant, A Must Watch,” directing other Republicans to look to it for their own messaging. Meanwhile, the congressman’s appearance on last Friday’s Real Time With Bill Maher has gone similarly viral, with many praising Crenshaw’s tempered defense of Trump.
1/3 – My interview on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. Is the narrative about the administration’s COVID-19 response true? Bill and I debate it. Watch (THREAD): pic.twitter.com/deXPwDTHMF
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) April 20, 2020
Much of Crenshaw’s defense seems to boil down to the idea that Trump, as he put it to Maher, was simply “overly optimistic.” Crenshaw shrugs, “That’s his style.” The congressman even praised Trump for projecting “calm,” comparing the president to commanders from his own combat experience. “Exuding positivity and calmness in crisis is exactly how we ask our SEALs to lead,” he said.
It’s certainly an original take on Trump’s demeanor throughout this whole mess. The president has sent daily tweet storms and spent big chunks of his press conferences lashing out at the “nasty” media and insufficiently grateful governors. He’s sowed confusion about restrictions and spread public mistrust of his own health experts, and even incited protesters to go out and “liberate” themselves from the very social distancing measures the White House is officially promoting. So hopefully Crenshaw uses his newfound spotlight to further tamp down all those “counterproductive” political attacks, lest Trump lose that sunny good cheer.
Ted Cruz Grinds on the Curbing of Skateboards
If you thought Dan Crenshaw’s unflappable chill or Dan Patrick’s channeling of Ingmar Bergman were the height of cool, prepare to do a sweet, Ted Cruz-style 180! This week, the Texas senator and living “How Do You Do, Fellow Kids?” meme hit the rhetorical half-pipe to dunk on some lame narcs who dumped 37 tons of sand on a skate park in San Clemente, California. As officials explained to the Orange County Register, the city made the call after observing how skaters in other towns had repeatedly ignored park closures and warnings against trespassing, breaking locks and hopping gates in open defiance of stay-at-home and social distancing orders. Temporarily filling in the skate park was thus a totally extreme measure to enforce those restrictions. Naturally, Cruz could not help but pop an ideological ollie on it.
Clearly, the greatest public- heath threat imaginable…a kid on a skateboard. Young people, remember, this is what Big-government statist Democrats do—they take away your freedom. https://t.co/VBCmnZRvfC
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) April 19, 2020
“Young people, remember, this is what Big-government statist Democrats do—they take away your freedom,” Cruz said, rapping with the kids about this “authoritarian abuse of power” on their level. (Cruz, after all, is nothing if not down with skaters, except for that one guy.) In any case, Cruz and the stickers are correct: Skateboarding is not a crime, and as he points out, “skating alone poses ZERO public health threat to anybody.”
Oh sure, The Man will try to tell you this isn’t really about skating. He’ll say it’s an admittedly desperate attempt to discourage social gathering amid an unprecedented health crisis, the length and severity of which directly correlates to the effectiveness of, and compliance with, our immediate public response. The Man would say that excessive actions like this one wouldn’t even be necessary if people were taking those restrictions seriously—and if certain politicians weren’t subtly fomenting the belief that these measures are too strict, or that they’ve gone on too long, or that they’re worse than the virus itself, or that they’re part of a leftist agenda to destroy America, or that they’re totally uncool. But nuts to The Man! Skate or die, right? And on second thought, why choose?