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

Even the people most hurt by the stern measures put into place to stem the tide of the coronavirus pandemic are aware of what the risks are.

They know that there is a real public health emergency.

Except for the irresponsible Clay Higgins.

The congressman from Lafayette made himself famous, in a way, for swaggering videos as a former deputy sheriff, the “Cajun John Wayne.” But trash-talking criminals on a video put no one at risk.

Higgins now is undermining the national consensus about how to deal with the urgent threat of coronavirus.

In a video lashing out at restrictions ordered by Gov. John Bel Edwards, Higgins appears to want to take the side of oppressed small business owners. As if, obviously, the governor of this state, or those of other states, is unaware of how much closure orders and “social distancing” hurts retail businesses and their employees.

Playing politics like that, even as people are catching a potentially deadly disease, is not that unusual coming from a low-rent John Wayne.

But in the guise of standing up for threatened businesses, the congressman gravely hurts our people and our country.

This is a crude echo of the anti-government, anti-authority theme, what scholars call the "paranoid style" of American politicians. “These people that own their businesses, they can make up their own minds,” Higgins said. “They’re not stupid. You can’t make decisions for them because you think you know best.”

As if our governor in Louisiana, like many governors and mayors across the country, acted out of some sense of arrogant superiority to the little man. What nonsense.

And if Higgins believes the governor is wrong, he also ought to be criticizing President Donald Trump, who is supporting social distancing.

We’re not sure that social distancing will work as completely as everyone hopes. We know that it has a very substantial economic cost, real people with real lives in trouble.

What we are sure of, and what even a loudmouth backbench member of Congress ought to know, is that there are no good options for dealing with this crisis.

The political cherry-picking of a Clay Higgins is not just unseemly but downright dangerous. Obviously uninformed, he cannot be also unaware that pushing people into semi-isolation, losing their jobs, not being able to send their kids to school — all these are going to be very difficult to sustain for long.

Undermining the vast social pact that separates us now will threaten the health and safety of others in the very near future. How shortsighted can a member of Congress be?

We urge him to visit hospitals in his districts and hear from doctors and nurses on the front lines. Then, a video of contrition and good medical advice would make him seem less of a fool.

Our Views: LaToya Cantrell, John Bel Edwards act on coronavirus decisively