Republican governors are failing with their coronavirus responses

Republican governors are failing with their coronavirus responses
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Republican governors were initially seen as strong leaders for reopening their economies but are utterly failing to reduce the rising coronavirus transmissions in their states. Considering the growing number of cases and deaths, several Republican governors, such as Kay Ivey of Alabama, Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, and Greg Abbott of Texas have redirected their efforts toward issuing mask mandates to curb transmissions.

But Brian Kemp, the Republican governor of my home state of Georgia, has been brazenly defying scientific data showing that masks can reduce the spread of the coronavirus by overriding more than a dozen local mask mandates and even suing the capital of Atlanta. His actions conflict with the cherished conservative government principle of local control.

Under President Obama, Republican state lawmakers regularly accused the federal government of adopting a broad “one size fits all” mentality and of subverting the rightful authority of states. Kemp is eroding this core Republican value with his actions against local municipalities. His lawsuit against Atlanta targets Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and not the many national chains across the city, like Walmart, Kroger, and Publix, which have all mandated masks for both employees and patrons.

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The simple fact is that many Republican leaders have been devoid of any core party principles on this and many other issues. They squawk about local control yet will ruthlessly decimate the authority of cities to write their own destinies when it suits them. According to the Georgia Health Department data, more than 131,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, and more than 3,100 people have died from it in the state. More than one million tests have been administered in the state.

Further, the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected racial and ethnic minority groups, with high rates of death in African American, Native American, and Latino communities. Notably, a majority of the cities in Georgia that have mask mandates are predominately African American. In the era of Black Lives Matter, overriding these local mandates is almost analogous to allowing police brutality against African Americans.

Instead of taking cues from other Republican governors, Kemp wastes taxpayer money by jet setting across states. However, some businesses are supporting him. The director of the Georgia Restaurant Association believes that a mask mandate is not appropriate considering the size and diversity of the state. But she notes that businesses must still make their own decisions about requiring customers to wear masks. Kemp might be trying to appease his base or keep the support of businesses.

Indeed, Kemp is cut from the same cloth of President Trump. Nationalism and white grievances have engulfed Republicans and, unfortunately, they are willing to continue to risk lives to promote their inward agenda. When viewed in that context, the decision of Kemp to stop cities and counties from instituting mask mandates makes perfect sense. From the very start of the pandemic, Kemp has operated with moral incompetence and has placed politics above public health in this major crisis. His latest decision of a lawsuit against the city of Atlanta is just more of the same.

Quardricos Driskell is a federal lobbyist and professor of politics with the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management.