Greg Abbot and Ron DeSantis are two of the flashiest, crassest, and most authoritarian politicians in the United States of America. Each man has established himself as a field general in the MAGA revolution, downplaying COVID-19 and punishing those of their residents who deign to part ways with the Trumpian political program that they recognize as the sole acceptable creed. Owning the libs is paramount. Autocracy is the order of the day.
Abbot has momentarily overtaken his Florida doppelganger with an abortion law that will soon metastasize across conservative America. A horrifying law, the Texas abortion ban–and that is what it is–deputizes anti-choice zealots in the general population to enforce a near-total restriction on Texas women’s rights to terminate a pregnancy. The result will likely be roving bands of evangelicals seeking to harass and harry young women in a state that has little regard for the rights of the female gender. It represents the most brazen assault on reproductive rights that this country has seen since before the enshrinement of Roe v. Wade, and its toxic mix of patriarchy and state intimidation echoes the Trumpist spirit perfectly.
This bill has little to do with the core functions of an American state government. But then public education, public safety, and the provision of healthcare to Medicaid recipients have little resonance in the MAGA world. Abbot, like DeSantis, is not the traditional chief executive we once saw in large numbers even at Republican Governors Association meetings. He is, instead, a forward operator in the national cause of remaking America. Along brutal Trumpian lines.
And in this he resembles more and more of his Republican colleagues. For example, in the sparsely populated prairies of South Dakota, GOP Governor Kristi Noem has made it her primary mission to obviate as many restrictions as possible relating to the spread of COVID-19. Channeling right-wing cultural identity, she embraced an enormous biker rally in the heart of her state–and did not flinch when it, predictably, turned into a superspreader. Governors like Mike DeWine of Ohio are rarer and rarer exceptions in a GOP that has turned definitively toward Trumpism.
Republican governors, then, have taken on a new mold. Once there were pragmatic problem-solvers like Wisconsin’s Tommy Thompson, whose welfare reform proposals marked him as a top innovator, and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a public-school champion. Even in more recent history Mitch Daniels was considered a model for Republican gubernatorial excellence due to his reforms in healthcare and transportation. But in an era when Trump has redefined the Republican creed as populism, that tradition has died.
North Carolina, alas, is not immune to this threat. Though our gubernatorial election was not particularly close in 2020, it was still the second-most competitive governor’s race in the country after Puerto Rico. At the same time we reelected Roy Cooper, we (dreadfully) elected Mark Robinson as Lieutenant Governor, one constitutional leap away from the Executive Mansion. Robinson is essentially an Infowars commenter IRL–and god help us if he ever takes the next step.
We could end up like Texas.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.