In this week’s episode of Showtime’s “The Circus” entitled “Lone Star Blues,” Joe Straus, former speaker of the Texas House, placed most of the blame for the far-right direction of Texas politics squarely on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Straus, who was Speaker of the House from 2009 through 2019, spoke about the infamous ‘bathroom bill’ from the 2017 legislative session that Patrick had long crusaded for. The law, which would have regulated bathroom use for Transgender Texans, eventually died a quiet death during the 2017 special session when Straus refused to refer it to a committee for consideration.
“Remarkably, that was the number one goal of our Lt. Governor that year,” Straus said. “Give me a break. With all of the issues that are facing a growing state — and it really shook me up in a way — that that could take up so much oxygen.”
Straus talked about the extreme-rightward shift in the state’s politics, and who he feels is pushing it. “I think Dan Patrick has had more to do with driving the agenda of Texas politics than anybody over the last 10 years, with less and less input from others and with less and less humility,” Straus said. “I’ve got to give him credit. He’s good at the game. But I don’t think it has been great for the state.”
There is one Republican that seemingly has Patrick’s ear; former President Trump. Scott Braddock wrote in the Quorum Report on Monday that, “it is no secret that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick maintains a friendly and working relationship with former President Donald Trump, who as of late seems quite tuned in to Texas legislative minutiae. In addition to intimidating Gov. Greg Abbott over a ‘forensic audit’ of the 2020 Texas election, Mr. Trump is now also threatening Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan with a primary if even more elections legislation isn’t passed this year.”
Braddock adds, “at GOP events around the state, Patrick often talks to party activists about how he can call Trump on his cell phone at any time to talk about a variety of issues. “Nonstop bragging,” as one Republican put it after attending such a speech.”
Like Patrick, Trump is not interested in seeing any moderation in Texas politics. Trump attacked current House Speaker Dade Phelan over the weekend for failing to push through Texas state Senate Bill 47 (SB 47), which would empower party leaders to move forward with county audits, including the 2020 presidential election results. The audit bill passed through the Texas Senate but is not currently on the state House agenda for the legislative session.
“Texans are tired of Phelan’s weak RINO leadership in the State House,” Trump said. “If this doesn’t pass soon, we look forward to seeing him in the Texas primary. It will get done one way, or the other!”
As he closed out the interview on The Circus, Straus added a cautionary warning for his party if the hard-right drift continues: “So many people are trained or ingrained into voting in November for the person with the ‘R’ by their name, none of the rest matters. And that may be changing.”
“If you see photos of political events, Republican political events around the state, you see a lot of white skin and a lot of gray hair. This state is becoming more diverse and it’s becoming younger. So if Republicans aren’t really careful, and haven’t been careful, this can become competitive in a hurry.”
Is this the road to ruin for the party?
“An old political hand told me not long ago that nothing in Texas politics changes — until it does.”