Congressman Clay Higgins speaks during a Republican rally Monday, October 7, 2019, at the Cajundome Convention Center in Lafayette.

While Clay Higgins made his political reputation with swaggering online videos in a St. Landry Parish deputy’s uniform, for much of his life he was a car salesman. Today, he wants people to believe that he’s a spokesman for oppressed Americans.

We wish the Lafayette congressman would have stuck to debates over the merits of Fords and Chevys, or even Republicans or Democrats in politics.

Instead, he’s made himself — again — a braying idiot during the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest is a video from Washington, D.C., denouncing stay-at-home orders as a “betrayal of our constitutional freedoms.” Higgins demanded that restrictions be lifted by the beginning of next month. In a video posted to his campaign Facebook page Wednesday, Higgins addressed “government oppressors.”

Public health officials, state leaders, both Republican and Democratic, credit stay-at-home orders with slowing the pandemic, which spread rapidly in Louisiana and has claimed more than 1,500 lives in the state so far — one of the highest death tolls among the states.

We see Gov. John Bel Edwards’ strong leadership — backed by most officials of both political parties — as enormously helpful. Legal experts almost unanimously disagree with Higgins’ view of oppression; those experts include Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican who is frequently at odds with the Democratic governor.

Party politics should be, and for most Louisiana officials has been, left by the wayside in the face of a deadly and highly communicable disease.

Higgins has been an outlier, first offering up a shopping-center video from Lafayette decrying the orders that closed many businesses — a painful but necessary step in this time of contagion.

We do not doubt that there is a growing political tinge to the debate over what are by any measure sweeping public health orders, from the governor as well as mayors like LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans and Sharon Weston Broome of Baton Rouge. GOP leaders have taken up the "re-opening" cry, but usually in more responsible ways, like Higgins' Republican colleague Mike Johnson of north Louisiana. “Our number-one priority is the protection of public health, we have to be clear about that," Johnson said Thursday. "But we can protect lives and livelihood at the same time."

In more rural and Republican areas, testing lagged and now many more cases, and more deaths, are occurring in “red” jurisdictions. By attacking public health measures, Higgins is selling a first-class lemon to his constituents, particularly the elderly whose next car might be a hearse because of COVID-19.

Maybe, like many, Higgins never sang more than one verse of “America the Beautiful,” but there’s a passage later about America’s “heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life.”

Those are the people who knew real oppression. Evoking that cause as Higgins does is an insult to patriots’ graves everywhere.

Our Views: An irresponsible Clay Higgins undermines fight against coronavirus