In an interview last week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he doesn’t know why grassroots conservatives are upset following the results of the legislative session. Grassroots America We the People’s JoAnn Fleming says Patrick knows, but that he and other Republican lawmakers “stopped caring about the conservatives back home.”
I’m not arguing Fleming is wrong, but measuring how much Patrick cares is difficult to do directly. What I think is easy to review is the difference between his pre-election rhetoric and his post-election results.
In the summer of 2013, then-State Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) and other Texas Republicans were fed up with the leader of the Texas Senate.
In the legislative session that had just concluded, they’d watched then-Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst kowtow to Democrats. Despite holding control of the chamber, Dewhurst had failed to deliver any real conservative policy victories.
Their tax dollars were being used to fund subsidized college tuition for illegal aliens, and the Texas Legislature had failed to pass legislation to stop it. Concealed carry on campus and open carry laws had died slow, painful deaths.
Pro-life efforts were stymied again and again by then-State Sen. Wendy Davis (D–Fort Worth), only finally passing because Gov. Rick Perry called lawmakers back for multiple special sessions.
And Dewhurst had worked to pass a hugely bloated budget, growing the size of government by nearly 25 percent. (He would later allege that, when viewed in context of the 2011 budget cuts, his budget “only” grew government by 16 percent.)
Dewhurst’s record was toxic, but he was also self-aware. Texas voters had rejected him a year prior when he sought promotion to the U.S. Senate, choosing a young, conservative firebrand named Ted Cruz in his stead.
He didn’t even attempt to win the governor’s office, effectively ceding it to the state’s then-Attorney General Greg Abbott. Instead, he campaigned for re-election as lieutenant governor, hoping incumbency would help him hang on.
Dewhurst was the establishment favorite, but three strong candidates emerged as primary opponents for the post. One of them was Dan Patrick.
“I think the people in Texas sense that it is a time for change. 2014 is going to be a change election,” said Patrick in his announcement.
Throughout the entirety of his campaign, Patrick was on the attack.
“For a decade, Dewhurst has allowed programs that attract illegals to Texas like in-state tuition to expand and even reduced funding for border security and organized crime in the Department of Public Safety budget. That’s failed leadership,” he said in December 2013.
Patrick placed first in the primary election but went into a runoff with Dewhurst, in which he intensified his attacks and pitched himself as a conservative alternative.
“The only thing you need to know about the lieutenant governor’s current budget is that every Democrat praised and voted for it,” he said in an April 2014 TV ad. “As a conservative Republican, I didn’t.”
“This is Texas, not California, and we need a lieutenant governor who understands the difference,” he later charged.
Conservatives agreed with Patrick, and they voted for him in droves. He won the primary runoff handily, won the November election handily, served one term, and was re-elected by a strong margin.
Despite Patrick and other Republican legislators’ internal back-patting and cheering of how united they were and how cordial every conversation was, Texas taxpayers continue to subsidize the college tuition of illegal aliens. In fact, if one such illegal alien began his schooling the day Patrick was sworn in as lieutenant governor, he could now be nearing completion of a postdoctoral degree.
No strong Second Amendment legislation passed this session. Neither did a single life-saving measure, despite strong pro-life laws passing in Iowa, Alabama, Georgia, and other states. The Texas Legislature also passed a budget growing government by more than 12 percent.
And every Democrat praised and voted for it.
Asked why grassroots conservatives are upset with such legislative results, or perhaps more aptly the lack thereof, the lieutenant governor pled ignorance.
“I don’t know why they’re disappointed. That’s for them to answer,” said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. “We consider it a very successful session.”
Perhaps it’s precisely because they still agree with what he said in 2013.