By: Erica Greider
On a personal level, I’ve always liked Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and found him to be less of a caricature than his critics suppose.
With that said, I plan on voting for his Democratic challenger, Mike Collier. And I would encourage you to do so too, if only as a rebuke to Patrick for the disrespect he has shown all Texans during the course of his bid for a second term in statewide office.
In theory, Patrick is running for re-election. In practice, he’s been running away from anyone who might want to talk about his record in office. He’s refused to debate Collier, for example. Although he can always make time for Sean Hannity, he’s apparently too busy to sit down with the Houston Chronicle’s editorial board.
And if you have a concern that you’d like to raise with the lieutenant governor, you’ll have to try talking to your television, I guess. Patrick officially kicked off his campaign on Tuesday, which he spent crisscrossing the state via private jet, making brief appearances in a number of cities, where he fielded questions from the tiny subset of voters who happen to work for local media outlets.
Then, on Wednesday, Patrick committed an offense that I consider disqualifying in a candidate for high office in Texas.
Patrick tweeted, “On September 5, 1836 Sam Houston was elected as the first president of the Republic of Texas. Today let’s celebrate this important Texas patriot.”
He appended a meme with a quote attributed to Houston: “A leader is someone who helps improve the lives of other people or improve [sic] the system they live under.”
Technically, David Burnet was the first president of the Republic of Texas, although he served on an interim basis. And Houston was more than an important Texas patriot. He was, among other things, the military commander who secured Texas’s independence at the Battle of San Jacinto, in 1836, and Burnet’s successor as the young republic’s president.
More to the point, Houston was the spiritual father of Texas. If not for his visionary leadership, the state as we know it wouldn’t exist. And Houston never said the words that Patrick attributed to him. A Google search suggests the comment was made by the late Sen. Sam Ervin, the folksy North Carolina Democrat who led the U.S. Senate investigation into Watergate; I can believe that.
With that said, Houston was the greatest Texan to ever live. He is a hero of mine. One of Houston’s defining traits, in fact, was that he didn’t necessarily try to work within the system.
For example, Houston’s long political career ended in 1861, when he resigned as governor of Texas rather than serve in that capacity in the Confederacy.
As a child growing up in Tennessee, Houston became an adoptive son of the Cherokee nation, christened as The Raven. Later he advocated for American Indians as their representative in Washington, even though that put him at odds with many of his peers—as well as the president, his onetime mentor Andrew Jackson.
At San Jacinto, when Houston realized his troops were outnumbered, he responded by sending a couple of them to destroy the bridges that would have let the Texian Army retreat if necessary.
“Do right, and risk the consequences.” That’s what Houston is famous for saying. It would be naive to expect all of Texas’s leaders to follow that advice, of course. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to insist that our leaders should aspire to quote Sam Houston correctly when they’re grandstanding on Twitter about Sam Houston’s legacy.
And even prior to Patrick’s tweet, it was safe to infer that his election is not guaranteed. Many Republicans have been pleased with Patrick’s performance thus far, and some have high hopes for what he might accomplish in his second term, in light of moderate Joe Straus’s decision to step down after 10 years as Speaker of the Texas House.