SAN DIEGO — Every state has its challenges. California has drought. Oklahoma has tornadoes. Colorado has forest fires.
And Texas has Dan Patrick. The Republican state senator intends to ride a wave of anti-Hispanic nativism straight to the lieutenant governor’s office. If this happens, Patrick will help do for Texas what former California Gov. Pete Wilson did for California: Turn it blue.
Patrick, a Houston-based radio host, is the favorite in a runoff in the Republican primary. And incumbent David Dewhurst is getting a taste of his own medicine.
In 2012, Dewhurst lost a Senate primary race to Ted Cruz after an outside group ran an ad suggesting that the Cuban-American supported “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. The ad, which Dewhurst refused to renounce, was laughable; Cruz has taken a hard line against immigration reform. It was also despicable, because it played on the racist assumption that someone named “Cruz” had divided loyalties.
What Patrick is doing is even worse. He’s using his megaphone to berate people who have no voice. Patrick should pick on someone his own size — such as those who employ illegal immigrants. Instead, this dime-store demagogue has spent several months warning fellow Texans that the undocumented immigrants whom they’ve been tripping over themselves to hire for the last three decades are really an invading army that brings disease, despair and destitution to the Lone Star State.
In the immigration debate, people love talking about invasions because it absolves them of responsibility. Apparently, they were just minding their own business when all these illegal immigrants streamed across the border and showed up for work.
Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a fellow Republican, is appearing on radio ads in California in which he paints a different picture. Perry is touting his state’s economic boom, low unemployment rate and friendly business climate as he tries to poach companies from the Golden State.
Which is it? Is Texas flat on its back, or in the black?
If Patrick is right that Texas is being overrun by undocumented immigrants who are taking jobs from American workers, then Perry really ought to thank those immigrants for the role they played in the state’s economic growth. It’s only fair.
Patrick isn’t thanking them. He’s insulting them.
“(Undocumented immigrants) threaten your family,” Patrick said at a recent candidates’ forum. “They threaten your life. They threaten your business. They threaten our state.”
You heard that right, folks. Don’t turn your back on your nanny, housekeeper or gardener. These people are a threat. And you thought those extra hands helped you live a better life.
Perry, who seems to be preparing to run for president again, needs to stop bashing California. Instead, he should bash Patrick. Moral courage is a rare commodity in politics, and you won’t find much of it among Texas Republicans who are afraid to stand up and shout down this hatemonger for fear of incurring the wrath of the tea party.
Where have you gone, George W. Bush?
“43” needs to come out of retirement and help the Republican Party in his home state come clean. As the most immigrant-friendly president in recent history, Bush should call a news conference and blast away at Patrick in the same way that this loudmouth blasts immigrants.
Something like this would totally be in character. In 1996, then-Gov. Bush was approached by anti-immigrant activists from California who, having helped pass Proposition 187 — an insidious ballot measure that denied education and social benefits to illegal immigrants — wanted to do the same for Texas. Bush told the activists to get lost, and insisted that Texas didn’t need the division they were peddling.
Ultimately, the California initiative, which Wilson successfully rode to re-election, was declared unconstitutional, and the GOP brand became toxic in California. That helped elect more Democrats, but ironically it also hurt the California Democratic Party by fostering hubris and making it so easy for Democrats to win elections that they are now defined by mediocrity, corruption and incompetence.
Mark my words. If the drama in Texas plays out like it did in California, it won’t be long before one party in the Lone Star State is winless and the other worthless. When this happens, Texans will wish that their only worries were droughts, tornadoes and forest fires.
Ruben Navarrette is a columnist for The Washington Post Writers Group.