Young: In a tale of two states, never a more stark difference |

Young: In a tale of two states, never a more stark difference

The dictionary has nothing more extreme than “extreme.” No “extremer.” No “extremest.” So “State Sen. Dan Patrick” will have to suffice, if you’re talking extreme politics, as opposed to extreme cold, extreme heat or extreme disinterest.

Sadly, despite the fact that he’s nearly been shut out in endorsements by the state’s major newspapers, one can’t find an objective observer who doesn’t assume that Patrick is about to become Texas’ second most powerful man. And while “second most” is a matter of debate, considering the lieutenant governor’s power in Texas, “most extreme” is beyond debate.

I bring up Patrick as he illustrates once again a truth not appreciated by those who eschew politics in 2014, even to the point of not voting. I’ve heard way too often the statement, “Not a dime’s worth of difference” between the political parties. It was always wrong. It’s never been more so. And it’s so in his race, where the extremely capable and thoughtful State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte is the one with the “D” by her side.

Patrick? He comes from the ranks of the rankest — the sweaty studios of right-wing talk radio. He rose to chair the Senate Education Committee, where he’s shown no hesitance to cut off in mid-sentence citizens who came to testify. Yes, just like the man he always aspired to be, Rush Limbaugh.

How did Patrick arrive at this point, standing on the brink of assuming staggering power? He did it by assuming the homemade banner of the tea party, the new life force of the Republican Party.

And it is a force. Rather than wielding sticks, clubs and torches, it has a real political arsenal, supplied by the gun lobby and the Koch brothers, to name a few of many. One lesser-known contributor to tea party activities, as reports the Huffington Post, is Big Tobacco, at least according to a study by the National Cancer Institute at the National Institute of Health. Google it.

For those of a progressive bent who have a hard time thinking of one thing for which to commend the tea party, try this: Whereas once Republicans fielded some squishy-soft types to compete with squishy-centrist Democrats, it has become easier than ever to distinguish between the two parties. Honestly, I can think of no moment in time like this.

Look to Colorado, where Gov. John Hickenlooper is in a tight race with Republican Bob Beauprez.

The latter has made it clear he would like the state to claim federal lands, and to barter away those it sees fit.

Hickenlooper has been accused of being indecisive. If true, he’s still taken some very gutsy positions, like signing a bill authorizing same-sex civil unions and a package of gun measures after the horrific shootings of theatergoers in the Denver suburb of Aurora. This, of course, has caused the gun lobby to shift into “rampage” mode. In a low-turnout election, an NRA spawn called the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners managed to recall two state senators who voted for those bills.

Another thing Hickenlooper did was sign on to the historic expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. We need not engage in conjecture as to what his opponent would have done. No Republican who wants to hold office would dare embrace something so vile and evil as to be facilitating health insurance for millions of Americans who had none six years ago.

The ACA unto itself is the key policy distinction that renders the two major parties distinct. So, just stop with “not a dime’s worth.” Those who go fishing on Election Day on that basis clearly haven’t thought enough about these things to be helpful to the enterprise our founders thought up and our fathers fought for.

To those with bamboo poles on their shoulders: Enjoy the fragrance of what ends up on the dock.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

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