The step from demagoguery to enacting real policy change can be remarkably short, and a prime example of this is on full display in Texas right now.
In 2003 state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, had this to say about the state’s obligation to provide public education for its citizens:
“Where did this idea come from that everybody deserves free education, free medical care, free whatever? It comes from Moscow, from Russia. It comes straight out of the pit of hell. And it’s cleverly disguised as having a tender heart. It’s not a tender heart. It’s ripping the heart out of this country.”
At the time, Riddle’s remarks were roundly decried as a dangerous, fringe opinion.
Fast forward to 2011, when state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, says almost the same thing, albeit in more diplomatic language. Acknowledging that the school finance plan currently under consideration does away with the longstanding guarantee that Texas schools would get enough money to provide a basic, foundational education for each student, Patrick is quoted in today’s Austin American-Statesman:
“[The school finance change in the new budget] is a true cut in an entitlement… There are no guarantees, and for a Legislature to say we can guarantee this forever is not being straightforward to the people.”