Dan Patrick Still Willing to Die for the Cause

Previously Adroit Abbot Caves In

The Left Wing, China and the Coronavirus

by Daryl Slusher

Even though, as I mentioned in an adjoining post, I was one of the most frequent diners at Threadgill’s, I certainly don’t want to begrudge anyone else their sorrow over its closing. Still, though, there’s one commentary, I have to question just a little bit. That is the oped by Republican Congressmen Chip Roy which appeared in the Austin American-Statesman April 22. Roy represents part of Austin in one of the six gerrymandered Congressional districts that the Texas Legislature created years ago to dilute Austin’s representation, and in a still-failed attempt to get rid of Austin Congressman Lloyd Doggett

Roy is a rookie Congressman who replaced the world famous climate science denier Lamar Smith, when Smith chose not to run again in 2018. Roy faces former State Senator Wendy Davis in November. 

In his oped Roy mourns the passing of both Threadgill’s and Magnolia West. Mostly, Roy’s piece concentrates on Threadgill’s and serves up a heaping helping of platitudes. There’s: “I look forward to the day very soon when we Texans can once again eat together, worship together, work together and celebrate together,” and “Every meal you share with friends and family at a local restaurant or venue is more than an economic transaction.”  Roy also name drops Kenneth Threadgill and Janis Joplin, and calls Threadgill’s, “the historic embodiment of “Keep Austin Weird.”’ Additionally he explains that he is constantly working on “getting Washington’s priorities in line with reality.”

Roy only vaguely slips in some of his far right wing ideology, writing, “If you are a small restaurant, live music venue, hotel operator or similar small business, you are being particularly hammered by government restricting your livelihood.” If you read that sentence only through the word “hammered” it might seem like an accurate, if banal, statement from a Congressman. When he adds, however, “by government restricting your livelihood,” he gives away the ideological game. 

This framing is part of an ongoing effort by Roy and other Republicans to blame the economic collapse resulting from the coronavirus pandemic on Democrats. At the same time Roy and others hope that blaming the economic collapse on Democrats will cause people to forget that the Trump Administration’s mixture of ineptitude and ideology made the impact of the coronavirus much, much worse and cost many lives. (For data and elaboration see either of our two timelines and the links to sources therein.)

I warned that this was an emerging Republican strategy in a March 25 post, “Lt. Gov. Patrick Willing to Die for His Cause” While it’s beginning to look like I was on target about that, I need to divert here briefly to correct something I reported about Chip Roy in a previous post, on April 6. There I wrote that Roy “voted” for a coronavirus stimulus bill, after voting against and ridiculing, an earlier coronavirus bill. Roy indeed did vote against and ridicule the earlier bill, but he actually didn’t vote for the next package either. He declared verbal support, but didn’t make it to the vote. So sorry about that. I corrected the story the morning after I posted it, as soon as I found out from a reader. To those of you who had already read it, sorry. By the way I was recounting an interview Roy did with Karina Kling of YNN and she had it right. She said Roy “supported” the bill.

Since Roy is a little tricky, let’s look back in on someone who is a little more transparent, even if not intentionally. I’m talking about Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. Patrick was back on Fox News again recently, talking about how he’s not afraid to die for the economy. 

Host Tucker Carlson explained that he invited Patrick back because his last appearance “seemed brave,” but rather than being lauded for his bravery, Patrick was “savagely criticized” — by liberals of course. Carlson also credited Patrick with having been right on what would happen with the economy. Jonathan Tilove captured this well in the Statesman: “It takes a big man to admit that he was right all along. But last night, in a potent, jam-packed five minutes with Tucker Carlson on Fox, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made a clean breast of it, admitting his foresight and courage.” 

Here’s how that went.

Carlson: “You said if they don’t pull this back a little bit, you’re gonna see a lot of people out of work and you’re going to see the economy crushed. Do you think you’ve been vindicated?”

Patrick: “Well, I’m sorry that I’m vindicated. I wish it hadn’t happened Tucker, but I’m a small business guy and I’ve been around the block long enough to see what was going to happen when you start shutting down society, and people start losing their paychecks and businesses can’t open and governments aren’t getting revenues and go on and on and on and on. And so I’m sorry to say I was right on this.”

In other words Patrick was uniquely wise in envisioning that closed businesses and millions out of work would hurt the economy. He was not only unique in this deep economic foresight, but also had the courage to go on Fox News and tell the world — plus the courage to offer to die for the cause, and volunteer others to die. He’s still willing to die for the cause, reiterating to Carlson, “What I said when I was with you that night, there are more important things than living. And that’s saving this country for my children, my grandchildren and saving this country for all of us.” 

Although Patrick is willing to die of Covid if that’s what it takes to save the economy for his grandkids, it might not be Covid that gets him. Last week it looked like he was more in danger of a heart attack from reading tweets by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC) of New York. As Patrick excitedly told Carlson, “AOC tweeted out today she was glad to see the oil industry collapsed.”

What AOC said was, “This snapshot [oil prices going negative] is being acknowledged as a turning point in the climate movement. 

Fossil fuels are in long-term structural decline. This along w/ low interest rates means it‘s the right time to create millions of jobs transitioning to renewable and clean energy. A key opportunity.”

With a mention of AOC it was easy for Patrick to segue into a gulag metaphor, and to work from there back to the talking point that it’s Democrats who are killing the economy:  “I’ve always said if the Democrats ever had total control, they would put people like you and me in jail throw away the key. And that’s what they’re doing, because they now have total control Tucker, they have total control, and everywhere you see these draconian rules of locking down people and keeping businesses shut and destroying our country, it’s mostly Democrat governors, Democrat county judges, Democrat mayors, almost everywhere.” (The “almost everywhere” had to be added because of Republican Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Republican Maryland Governor Larry Hogan who have both risen to the occasion and tried to use their offices to actually save lives.)

