Profiles in Courage… and Cowardice

Local Democrats Rise and Lead. State Republicans Shrink and Dither.
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Last week, The Lone Star Project pointed out that Governor Greg Abbott would do well to take direction from local Democratic leaders who are stepping up and making the hard decisions necessary to keep communities safe in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.

The leadership contrast in response to the deadly coronavirus pandemic is continuing to show and Texans are noticing.

Local Democratic Leaders Fill the Vacuum Left by GOP Failures

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins continues to lead the response in North Texas:

“…it became clear to Jenkins that more was needed. He now wanted the governor to implement uniform ‘shelter-in-place’ rules for all of Texas. After Abbott neglected to issue such orders on Sunday, Jenkins quickly implemented them himself in Dallas County, becoming the first Texas county judge to do so.” – Texas Monthly

Yesterday, Jenkins and other county judges from a 10-county area took part in a call with the Baylor Scott & White Health System to help coordinate the response effort to minimize the spread of the virus. GOP Collin County Judge Chris Hill did not participate in the call, leaving business leaders questioning whether he knows what he’s doing.

Recognition that Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s directives will save lives:

“It was reassuring to hear Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announce a stay-at-home order this morning in a bold, but necessary, attempt to save lives and stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. Every county in the region should follow suit — including Montgomery where County Judge Mark Keough refuses in the name of freedom.” – Houston Chronicle

Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia is working to ensure that emergency loans are available to area small businesses:

Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis supported the measure to allow non-essential county employees to continue to collect their salaries as long as they volunteer with a charity or non-profit on an approved list.

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Harris County Commissioners also voted to suspend toll road fees. GOP Commissioners Steve Radack and Jack Cagle voted against the measure.

David Jennings, a well-known conservative blogger in Harris County summed it up: “I will tell you without hesitation that the county is doing a better job than the federal or state.”

GOP Calculated Cowardice is Not Working

Greg Abbott and GOP leaders may have thought passing the buck would put the heat on their political opponents and help them skirt accountability, but it’s not working. There are plenty of people calling out their calculating cowardice:

“Around the Capitol, Gov. Greg Abbott is known for holding his finger to the wind and waiting for others to act first. His desire to avoid controversy has made him one of the most timid governors in Texas history.” – Houston Chronicle

Chris Tomlinson, the business columnist for the Houston Chronicle, points out the GOP failures with clarity. “Abbott and the Republican Party are more than happy to pander to business, but they run away when the consequences of their policies become evident,” said Tomlinson.

Abbott’s failures to set statewide standards for response to COVID-19 will very likely cost the lives of Texans. Just as when he was willing to sacrifice billions from the Texas economy to pass a useless “bathroom bill,” Abbott is choosing his personal political gain over people.

The Dallas Morning News has now joined the call for Abbott to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order:

“In moments of crisis, it’s easy for people to give in to fear or just disregard smart thinking as they react in a frenzied, ad hoc or reckless manner. This is why it’s crucial that those entrusted with leadership roles provide steady and consistent leadership.”

Texans Are Watching

During this difficult, dangerous time, Texans are watching. They see who is stepping up to provide the leadership needed to get us through this crisis.

In Profiles in Courage, John F. Kennedy said, “The stories of past courage can define that ingredient – they can teach, they can offer hope, they provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.”

That book profiles Sam Houston—one of the most courageous political figures in Texas history. As the U.S. Senator from Texas, Houston famously voted against the Kansas-Nebraska Act in an attempt to limit the expansion of slave states. This viewpoint was unpopular with his own political base and led to lame-duck status as senator and what many thought would be the end of his political career. Five years later, Sam Houston was elected Governor of Texas.

Texas needs more profiles in courage from its leaders—those willing to risk their political career to do what is right. We’re seeing this courageous leadership from local Democrats. If Greg Abbott won’t follow these Democratic local leaders, Texans should move him out of the way.

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