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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. (Photo by Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool/Getty Images)

Typical Republican: The Racism and Anti-Science behind Texas Gov. Greg Abbot’s Lifting of Covid Restrictions

Abbott's policy is in accord with the general Conservative principle that property is more important than human life.

Juan Cole

 by Informed Comment

Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott this week lifted the Texas mask mandate and allowed businesses freely to open.

Roughly half the deaths and severe illness owing to Covid-19 are among minorities, including African-Americans and Latinos, even though those two groups make up less than a third of Americans. State Sen. Borris Miles, D-Houston, tweeted, “Black people are being disproportionately killed by COVID, there’s a lack of vaccine in communities of color… and now the Governor has lifted the mask mandate. He has signed the death warrants of communities of color.. Today he made it clear Black lives don’t matter. #txlege”

Abbott is pretty obviously trying to please retailers and restaurateurs at the expense of vulnerable populations in his state. This policy is in accord with the general Conservative principle that property is more important than human life. Moreover, in today’s Republican Party, property has race, and White Property is very definitely held by them to be more important than Black and Brown lives. Mind you, half of Covid-19 deaths are whites, so the party is willing to off its own constituents for the corporations.

Ironically, his lifting of the mask mandate hurts small restaurants and retailers because they will have to try to impose a masking policy on their premises without the benefit of state backing. Some have faced violence from customers, and Asian proprietors are especially worried.

Texas has 153 dead from Covid-19 for every 100,000 people in the state. Hawaii’s rate is 31 per 100k, and Oregon’s is 53. The death rates per state have little to do with the political party in charge, and since the novel coronavirus hits the elderly and minorities harder, the proportion of these groups in the population helps shape the infection and death rate. Still, public policy is clearly consequential, and when states have mandated lock downs and masks their infection rate has fallen. What Hawaii and Oregon do show is that 45,000 Texans did not have to die in the past year.

President Biden has swung into action and the US is now vaccinating 2 million Americans a day. He has made arrangements to much increase the production of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and hopes to have 300 million Americans vaccinated by June. That would produce herd immunity. Abbott keeps asking when would be the right time.

June. June would be the right time. Though some situations may continue to call for masking.

Only 10 percent of Texans have been inoculated, which is not enough to prevent the spread of the disease, especially as new variants circulate.

President Biden described the rush in some of the red states to remove state-mandated pandemic mitigation measures as “Neanderthal.” I’ve used similar language and was told by one reader that I had been unfair to the Neanderthals.

Abbott, stung by the criticism (in which he was not personally named), struck back by accusing the Biden administration of releasing infected immigrants from detention centers into Texas and even of busing them to other states, spreading the virus around.

Nothing more need be said about Abbott’s character than to report that he actually, in 2021, made these racist and bigoted comments, which have the added vice of being untrue. So, a liar and a white supremacist.

I wonder to which party he belongs?

KXAN reports, “As many as 100 asylum seekers are being released in Brownsville, in South Texas, each day, but they are tested for coronavirus in Mexico by the United Nations and, again, once they arrive in Brownsville. The asylum seekers, who were previously waiting in Mexico under the Trump administration’s ‘remain in Mexico’ policy, cannot enter the United States without a negative coronavirus test.”

These asylum seekers will go before an immigration judge and if their plea is rejected they will be deported. Biden is not “releasing” plague-infested immigrants en masse into the US, and Abbott knows these facts very well.

The only stricken migrants are among the 100 individuals belonging to families that had been separated and are now being reunited. They are offered quarantine accommodations. In any case, their numbers rather pall in the face of the 29 million Texans whom Abbott has unleashed, maskless, upon the strip malls and bars of the Lone Star state.

Abbott took these radical steps just as the US faces a possible Fourth Wave of covid-19 infections and deaths, which will be driven by deadlier forms of the virus such as the British B.1.1.7 variant.

Abbott did not bother to consult with 3 of the 4 members of his medical advisory team, and one of them, Mark McClellan, vehemently disagreed with the governor’s actions. He is a former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and director of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy at Duke University. Abbott? Abbott is an attorney.

The British coronavirus variant is taking off. More transmissible and deadlier than the version 1.0 that is now widespread in the United States is likely to become the dominant variant in the United States in the coming months. It is already 25% of new cases in Florida, and its spread will be facilitated by Republican governor Rick DeSantis’s similar lifting of restrictions and his encouragement of spring breakers.

As with Abbott’s promotion of planet-wrecking fossil fuels and denial of human-caused climate change, he has taken a stand against science that harms the American people, in order to promote narrow business interests.

Unfortunately, this stance is increasingly just the platform of the Republican Party.

© 2021 Juan Cole
Juan Cole

Juan Cole

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His newest book, "Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires" was published in 2020. He is also the author of  "The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East" (2015) and "Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East" (2008).  He has appeared widely on television, radio, and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. 

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