This week, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, has been the subject of much attention because of her on the sly visit at a salon in her hometown of San Francisco despite such being forbidden under the local coronavirus crackdown and despite Pelosi being one of the most prominent coronavirus fearmongers in America. A few months before Pelosi’s salon visit, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was similarly in the spotlight. A picture circulated in April of Lightfoot with her hair stylist at a haircut appointment after Lightfoot had been encouraging people to adhere to the local shutdown of hair cutting business operations.
Pelosi and Lightfoot’s examples show politicians engaging in justifiably condemnable hypocrisy when they receive professional haircuts in contravention on mandates issued in the name of countering coronavirus.
But, condemnation is not always the proper response when politicians take actions that are prohibited in a coronavirus crackdown. Consider the politician who opposes the coronavirus crackdown generally or, at least, opposes the part of it applying to barbershops and salons. He may sneak in the back door of a barbershop or invite a stylist to his home for a covert haircut without engaging in hypocrisy.
Also, a politician who opposes the shutdown of hair cutting businesses can do as Texas State Representatives Steve Toth and Briscoe Cain did in May. In violation of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s mandate that hair cutting businesses be closed in the state, Toth and Cain, who are in office as Republicans as is Abbott, chose to have haircuts, with media present, at a defiantly open location of Tune Up The Manly Salon.
Cain, quoted in a Texas Tribune article, explains that he had his haircut as an act of civil disobedience:
‘For me, it was an act of civil disobedience, but it wasn’t personal,’ Cain told the Tribune later Tuesday. ‘If you’ve been following my Twitter feed, I was encouraging people to do this — if I was going to encourage others, I should do it myself — to encourage customers to go to any business, whether it’s been deemed ‘essential’ or not, so we can help provide these business owners and employees an income so they can pay their bills.’
Toth is quoted in the article as saying he was seeking, through his public haircut, to send a message to the Texas governor. With the legislature then out of session, Abbott had been unilaterally imposing a coronavirus crackdown with no chance of legislative check on that exercise of power. Toth explains:
‘When you’re Greg Abbott and you have people screaming in your ear, you have to find a creative way to communicate with him; he’s going 24/7 right now,’ Toth told the Tribune on Tuesday evening. ‘We wanted to get a message to the governor — everyone has to take a different tack trying to make sure the governor knows what our constituents are thinking.’
Abbott even now — four months after Cain and Toth’s haircuts — continues to exercise vast unilateral power in the name of countering coronavirus, refusing to call a special session of the legislature that could challenge and roll back his mandates.
In June, Tune Up announced a lawsuit against defendants including Abbott. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the coronavirus crackdown as it affects cosmetology and hair cutting businesses. In announcing the lawsuit, Tune Up owner Ryan Logan stated:
The governor does not have the constitutional authority to decide which businesses are essential or non-essential or to issue an order preventing salon owners, employees and independent cosmetologists and barbers from working so they can care for their families. Although the restrictions on salons and operators continue to loosen, this lawsuit is a forward-looking attempt to safeguard against another round of closures, now or in the future.
Yes, hypocritical politicians deserve scorn when they advocate for or put in place restrictions on liberty in the name of countering coronavirus and then sneakily enjoy services prohibited by the restrictions. But, at the same time, we can express admiration for politicians such as Cain and Toth — as well as businesses such as Tune Up — who publicly defy the coronavirus crackdown.