‘And This Surprises Her?’

There was a remarkable and blistering editorial published last week in the Longview News-Journal. The paper’s editorial board writes about an email distributed by JoAnn Fleming to members of the influential East Texas tea party group she leads, Grassroots America-We the People (GAWTP).

In the email, Fleming complains of “the politics of personal destruction” as some members of her group reportedly lashed out at her, with insults, after GAWTP voted to withdraw its endorsement of controversial Texas State Board of Education candidate Mary Lou Bruner. Bruner subsequently lost her SBOE District 9 Republican runoff in late May.

Here’s the blistering part. Of the attacks on Fleming — she’s been told she’s “going to hell” for being a “turncoat” and a “Saul Alinsky acolyte,” among other things — the paper’s editorial board writes:

And this surprises her?

Over-the-top tactics have always been a part of her group’s playbook. There’s nothing new there. Of course, the words usually are directed at moderates or liberals (though there are few of the latter in East Texas).

Now, Fleming is learning firsthand that once the weaponry of personal destruction is used, it becomes the tool of choice.

In other words this is like far-right Republicans who have spent years using, or stood silently in the face of, inflammatory rhetoric or conspiracy theories and are now shocked — shocked! — that their party’s presidential nomination could go to someone like Donald Trump.

For instance, Fleming was the chair of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s now-dissolved grassroots advisory board that said Gov. Greg Abbott’s pre-K initiative puts children in a “godless environment.” Now who does that remind you of? Yes, Mary Lou Bruner.

Fleming has also supported efforts to ban “Sharia Law” in Texas — a nonexistent threat promoted by fear-mongerers and conspiracy-theorists — because, “We do see [Sharia Law] creeping into communities across Texas and we just believe that it’s important for people to understand that when you come to our country, you need to be under our rule of law.” We seem to remember someone else who believes Muslims are quietly taking over the country and imposing Sharia Law. Who was that again? Oh, yeah, Mary Lou Bruner.

Incidentally, someone calling those they disagree with a “Saul Alinsky acolyte” also rings a bell. Guess who.

You reap what you sow.

The editorial board concludes with the hope that the Bruner episode will cause Fleming’s group to change their ways, but:

Having seen its tactics of choice directed at its own leader, perhaps we will see a kinder, more gentler tea party from Tyler in the future — though it is not likely much will change.

You can read the paper’s full editorial here.