I won’t try to unpack all of that here except to note that somehow Patrick managed to credit the Democrats with “total control,” even as his party controls the White House, the U.S. Senate, and all the statewide offices in Texas as well as both houses of the legislature. Let’s return, however, to the point I made earlier. The Republican strategy is to blame the economic collapse on the Democrats and ignore the abject failure of the Republican national administration to prepare for or respond to the coronavirus. That is exactly what Patrick is doing here. 

Like Chip Roy, Dan Patrick (lots of first names there) wants folks to just think about how badly the stay at home orders are affecting them economically and not to think about how we got in that situation in the first place. They don’t want folks to figure out that thousands of Americans, including first responders, essential workers and medical providers have been sacrificed on the altar of their far right wing ideology — specifically the small federal government, drown federal government in the bathtub ideology that has marked the Republicans for so long.

So will this strategy work? It might seem ludicrous, and the very real body count probably makes it less likely to work, but look who our country elected president last time — and who Texans elected Lieutenant Governor more than once.

Governor Abbot and Reopening Texas

Speaking of that, it’s a shame that Governor Greg Abbot appears to be caving in to Patrick and a small minority of fringe protestors. He’s still being more cautious than say, Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia or the president. Abbot is also a right wing ideologue, for just one example, his refusal to support expansion of Medicaid in Texas. That not withstanding, Abbot heretofore took a saner, more cautious and competent path than Trump or Patrick. That may be damning him with faint praise, but it is, I think, a clearly true statement. Even the move to allow curbside retail seemed a sane, fairly conservative move that could help some businesses hang on. 

Ptotestors at Texas Capitol Saturday April 18
Photo by Daryl Slusher

Late last week though Abbot announced that all Texas restaurants, retail businesses, and movie theaters can reopen with some social distancing required. As R.G. Ratcliffe writes in Texas Monthly

  • “Abbott’s sunny assessment of the state of the pandemic, however, is at odds with the state’s COVID-19 data,” and 
  • “The reopening plan also deviates considerably from what many public health officials say is needed for Texans to safely return to working in offices, shopping, and eating out.” 

Many Austin businesses plan to be more cautious and not open immediately — although it looks like some locals and a number of national chains will resume business; the latter including major malls owned by Simon Property Group, although retailers will make individual decisions. 

One big problem, and underlying ideology, of Abbot’s order is that workers who don’t believe it is safe for them to return to work will lose their unemployment benefits if they do not return. That is the word from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) according to the Texas Tribune and CBS Austin.  TWC spokesperson Cisco Gamez later contacted the Tribune and in their description, “Gamez said the agency is developing parameters for what might allow Texans to continue qualifying for unemployment insurance if they refuse to return to work at a business reopened by Gov. Greg Abbott’s loosened executive order because they fear contracting or spreading the coronavirus.” The Independent contacted Gamez, but did not hear back before press time. We will continue to follow this one.

If this policy stays in place it seems like an ideological cousin of President Donald Trump’s Executive Order ordering meat plants – an industry hit hard by coronavirus — to stay open, but not requiring coronavirus specific protections for workers — only making suggestions.

Left Ideology and China

While we’re talking about ideology, I should acknowledge that the left sometimes gets tangled up in ideology too. There are lots of examples, but one that has come up in the Covid crisis concerns China. President Donald Trump made rational discussion very difficult by earlier labeling coronavirus the “Chinese Virus.” Many on Fox News fell in line, or maybe it was the other way around. 

Texas Senator John Cornyn jumped in with, “China is to blame because (it is) the culture where people eat bats and snakes and dogs and things like that, these viruses are transmitted from the animal to the people and that’s why China has been the source of a lot of these viruses like SARS, like MERS, the Swine Flu and now the coronavirus.” Cornyn forgot, or didn’t realize or care, that MERS originated in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia to be exact), thus the name Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. Also, the swine flu originated in swine in the United States.

So, yes, that’s all clearly racist, in fact dangerously racist. Asian Americans across the country have reported numerous incidents of shunning and sometimes violent harassment. Trump, Cornyn et al are just stoking this, if not creating it. So, yes that’s racist and we need to call it out any time it raises its head.

On the other hand, the view here is that it is not racist to examine the role of the country of China and its government regarding the virus. It is unchallenged that the virus originated in China, as did SARS. It is also widely thought by experts that it originated in a “wet market” where wild game is sold for human consumption. And, major media outlets like the Washington Post have reported that the Chinese government delayed notifying the world of the virus and at first denied that human to human transmission was possible. Chinese authorities also rounded up and interrogated some of the medical workers who orginally tried to spread the word — including one heroic doctor, Li Wenliang, who later died of the virus.  

It’s also worth keeping in mind this is a regime that put around one million Muslim Uighurs in what the government calls “reeducation centers.” At least some of the reeducation centers feature watch towers and tall fences topped with barbed wire. Uighurs primarily live in the Chinese province of Xinjiang which, according to PBS, is “China’s largest producer of natural gas.” 

Also, for more than two decades, the Chinese regime has persecuted the spiritual group Falun Gong. And, although the coronavirus largely shut down protests, they remained locked in a titanic struggle with courageous pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong.

So, please, criticizing the Chinese government is not racist. And, if Democrats, or others on the left, refuse to acknowledge that the virus did indeed come from China and that the Chinese government initially tried to cover it up, then they risk being seen as denying facts, just like Republicans.

Meanwhile across the strait, Taiwan and not too far away, South Korea both showed how democracies, Asian democracies in this case,  can handle a pandemic if they function properly.

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