As a former conservative talk radio host and current elected official, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick surely must know the prime directive for American politicians: Do NOT screw with the olds. They vote.
Maybe he forgot. He is, after all, getting on in years. He turns 70 on Saturday.
In any case, as was widely reported, something prompted Patrick to go on Tucker Carlson's Fox News program on March 23 and suggest that senior citizens like him are ready to risk a gasping death from COVID-19 for the sake of their heirs' economy.
He didn't reckon on some older Texans' stubborn attachment to being alive.
The Texas Alliance for Retired Americans, for instance, wants him to know they're not ready to follow him into that good night. They're old, but would very much like the chance to get even older, thanks very much, regardless of what that does to anyone's stock portfolio. Some of them would like to stick around and see how their grandkids get on in the looming recession, maybe even lend support.
So members of the "nonpartisan" (but really blue) activist group are planning a little happening on the TARA Facebook page this Saturday to celebrate Patrick's birthday. They're collecting photos, words and video clips to post online to share their supporters' thoughts on Patrick's call to sacrifice. One likely theme of the posts? "You go first, Dan."
In case you missed it, here's what the lieutenant governor said on Fox:
"... No one reached out to me and said, 'As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?' And if that’s the exchange, I’m all-in. And that doesn’t make me noble or brave or anything like that. I just think there are lots of grandparents out there in this country like me, I have six grandchildren, that what we all care about and what we love more than anything are those children. And I want to live smart and see through this, but I don’t want the whole country to be sacrificed. And that’s what I see."
That's a direct quote, by the way, taken from the video online. We mention that because of an odd strategy some of the more conservative commenters on the Observer's own Facebook page have adopted whenever right-wing darlings like Patrick hoist themselves on their own petards. The commenters simply deny that the pols said what they said.
Judy Bryant, the field organizer for TARA, which is affiliated with the national Alliance for Retired Americans, has noticed the same habit. She's one of the people behind TARA's "Cough-In" Campaign, which has been encouraging supporters to call Patrick's office all week and let him know they're not "in" with him.
"It's on video. I don't get that," Bryant said of the quote deniers. "And lots of people saw it live. I just shake my head, literally."
Starting Monday, after hearing from outraged supporters with working ears who believe Patrick said what he, in fact, said, TARA produced daily suggested scripts for callers to read on the phone for Patrick all week.
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"As a senior I am horrified that you would offer up my life for the sake of the stock market and the 1%," Monday's script began. Other scripts called for expansion of Medicaid in Texas, pointed out the multibillion-dollar contribution retirees make to the Texas economy and noted that 48 senators and 147 congressional representatives are 65 and older. If enough of them turn their toes up and die, that could shift power in Congress.
"We would rather live and turn Texas Blue! Why don’t you resign?" was also in the scripts. TARA is allied with trade unions, so its claims to nonpartisanship are a stretch, but Bryant says it's mainly concerned with supporting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs important to retirees. It just so happens that those issues, like everything else, have become highly partisan. TARA supports anyone who supports its causes, and as we said, its members vote.
"That's right, we do," Bryant said. "And we have long memories."
So, happy birthday, lieutenant governor. Be sure to celebrate it with those six grandkids. But do it via video. No sense in taking an unnecessary chance on your survival, now that you're in your golden years.