This editorial was first published in The Dallas Morning News. Guest editorials don’t necessarily reflect the Denton Record-Chronicle’s opinions.
The one good thing that might come out of the mess between Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and the hard-right blogger Michael Quinn Sullivan is the plainspoken acknowledgment on Bonnen’s part that Sullivan is no good for the state GOP and no good for conservatives in general.
In case you have been distracted by national political nonsense and missed the opportunity for a dose of the state version, let us bring you up to speed.
Sullivan, who leads the once-powerful and self-imagined purist conservative group Empower Texans, recently landed a meeting with Bonnen and GOP caucus chairman Dustin Burrows. He then turned around and publicly accused Bonnen and Burrows of working a secret horse trade: Sullivan’s nakedly partisan blog would get press passes to the Legislature if Sullivan would help Bonnen knock 10 Republicans out of the House.
Sounds juicy. Bonnen then turned around and denied in the strongest terms that anything of the sort happened. He only met with Sullivan, he said, “to protect my colleagues and prevent us from having to waste millions of dollars defending ourselves against Empower Texans.”
Sounds like a hostage negotiation.
Someone isn’t telling the truth. And now, Sullivan is threatening to release a secret tape he says he made of the meeting. If he backs up what he claims happens, Bonnen will have a great deal to answer for with his caucus. And facing that music should not be easy.
The plot of this drama is as sad as it is entertaining. But it’s also instructive. And hopefully Bonnen and other GOP leaders are taking the lesson.
Republicans on every point of the conservative spectrum should recognize that Sullivan — he who blabs on secret meetings — is no good for the party. The kind of purity tests Sullivan has been applying to GOP lawmakers only helps Democrats in the long run.
Primary voters might eat this sort of thing up, pushing the party ever further to the right.
The problem is when you get to the general election with some fire-breathing Twitter warrior as your candidate, voters get a whiff and oust you from power. Look no further than tea partiers Konni Burton, Matt Rinaldi and Ron Simmons for the names of House members loved by Empower Texans and booted by voters in November. Former state Sen. Don Huffines also falls on that list.
The response to that election was swift on Bonnen’s part, and on the part of Gov. Greg Abbott.
The Legislature got back to the business of governing, passing crucial school finance reform and giving taxpayers a break. Nobody got the whole loaf. But the state and its schoolchildren are better off for the mature legislating that took place in Austin this year.
The dust-up between Sullivan and Bonnen makes it hard for us to see what really happened here. Maybe Sullivan’s secret tape will tell all. Maybe it won’t. Whatever the fallout, we know what Republican leaders should do next.
They must speak up with GOP voters to marginalize Sullivan and Empower Texans. The never-compromise philosophy of this sort of blogger/activist politics might taste sweet to certain voters. But it is poison to good government.
And what’s more, it’s poison to the party that takes it too long.