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Gov. Greg Abbott removes a face covering prior to a press conference June 2, 2020, at Dallas City Hall.

On Aug. 11, Dallas County enacted a mask mandate for all commercial entities, preK-12 public schools and child care centers in the area, which was in direct opposition to Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban against mask mandates.

While having been presented as a battle over COVID-19, in actuality, this conflict has little to do with the virus at all. Rather, it is merely a hypocritical power grab by Abbott, one which goes against his own party’s philosophy of small government.

At some point, being a Republican became synonymous with being a supporter of small government. Ronald Reagan famously stated, “As government expands, liberty contracts.”

This has been one of the primary talking points that the Republican Party has used to oppose Democrats for decades. The government doesn’t know what is good for the people. The people can dictate their own decisions.

Yet, if the conservative ideology is centered around the idea that different fragments of the nation can and should pursue specific policies that may not be popular at a larger level, then, by their reasoning, local jurisdictions should also have this freedom. Any other opinion is hypocritical in the eyes of conservatism.

An opponent of this argument may point out that Texas is a single state and that Abbott’s ban on masks does not apply nationally, as if this somehow makes his actions any less tyrannical. But Dallas County alone has a population of 2.6 million people, which is about the same size as Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska and Washington, D.C., combined.

That is more people living in one county than the entire population of the original 13 colonies in 1776. How is it then that Abbott’s strongarm approach is not considered an affront to the philosophy of small government when he can universally impose his will over a population larger than that which founded this nation?

Forget any debate over whether masks work, which they do, or whether COVID-19 is still a problem, which it is. The larger issue is how a party can be so hypocritical that it simultaneously declares that it supports small government while actually opposing it.

Opinion: Gov. Greg Abbott’s crusade against local mask mandates exposes his party’s hypocrisy

Jonathan Demarest, graduate student and Community Voices columnist for The Shorthorn, pictured Aug. 19 in the Shorthorn studio.

Some may argue that mask mandates inhibit freedom by forcing individuals to wear masks “against their will.” Yet, many support Texas Senate Bill 1, a new bill that will restrict voting access. Does this not also limit our freedom? Of course, they might also say that there was rampant voter fraud in the 2020 election and that this bill is intended to reduce it. However, there is little evidence for this claim.

For every Republican policy that limits freedom, there is always some excuse, some reasoning by which it must make sense. For every Democratic policy, there is always an argument as to why it is the first step towards complete subjugation.

With this mask mandate battle, the Republican Party has shown that it is not the party of small government. They are the party of whatever helps them stir outrage and defeat Democrats, Liberals, or anyone else who goes against their message.

Maybe fifty or sixty years ago they stood for something, but now it is the party of opposition for the sake of opposition. It is simple. They oppose mask mandates because Democrats support them. That is all there is to it.

As this mask battle continues, political activists, regardless of their political standing, should realize one simple fact: Republicanism in 2021 is not about policy, ideology or helping the American people. It is about domination, and thus it is not American at all.

opinion-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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