Tuesday morning was shiny and fragrant on the Capitol steps as an overwhelmingly white crowd (which was not overwhelmingly large) waited to hear from the four leading Republican contenders for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat. Also from a low-grade presidential aspirant, former Gov. George Pataki, who had—upon hearing the startling news of Obamacare’s passage—leapt upon his metaphorical horse, Paul Revere-style, to “awaken American patriots to the knowledge that our freedom is in danger today.” (Yes, apparently President Obama is not only akin to Stalin and Hitler and Jimmy Carter, but also to King George III.)
The Senate hopefuls—Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Attorney Gen. Greg Abbott, Railroad Commissioner Michael L. Williams, state Sen. Dan Patrick—were all there to cheer on Pataki’s “repeal, don’t replace” agenda. (In fact, I came away from the event with a swell “Repeal & Replace” button, which features RevereAmerica.org’s logo, with a galloping horse being ridden by a Pataki/Revere figure.) You might have expected at least one of the Texans to say something about both sides of the battle cry: repeal and replace. But the closest anybody got to defining what was meant by “replace” was Abbott, who said: “We’ve got to repeal and replace everyone who voted for ObamaCare.”
Apparently, the “repeal” part is far more urgent. Politically urgent, that is, for Republicans. They have to rally people wary of health-care changes—wary of any change, really—and get them enthusiastic about voting Republican in November and giving some money now. So it’s “Repeal!” Ideas about “replace” will come later, perhaps. After the election is won with a nice, simple, resounding message: “Hell no!”
Folks—some of them—signed cards for “RevereAmerica,” which had made its debut two days before, on the 235th anniversary of Revere’s ride. These people will be getting a whole lot more mail from George Pataki than they ever imagined possible.
The Senate wannabes had little to say. They were there, it was clear, mainly to cover their butts with the anti-health-care crowd and plug into an easy outlet for appearing to stand strong against ObamaCare. Dewhurst, looking wan, tried out a campaign line about there now being “one nation under government,” rather than God. This one needs to go back to the speech writers for retooling.
Looking dapper as ever in his trademark bow-tie, Williams won over the crowd by radiating warm energy and serving up a soothing message of opposition, contending that health reform “perpetuates a culture of dependence—a culture that has been destructive to the black community.” Under Obama, Williams said, we’ve gone from “‘Yes we can’ to ‘No we can’t, but he the government will do it for you’.”
“Way to go Senator! Senator Williams!” scattered voices shouted after the railroad commissioner finished.
Abbott and Patrick were forgettable. Patrick, as master of ceremonies, trotted out his joke about “if there were four more people here, we’ve have as many czars” as Obama. Abbott waxed philosophical, compared to to the others, about his health-reform lawsuit and the sacredness of the Tenth Amendment and the Commerce Clause. “I filed a lawsuit sending a message to Washington, D.C.: Don’t mess with Texas!” he said. The fact that messages can be sent far more cheaply was not mentioned.
The crowd wasn’t embarrassing, but it wasn’t large. One hundred would be a generous estimate. Just as on Tax Day, the fizzle seemed to have gone out of the tea party. Maybe that’s just temporary. Maybe it was the 8 a.m. start time. Or maybe it’s just inevitable.