Last night State Senator Dan Patrick (R,
ESPN TX SD-7)
won the Texas Republican Party's nomination for Lieutenant Governor.
The incumbent, David Dewhurst, had a very daunting task in keeping his seat in the upper chamber of the Texas Lege. As I observed back in March, Dewhurst's career is over. Dewhurst was unable to back off a challenge by now-Senator Ted Cruz (R,
Denial TX) in 2012 and now in 2014 as he was
unable to fight off a challenge in his right flank as represented in Patrick.
Back in April I watched the debate between then-San Antonio Mayor, now-HUD Secretary Julián Castro and Texas State Senator Dan Patrick on immigration that was moderated by Texas Tribune's Evan Smith in San Antonio. I think this debate is telling about the type of governing style Patrick will likely bring to the Texas Senate and the policies the Texas Republican Party will enact.
And if you think that just because you don't live in Texas (ahem, Colorado) and those policies will have no impact on you, read this piece about why Texas is important and how the state has had an impact on national policies.
When I was analyzing the April debate between Castro and Patrick I had this thought that it was going to be something deep and insightful. I was coming back to this one observation.
Patrick's statements were never really geared towards the debate (and I call it a debate under the a very small-l liberal definition). The debate turned into a Patrick Platform by use of phrases of "Anchor Babies" and "Secure The Border." These bumper sticker phrases play well in Republican circles in Texas, but in other parts of the country... not so much. While the so-called establishment wing of the Republican Party has been winning primaries in elections in Kentucky and North Carolina, more conservative elements of the Republican Party are doing well in Texas.
The Texas Republican Party is considering scaling back some of their pro-immigration planks for their 2014 platform when the party convenes for its biannual convention next month in Fort Worth. Doing so is a sign of them appeasing their base, but at the same time will harm their prospects with the growing and influential Hispanic demographic.
What is happening in Texas is part of something larger and could be ongoing for the next couple of election cycles.
Nationally the Republican Party is at odds between various factions that comprise the party: pro-business interests, the religious right, the libertarian Ron/Rand Paul supporters, firearms rights activists, pro-life movement, anti-immigrant factions, states' rights supporters, and the Tea Party. Though it comes down to these two main groups.
Group A clings to the idea that if they had ran a more conservative candidate in the last two presidential elections they would have won the White House. They generally associate themselves with the Tea Party and back anti-establishment candidates because as I mentioned word-for-word in the same post after the Texas Primary:
Pretty much these people are waging war against the establishment because they feel like the Republican establishment let them down over the last decade by not enacting the most extreme elements of the conservative agenda. George W. Bush is considered a hero to some of these people, but they feel that he let them down by growing the size of government by creating the Department of Homeland Security, signing into law the USA PATRIOT Act, and compromising with those evil Democrats to bail out Wall Street to keep the economy from becoming more of a smoking crater than it already was.
According to these people, compromising was the WORST act of betrayal that Bush could have done.
Group B recognizes that Republican Party has failed to win the popular vote in 5 of the last 6 presidential elections. In that same time period, no Republican Presidential candidate has received 300 electoral votes or more. In part it has to do with the country supporting same-sex marriage and drifting away from the culture wars of what helped Republicans in the past, a disastrous foreign and economic policy under the George W. Bush administration, and most importantly, shifting demographics that favor a Democratic candidate.
Both groups want to win elections. Most importantly the one election that results in their candidate living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for at least four years. Group B needs the demographics in the general election but needs Group A to get through the primary process.
As shown in Kentucky, Senator Mitch McConnell easily cruised to his victory over challenger Matt Bevin. The Bevin campaign was plagued with many issues such as appearing at a cockfighting rally. In North Carolina, Speaker of the State House Thom Tillis had support from Mitt Romney and the Chamber of Commerce. Though Tillis received 45.7% of the vote it was enough to avoid a runoff.
It was not so much that Republican incumbent candidates have found the formula to defeat primary challengers to bring their party back to the mainstream but rather have adopted positions that mirror those of the base of the party.
For those that have been celebrating the demise of the Tea Party perhaps it was more of celebrating the demise of the label that describes outsiders challenging Republican incumbents.
What does the nomination of Dan Patrick and others mean for Texas?
It means that there won't be much in positive policy in the upcoming Texas Lege session. If Dan Patrick becomes the next Lieutenant Governor of Texas (note: he does have a very good Democratic opponent who could be the literal and/or representative future of Texas politics), expect a lot of red meat thrown at the Texas Republican base: Arizona style immigration laws, cutting early voting, and slashing of education budgets.
Things are not much better when you look down ballot. Ag commissioner candidate Sid Miller has backing from Ted Nugent. George P. Bush is talking about abortion which has nothing to do with the job he is campaigning for, Land Commissioner. It is going to be odd when new Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is disbarred for his violations of the Texas Securities Board as he prepares to defend Texas's same-sex marriage ban before the Supreme Court.
And don't get me started about who is running for State Senate and State House. Speaker Straus will likely be retained as Texas House Speaker, but he will likely face more vocal and active opposition for his speakership when the Lege reconvenes in January 2015.
Long term consequences is that the Republican Party will continue its rightward trend and will further hinder its hopes in capturing the White House in future elections. In Republican Primaries, Texas is next largest delegate haul. In 2012 there were 155 delegates up for grabs. A Republican candidate will have to track hard right in order to gain those delegates necessary to win the nomination.
As Paul Burka pointed out in a piece for Texas Monthly, Texas is being run by the Tea Party (or whatever label they are calling themselves these days). For things to get better it might take Texas to hit rock bottom.
Texas is the location of the Republican Civil War between all those competing interests within the party.
Unfortunately the people impacted by the infighting among the Republican Party will be the citizens of Texas.