Give Steve Pearce credit for consistency. Take away all that credit for his bitterness.
Pearce, chairman of the state Republican Party, tells anyone who will listen that Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is doing a bad job.
Lujan Grisham thrashed Pearce in the 2018 election for governor. Pearce might never get over it. He lost the race for an open seat by a staggering 14 percentage points.
Throughout the novel coronavirus pandemic, Pearce has looked through his jaundiced lens and made two broad claims about Lujan Grisham. He says her policies are bad for business and an attack on good sense.
Implicit in Pearce’s criticism is he would have had the state economy humming in this public health crisis, if only voters had been smart enough to elect him.
From the sideline, Pearce stews and second-guesses Lujan Grisham.
“Her mass gathering policies have now ruined our tourism industry and the fate of other industries, like wine, hangs in the balance,” Pearce said Friday.
His timing was terrible, his claim laughable. Soon after Pearce piped up, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered bars and river-rafting companies in his state to shut down.
Abbott also will limit restaurants to 50 percent occupancy. His revised rule is similar to what Lujan Grisham is doing to check the pandemic.
If Abbott weren’t a Republican, Pearce would accuse him of backpedaling and strangling the economy with every step.
Abbott has good reason to follow Lujan Grisham’s strategy. COVID-19 infections in Texas soared after Abbott eased restrictions.
Politicians will debate whether Texas is undergoing a second wave of the disease, or if Abbott worsened the first wave with a premature reopening.
Either way, more than 10 percent of Texans who were tested during a recent week had COVID-19. Intensive care units in Houston are full. Abbott is urging residents of his biggest city to stay home to protect themselves and his state’s overburdened hospitals.
Most New Mexico residents know they are more vulnerable because of the rising caseload in a huge border state and across much of the Southwest.
Pearce discounts what’s happening in the region. Lujan Grisham is his target.
“Each day more small businesses shut down. The governor has shown little understanding of how her policies have devastated our state and have clearly sounded a death knell for our economy,” Pearce said.
In his world, a spreading disease isn’t the root problem or the menace that could kill thousands. Lujan Grisham is his villain.
But if Lujan Grisham had loosened the rules, New Mexico might be a miniature version of Texas. The Navajo Nation, with one of the highest per capita infection rates anywhere, would be in even worse condition.
And Pearce would be prattling about how Lujan Grisham wasn’t aggressive enough to blunt the pandemic. Then again, he will always say she didn’t do her job, no matter what move she makes.
Pearce’s vitriol is mostly about his wounded pride and the sorry state of politics. In this era, a public health crisis is no cause for cooperation among adults. It’s an opportunity for Pearce to swipe at someone who ended his career in elective office.
But Pearce’s claim that Lujan Grisham wrecked the tourist trade is a stretch, even for him.
People aren’t traveling this summer for two reasons. They fear the coronavirus, and countless events have been canceled.
Under normal summertime conditions, Santa Fe’s opera and art markets would draw moneyed visitors, many of them from Texas. Nothing is normal now.
Because Abbott mismanaged the pandemic in his state, sane people aren’t excited by the prospect of Texans streaming into New Mexico this summer. Some of the visitors probably would carry the disease. New Mexico would see a surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths. Then the state’s economy would be in worse shape than ever.
In Texas, Abbott just shuttered businesses that cater to tourists or those with discretionary income. He knows survival takes precedence over tourism.
Some are sniping at Abbott, just as Pearce attacks Lujan Grisham.
This isn’t a popularity contest. Lujan Grisham has already bested Pearce in that department.
Her job is to get the novel coronavirus under control and keep people safe. Abbott knows how hard a job it is.
Pearce can only imagine. That’s his problem.