Once upon a time, the Texas Senate was Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s whole world. His turbulent 2014 campaign for the post was a radical change in Texas politics, the tea party revolution taking the throne. In his inauguration speech he proclaimed that his arrival marked “a new day in Texas.” One of his first acts in office as president of the Senate was changing the upper chamber’s rules to give the majority party more power, so as to better push through his priorities. In the opening weeks of his first session, he made committee appointments in record time and repeatedly summoned senators and media to press conferences to announce ambitious policy proposals on a wide range of issues, which gave the vague impression of living in a country after a coup. Here comes the subcomandante with another six-month plan.
But a lot of his proposals didn’t go anywhere, either because of resistance in the House or in his own Senate. In 2017, Patrick’s second session as lieutenant governor, he dialed up the confrontation even more, engaging in a brutal tug-of-war with Speaker Joe Straus and forcing a special session for the purpose of pushing a bill restricting the use of public bathrooms by transgender people, which once again didn’t pass.
Throughout, Patrick demonstrated a peerless ability to dominate the conversation but less ability to convince his legislative partners to act on his issues, such as school vouchers. Then Democrats picked up two additional Senate seats and a dozen House seats in the 2018 election, and Patrick’s own margin of victory for his reelection narrowed considerably.
On the first day of the 2019 session, Patrick was absent—he had gone to the White House to be with President Trump. That set the tone for the next few months, as Patrick’s grip on the upper chamber seems to have loosened while he remains focused on national issues. Key bills have stagnated in the Senate, while the chamber’s school finance plan arrived on the floor just last week. He’s had spats with a few of his senators: first with moderate republican Kel Seliger, which is to be expected, but lately a public disagreement over the sales tax swap with close ally Paul Bettencourt. It’s all a bit odd.
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Where is Patrick these days? Often, it turns out, on Fox News, talking not about state government but about federal border policy. Patrick is no stranger to the media—he’s appeared on Fox many times before and is himself a former AM radio host. Clips of some of Patrick’s recent TV spots, like the one where he called Nancy Pelosi a “slaveholder” morally responsible for the rape of children at “cantinas,” have raised eyebrows in Texas, as they’ve seemed to take on an increasingly hallucinatory and colorful tone. But cumulatively, his Fox appearances present a richer picture of Patrick’s worldview and motivations—and his vision of America’s future.
Here are selections from eight of his recent appearances—four from the month of April alone.
January 9, The Ingraham Angle, On the question of Democratic resistance to the border wall:
“The mainstream media, MSNBC, CNN, the print media, and the Democrats are in one of two groups. They are deniers or they are deceivers. The deniers won’t accept the truth, or they are quite frankly not smart enough to figure it out. The deceivers know the truth, and they’re lying to the American people.
“And the reason the deceivers—the Democrats and the mainstream media—have this manufactured cover-up is because they want another 10, 15, 20 million to continue to pour in to where they turn those into votes one day and they control the country and they move our country to the left.“
February 11, The Ingraham Angle, On the question of the relative safety of El Paso:
“In the last three years, 59 people have been murdered in El Paso and 2,416 in Juárez. If this fence were not here, that violence of decapitating people, of hanging people from bridges, of cutting off their heads, and rolling them in pool halls and down the street.”
March 14, The Ingraham Angle, On the question of Beto O’Rourke’s candidacy:
“I do think the future of the country is on the line because if we end up with any of the socialists who are running for the Democrats, Laura, our business model that has made this country great will collapse. The stock market will collapse. Our military will be weakened. Fences will come down on the border. We will be overrun.”
March 26, 2019, Varney & Co., On the question of whether the president should “close the border:”
“It’s the smart thing to do, by the way, to start closing these checkpoints. We need to lock down as many checkpoints as we need to to stop these caravans. They’re going to continue to come. We’re being overrun.”
April 3, 2019, The Brian Kilmeade Show, On the question of Julián Castro’s immigration policy proposals:
“This is all the big plan to take over America to turn it into a socialist country.”
April 5, 2019, Hannity, On the number of immigrants in the U.S.:
“You hear the number of 11 million illegals in this country. It’s closer to 30 million. It is closing in on 10 percent of the population.
“In Texas, it’s busting our bank. We’re spending $2.4 billion in the last three years, since I’ve been lieutenant governor, the last three sessions, just on border security. One out of every five students in our public schools, Sean, about 1 million out of our 5.5 million are not proficient or don’t speak English. We cannot educate, medicate, and incarcerate the whole world who wants to come here.”
April 17, 2019, The Ingraham Angle, On the question of cantinas:
“Somewhere in Texas there’s a little girl crying because she’s trapped in a cantina having sex with twenty men a day and can’t get out.”
“It’s almost treasonous what [Nancy Pelosi] is doing, selling out this country. I view her as nothing more than a slaveholder, because she’s in charge of not helping these poor young girls, these poor young girls trapped in cantinas and bars all across the country.”
“I’m going to put out a $100,000 bounty right tonight on your show. I will give any Democrat $10,000 to their favorite charity. Come down to Texas and go down to no man’s land with me . . . Come with me, Democrat. Come from Rhode Island . . . I’ll take them out, and I’ll give them a half a gallon of water, and I’ll see how long they last . . . I’ll take them out to a cantina where we just rounded up 59 young girls recently and before we can help them, the drug cartel lawyers are there to spring them, and they’re afraid to talk.”
The current scuttlebutt in Austin is that Patrick is angling for a slot in the Trump administration, perhaps as Homeland Security secretary, a position recently vacated by Kirstjen Nielsen. That jibes with the widely reported fact that the president treats his surrogates’ TV appearances as auditions. But earlier Patrick rumors—that he would challenge Governor Greg Abbott or that he was preparing to run for a U.S. Senate seat—proved untrue. Another possibility: Patrick, having been confronted with the limits of his own office to enact policy, has diverted much of his attention to what he sincerely believes is a totalizing, existential threat to both Texas and the Republican Party.
The common thread in all these TV appearances is Patrick’s belief that Democrats, in a symbiotic relationship with the cartels, effectively import immigrants and refugees to the U.S., turn a blind eye to criminal abuses, provide them with citizenship, and then use these new Americans to enact political change, thereby also bringing about eventual political, cultural, and social collapse. (Implicit in this is Patrick’s belief that the Republican party could never possibly appeal to these kinds of immigrants, who were the target of aggressive outreach by conservatives just a few years ago.)
When voter turnout surged in multicultural, immigrant-friendly Houston in 2016, Patrick’s son, Ryan Patrick, lost his Harris County judgeship. (Trump later appointed him U.S. attorney.) Illegal immigration has always been Dan Patrick’s number one issue, since his first days in politics. Now it’s more urgent than ever.
Last week, Patrick was interviewed again on Ingraham’s show by former GOP congressman Jason Chaffetz, who was guest-hosting. Chaffetz asked Patrick about the prospect of Republican underperformance in Texas. Was the threat real? Was it true that more than 400,000 new voters had registered after last year’s primaries?
Yes, Patrick said, but it wouldn’t matter. “[Trump] is now a trusted member of the family” among Texas Republicans, he said. “And people have your back when you become a member of the family.” That said, he acknowledged that the challenge the GOP faces is real, and “the president is going to have to spend money” in Texas.
Closing the interview, Chaffetz framed increased voter participation as a problem. “You have a voter registration issue that we have to deal with.” Patrick replies, “Yeah, but Trump’s going to win Texas.” He adds: “Trump’s going to have a huge victory, and it’s going to put an end to this insanity.”