Republican gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Dow is taking a predictable but politically suicidal posture as COVID-19 infections rise.
Dow, a state representative, opposes Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's latest public health order on masks and vaccinations.
By Dow's estimation, Lujan Grisham isn't making adjustments to stop the spread of a terrible virus. By George, the governor's orders threaten liberty and prosperity.
"We've already endured months of MLG's harrowing mandates and restrictions that have crushed our businesses and driven New Mexicans to freer states," Dow wrote in a statement. "I'm not looking forward to the fallout from this one, and I believe it is cause to fear for our future."
Then again, a better reason for fear is an onslaught of COVID-19 cases that would fill hospitals and create a need for makeshift morgues.
Dow is from Truth or Consequences, a hometown with a fitting name after her demagoguery.
One truth is Lujan Grisham's requirements on masks and vaccinations are not an imposition. Most New Mexicans realize the measures are sensible in a pandemic.
Those whining about masks never would have survived World War II, even if they were far from foreign lands where the fighting was heavy and fierce. Americans at home sacrificed by acceding to rationing of gas, meat, sugar, canned milk and other goods.
People carping about a mask mandate while they order a $5 latte can appreciate Dow's platform. But these complainers were already disposed to vote against Lujan Grisham. Dow can't gain much ground in a general election by preaching to the pouters.
They ignore that even Donald Trump, in a moment of clarity, called himself a wartime president against the invisible enemy of COVID-19.
Many of us know someone who died of COVID-19 or became seriously ill when stricken. Better to live with vaccinations and masks than to hear of a hospitalized friend, comatose with a tube down his throat.
Another truth is Dow is running for governor of New Mexico, but she's tailoring her campaign to voters in Texas.
The consequence for Dow is she's mauling any chance she has of winning a statewide general election. That's the price of mimicking Amarillo Steve Pearce, chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party.
Pearce created a clumsy gimmick he calls Operation Freedom in which he pays homage to Texas politicians for their optional system on masks and other wondrous freedoms. All the while, he announced his displeasure with Lujan Grisham.
Of course Pearce would be displeased. Lujan Grisham crushed him by 14 percentage points in the 2018 election for the open governor's seat.
Pearce was no better than a regional candidate. He did fine in the congressional district he long dominated in Southern New Mexico. He had little appeal in Albuquerque or Northern New Mexico.
Dow is packaging her campaign to resemble Pearce's failed approach.
She might see her opposition to mask mandates as necessary to defeat a field of other little-known Republican candidates for the gubernatorial nomination. The primary is as far as that strategy will take her. Most voters in New Mexico's larger cities will reject the dogma that masks in a pandemic amount to shackles.
Here's what Lujan Grisham has ordered with the idea of preventing more infections of COVID-19 and its delta variant.
In most instances, people must wear masks in public indoor settings, even if they have been vaccinated.
Those working in hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and other close-contact areas must be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Lujan Grisham also ordered employees of schools, public and private, to either be vaccinated or agree to testing for COVID-19 each week.
Dow did more than criticize all these policies. She misrepresented the last one.
In her statement, Dow said the governor had required school employees "to be vaccinated and COVID tested on a weekly basis." Not so.
Any politician can pander. It's a tactic that can be effective on occasion, as when Trump promised Americans would become sick of winning if only they elected him.
Dow's pandering comes under a red, white and blue banner promising freedom. She accuses Lujan Grisham of imposing "stifling and entirely unconstitutional vaccine and mask mandates."
I doubt anyone raised the Constitution as a reason he should be able to pump all the gas he wanted while World War II rationing orders were in place. People then were tougher and more committed to the common good.
Dow's Texas two-step — optional masks and vaccinations — might be a popular campaign pitch in another state.
She will have a harder time justifying to New Mexico voters what's wrong with school employees either being vaccinated against COVID-19 or being tested weekly. After all, doesn't every candidate in every campaign say the children come first?