Let’s review, shall we? As lieutenant governor, Patrick controls the Senate agenda and is, in many ways, the most powerful figure under the Pink Dome. Of 23 legislative priorities he set out for this year’s session, no fewer than 21 were passed. That includes 4,000 scholarships for math and science teachers, increases in education spending and a plan (approved by voters last month) to spend $2.5 billion on upgrading Texas’ transportation infrastructure. That’s the kind of stuff even Democrats can get behind.
It’s definitely not the stuff that sparks visceral outrage among his ideological opposites — as many political opponents feared when he was elected.
Not that Patrick has shrunk from controversy. He has occasionally sent Democrats and even some moderate Republicans into paroxysms by staking out far-right positions.
Here’s something you may recall. In the midst of a “Black Lives Matter” moment, even before the final echoes of outrage over the arrest and jail death of Sandra Bland, Patrick seized upon the heinous murder of a Harris County deputy and elevated “Police Lives Matter” from slogan to movement. In so doing, Patrick illustrated again how well he understands what motivates and energizes the Texas GOP.
There might be Texas conservatives in higher-profile positions, from pastors in Dallas to a certain junior U.S. senator running for president to the governor. But it is Patrick’s gift with the petit gesture — his mastery of political tactics and strategy, his channeling of right-wing outrage in unapologetic terms — that more accurately and consistently articulates the majority of the Texas body politic today. This is what wins him appearances on FOX News and allows him to avoid mainstream media as much as he wants. In so doing, he has set the pattern for his colleagues.