Being a governor during a year-long pandemic isn’t easy, and Greg Abbot is taking fire from both the right and the left regarding his handling of the ongoing crisis.
It’s not surprising that Democrats would be critical of a Republican governor, although with Texas being one of the worst states in the country when it comes to COVID hospitalization and fatality rates it’s hard to argue that they don’t have a point. Abbott recently laid out his priorities in his State of the State address, but limited pandemic initiatives to protecting businesses that remained open from financial liability.
“In every single way, Governor Abbott has failed,” said state Democratic Party chairman, Gilberto Hinojosa in a statement. “He is the worst Governor in modern Texas history. Everyday Texans are facing some of the biggest challenges of their lives. We continue to lead the nation in COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates. Yet Abbott buries his head in the sand and pretends like nothing is happening. Greg Abbott’s administration has managed to vaccinate only 7% of our state’s population, while sections of Texas have not seen any COVID-19 vaccine distributed within their community. Abbott has betrayed our trust.”
Abbott for his part seems determined to keep the fight against COVID a purely partisan affair. Though he met hospital administrators in Houston and Dallas last month about vaccine distribution plans, city and county leaders like Mayor Sylvester Turner and Judge Lina Hidalgo were not invited to the gatherings. Both Democratic politicians have butted heads with Abbott over the state’s handling of the crisis, with Hidalgo in particular receiving heavy treatment from the governor when she tried to bring stricter quarantine measures in Harris County.
“Any roundtable conversation in Houston about vaccine distribution in Houston, Harris County region should include diverse representation to ensure there is equitable vaccine distribution to at risk, vulnerable communities,” Turner tweeted after the event.
Meanwhile, the Texas Republican Party does not exactly have the governor’s back. This extends back to the election when Abbott extended early voting in the state by one week to accommodate the number of people taking advantage of the practice in the name of safety. The move was decried by Party Chairman Allen West, the conspiracy-obsessed former congressman. West vaguely suggested that the action would increase voter fraud. Despite Abbott’s commitment in his recent address to increase voter security, West has continued to gun for the governor, possibly hoping to challenge him in the primary in 2022.
One area where the parties seem united is in scaling back the emergency powers of the office. Both Republicans and Democrats have been critical in the way Abbott has wielded power during the pandemic. Granted, Republicans believe that Abbott has gone too far when it comes to statewide orders about things like wearing masks and Democrats dislike how Abbott has overridden the authority of cities that tried to institute more stringent measures, but both agree that the governor should not have quite so much clout.
Abbott appears to be on the defensive, offering to submit legislation to scale back his own powers. It’s a position of weakness for the governor at a time when he can least afford it. He doesn’t just have West to deal with in the upcoming election. Former Texas congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke has signaled he will likely throw his hat into the ring in the governor’s race. With Abbott’s at best mixed record on COVID and an internal fight in his own party, he is staggering from hits on both sides. If he can’t protect his right flank, then he might be in serious trouble.