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March 24, 2020

Dan Patrick Gambling GOP Future in Texas with Shocker
on Sacrificial Exchange of Lives for Economic Prosperity

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

Texan Lyndon B. Johnson realized that he'd effectively killed the Democrats in the south when he signed the civil rights act during his year as the president in 1964.

Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick might be helping the Democrats get Texas back with a stunning claim that older people would be willing to sacrifice their lives to get the American economy back on track in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

Patrick, who turns 70 next month, served up the observation in an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News on Monday night.

"No one reached out to me and said, 'As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?' And if that is the exchange, I'm all in," Patrick declared.

"My message is that let's get back to work, let's get back to living," the Texas Senate president added. "Let's be smart about it and those of us who are 70-plus, we'll take care of ourselves. But don't sacrifice the country."

Patrick appeared to be taking a cue from President Donald Trump who'd decided earlier in the day that he wants to put an end to social distancing by Easter less than a month from now. Patrick has been Trump's most prominent supporter in the Lone Star State where he chaired the New York billionaire's campaign for the White House in 2016 after U.S. Senator Ted Cruz dropped out of the race.

The lieutenant governor could be a trial balloon for the president now with the suggestion on the wholesale dying of seniors as collateral in the fight against COVID-19 as a way to ensure a prosperous future for their children and grandchildren. The vast majority of people who are in their 60s or older do not want to die to help accelerate an economic recovery in a move that would make the entire population more vulnerable to the disease and the possibility of death in the midst of its rapid spread.

"This kind of numbnuttery will kill people in Texas. Young as well as old,” former Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Beto O'Rourke tweeted after Patrick's shocking assertion on national television.

"It's easy for someone of power and privilege to say something so callous," San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who's also a Democrat, told CNN on Tuesday. Nirenberg, who issued a shelter-in-place order this week, vowed to do everything in his power to protect the health and safety of his constituents of all ages including tens of thousands of military veterans who are residents of the Alamo City.

Patrick isn't on the ballot again this year after dodging a blue wave in 2018 when he beat Democrat Mike Collier by less than 5 percentage points as a statewide official in a re-election race that the incumbent had been a prohibitive favorite until the final weeks before the vote. Governor Greg Abbott and most of the other Republican statewide leaders in Texas won new terms as well in the last cycle when O'Rourke came within less than 3 points of knocking off Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in the contest at the top of the ballot.

But Democrats were the big winners here in the most recent general election here when they picked up a dozen seats in the Texas House, two in the state Senate and two more in the congressional delegation with O'Rourke leading the charge in Trump's long shadow. The Democrats would take the state House back with a net gain of nine seats or more in a November general election that will most likely turn on the outcome of the coronavirus pandemic if it has ended by then.

Trump and Patrick appear to be gambling now that the GOP's only hopes for holding the White House and legislative majorities at statehouses will hinge on the resumption of life as normal in America before the general election less than eight months from now. While Patrick isn't independently wealthy like Trump, the fortunes of many wealthy Americans depend significantly on a relatively prosperous national economy that's teetering on the brink of a depression now as a consequence of the coronavirus.

But Patrick runs the risk of throwing his own political future away and undermining the GOP in the party's bid to retain control of the state House that Democrats will be favored to wrestle away if Texas goes blue at the top of the ticket in November for the first time since 1976. Patrick can expect a massive backlash with the comments on a sacrificial exchange of older Americans in a country where voters over age 65 propelled Trump to victory in his first bid for the presidency.

Patrick could be wagering now that a potential surge in Trump support among younger voters will more than compensate for a dramatic turning of older Americans against the president and Republicans up and down the fall ballot if young Americans like the idea of losing their parents and grandparents as a tradeoff for economic gain.

Patrick has been unwavering in his loyalty to Trump. The state Senate's presiding officer, Patrick missed the first day of the regular legislative session in 2019 when the Trump administration summoned him to Washington for advice on border security. A former state senator from the Houston area, Patrick piqued the wrath of tea party conservatives who'd been his most loyal supporters when he called last year for modest restrictions on guns after marching in lockstep with the National Rifle Association throughout his political career. Patrick's softening on gun rights came at a time when Trump had appeared to be moving in the same direction.

Patrick faced a deluge of criticism shortly before taking the lead for Trump in Texas four years ago after tweeting that "man reaps what he sows" in the immediate wake of a mass shooting that claimed 49 lives at a gay bar in Orlando. The social media post that Patrick deleted four hours later was widely interpreted to be a claim that the tragedy was the work of divine intervention as punishment for homosexuality. But Patrick eventually revealed that the Biblical excerpt had been scheduled for release on Twitter before the attack in Florida.

 

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