It tends to get overwhelmed by the reek of humiliating ineptitude that still wafts from Rick Perry's disastrous 2012 presidential campaign, but there was a moment when he took a principled stand and defended a position that was wildly at odds with the Tea Partiers he was trying so desperately to court.
It came on the issue of offering in-state tuition to young people who came to the country illegally. Here's how he explained it during a CNN/Tea Party debate in September 2011:
The bottom line is it doesn't make any difference what the sound of your last name is. That is the American way. No matter how you got into that state, from the standpoint of your parents brought you there or what have you. And that's what we've done in the state of Texas. And I'm proud that we are having those individuals be contributing members of our society rather than telling them, you go be on the government dole.
True, that position happens to line up nicely with the long-term interests of the Republican Party in Texas, and he pandered to the far right on almost every other issue, but it was admirable nonetheless.
The candidates to become Texas' next lieutenant governor do not share Perry's compassion for so-called DREAMers. The first to make this clear was state Senator Dan Patrick, who released an ad on Monday claiming to be the only one who didn't support in-state tuition for illegal immigrants:
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Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson was the first to object, telling the Texas Tribune simply that "Dan Patrick is lying." Incumbent David Dewhurst and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, who was in the legislature when the in-state tuition bill passed in 2001 and voted for the measure, both said they support repeal.
No shocker there. Dogmatic opposition to anything short of deportation for illegal immigrants has become de rigueur for Republicans. But as The Dallas Morning News points out this morning, it represents a major reversal from years past and is a counterintuitive strategy, given the party's admitted need to woo Hispanic voters in order to stay viable.
When the bill granting in-state tuition was introduced in 2001, it had nearly unanimous bipartisan support. It passed the House on a vote of 130-2, with two members abstaining. The Senate tally was 30-0, with one abstention.
For Republicans at the time, it was a pragmatic, common-sense decision. If children go to college, they become more assimilated and they're better able to contribute to the state's economy in a meaningful way. After all, they're going to be here anyways. Twelve years later, one expects such a bill would be a nonstarter.