The open acts of defiance aren’t just being embraced by fringe activists mobilized through social media posts. Elected officials have called for pushing aside public safety experts in the name of remedying “societal fallout.” In Texas, the House Freedom Caucus has called on the governor to lift the state’s stay-at-home order. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) scoffed at restrictions other states had placed on activities such as going to beaches and church—while leaving the suggestion that others should do the same. And a top aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said it was “time to not comply” with the commonwealth’s governor, Andy Beshear, over a plan to record and quarantine churchgoers during Easter Sunday.
The public demonstrations of frustration and resistance have begun to draw parallels to the Tea Party protests that popped up during the early months of Barack Obama’s presidency. The circumstances are far different—a reactionary movement to bank bailouts and the first African-American president versus resentment towards strict public health guidelines. But the theme of individualism versus statism is a through line that GOP operatives believe could be similarly galvanizing on the right.
“There is a natural tension between the government taking actions to protect public safety and citizens feeling like their rights are being limited,” said Matt Mackowiak, a GOP operative in Texas. “We’ve seen it on the religious services aspect of this. There are questions about the police power ability of the government to begin with and whether any of these requirements that local, state, and municipal govts are even enforceable. I think there is a disconnect between the way the government is looking at this and the way individuals are looking at this.”