For those of you who didn't get a chance to see or hear the fracas on the floor of the Senate yesterday, the video is here - jump ahead to the 5:01 mark for the good stuff - while Greg and RG Ratcliffe have audio clips. If you just want to read more, visit Professors R-Squared, who scored the fight for Sen. Whitmire and who have links to more coverage, or see Danno's response to Patricia Kilday Hart.
I think it's important to remember that Dan Patrick isn't playing by the same rules as the rest of the Senate. His message and his mandate weren't to go there and work with committees to effect change mostly at the margins. It was to go there and to express the very contempt that he so clearly showed yesterday for a system that doesn't operate the way he thinks it should and doesn't hold to the values that he thinks are important. He's a bomb-thrower, not a legislator. His closest comparables are people like Lon Burnam, and his mission is to be an agent of change. He fully expects, and I daresay welcomes, the slings and arrows that he'll suffer in service of his goal, because it fuels his narrative of one man against a corrupt machine that will do whatever it must to keep him down. From his perspective, and by his means of scoring it, he won that fight on Thursday.
The thing is, though, that even some of Patricks' supporters might realize that he actually had the power to enact some of those cuts from his $3 billion list. He was on the finance committee, after all, and probably could have gotten enough support there to shave a few million bucks here and there. Not a whole lot - if any of the things he was proposing were obvious or uncontroversial, it's a sure bet that someone else would have brought it up - but enough perhaps to make a statement. (His list is on his website. For the record, there are things there, like eliminating abstinence education and the Texas Enterprise Fund, that I agree with.) Even by Patrick's rules, his performance didn't carry the same clout it would have had David Dewhurst shunted him off to committees that held no interest to him or had less real power. Patrick had a real opportunity, and he chose instead to do what he has always done, which is basically lob spitballs from the back of the classroom. The explanation he gave to Kilday Hart for his timing is baloney and self-serving. He was there when the budget was being made. If it's not to his liking, then some of the blame for that is his. If this was the best he could do, then maybe next time Dewhurst should put him on the Agriculture committee. At least then his aggrievedness will feel more genuine.
One last point. Something that ideologues of all stripes have a hard time with is the realization that most people - the mainstream, if you will - don't agree with them on most things. The reason Patrick's List would mostly not have passed muster is because most of the things on there have real support for them, and most legislators would not want to give a future opponent the ammunition of having voted to kill them. It's easier to rattle sabers than it is to change minds, and sometimes the reason minds don't change is because they had it right the first time.
UPDATE: As two people, including Patrick's chief of staff, have noted in the comments, Sen. Patrick is not on the finance committee. I'm not sure why I thought he was - partly, I misread the Kilday Hart posts, partly I remember that he did get good committee assignments and extrapolated from there. Either way, it's no excuse for not looking it up, and I apologize for the error. However, Patrick is still a Senator and not just a guy in a radio booth. He may not have been on Finance, but he could have made proposals, authored bills, or introduced amendments, to do the things he wanted to. He could have affected the process, timing issues or no, but chose this path instead. Kilday Hart makes a similar point in her response to him.Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 14, 2007 to That's our Lege