Analysis: Reaction to Patrick’s Tweet is Based on a History of Hostility

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is under fire for his comments after the shootings in a gay nightclub in Orlando, and he can only blame himself. His problem isn’t his intent; his problem is that his other actions of late made his critics’ worst suspicions plausible.

Editor's note: If you'd like an email notice whenever we publish Ross Ramsey's column, click here.

You probably can’t believe Dan Patrick posted that Bible verse on Sunday morning, one that seemed to place the blame on the victims minutes after a mass killing in Orlando.

None of that matters much now; Patrick has been basting over an internet blaze ever since. Rightly or wrongly, the troops in the culture and political wars lined up and spent their Sunday afternoons whaling on each other on Twitter and Facebook.

In this turbulent political year, we don’t come together over tragic news — we come apart. This is what we do with the energy that might be applied to a problem: bitch at each other on social media.

Patrick is a prominent and easy target, and he can only blame himself. His problem isn’t his intent; his problem is that his other actions of late made his critics’ worst suspicions plausible.

Here’s the recap:

A man named Omar Mateen murdered 49 people and injured 53 more in a one-man terrorist raid on a gay nightclub in Orlando before police killed him. While police and other first responders were still working at the crime scene on Sunday morning, Patrick (or an aide with access to his social media accounts) posted this verse from the Book of Galatians in the New Testament (emphasis is his): “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

The backlash came quickly. Patrick’s crew pulled down the posts. In a Facebook post, Patrick said that the verse chosen last week for Sunday was set to publish before the shootings and was not linked to it.

Maybe so. But the tweet appeared to be on the subject of the shooting, and Patrick hasn’t accumulated the goodwill that might have earned him the benefit of the doubt from those who excoriated him for his comments. In particular, resistance to LGBT rights has been a cornerstone of his politics.

In this turbulent political year, we don’t come together over tragic news — we come apart.

Lately, the lieutenant governor has been focused on transgender Texans and which bathrooms they should use — those of their identity or those of the gender listed on their birth certificates. His argument is that perverts — men, to be specific — will find their way into women’s restrooms and locker rooms if the lines that separate the genders are blurred by recognition of transgender rights.

Patrick is not alone in this. It’s a hot issue in conservative circles with recent flashpoints in Houston, where the city’s Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was voted down last year; in North Carolina, where the backlash against a state law has included canceled conventions, concerts and corporate relocations; and in Texas, where the Fort Worth school district’s policy accommodating transgender students raised Patrick’s ire and led him to call for new leadership at the school district.

Patrick was using social media as recently as last Friday to beat the drum on the bathroom policies in Fort Worth schools. He’s been pushing that school district on one hand while shaking the other at federal education officials whose policies line up with Fort Worth ISD's.

And Patrick is a longtime foe of same-sex marriage. His mis-tweet on that subject — “MARRIAGE= ONE MAN & ONE MAN...” brought him some social media ridicule in February 2014, when he was running for his current job. He meant one man and one woman. His real point was in the next lines: “Enough of these activist judges. FAVORITE if you agree. I know the silent majority out there is with us!”

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled bans on those marriages are unconstitutional, Patrick responded by asking the state’s top lawyer whether local officials could be forced to perform the ceremonies.

The lieutenant governor has a track record with the LGBT community. They have him marked as an opponent. He seems to have them marked the same way. Whatever else might be said about it, they don’t trust each other.

No wonder they read his Sunday morning post the way they did, assuming the worst. Their mutual history taught them to expect it.

The predictable thing to do at this point in a column would be to quote something appropriate from the Bible to offset what Patrick quoted or to fit the whole thing into a neat package.

Not gonna do it. It seems like a bad idea.