Backlash Against the Right in Speaker Fight?

The fight among Texas Republicans over who should be speaker of the state House of Representatives is getting hotter. We suggested on Tuesday that over-the-top efforts by far-right pressure groups and their extremist supporters to replace Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, may well alienate other Republicans. That point was made clearer in a letter from a House Republican made public today by the Austin-based political website Quorum Report (subscription required).

The letter from state Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, is addressed to right-wing gadfly Donna “Jeffrey Dahmer Believed in Evolution” Garner. Garner, David Barton and groups like Texas Eagle Forum and Liberty Institute (the Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family) have been demanding that Republicans replace Speaker Straus with a hardliner like state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, or Ken Paxton, R-McKinney. Some far-right activists have gone so far as to demand the election of a “Christian conservative” speaker over Straus (who is Jewish). And Garner’s attacks have been particularly misleading. In fact, PolitiFact Texas recently rated one particular Garner claim as a “Pants on Fire” lie. Rep. Miller went after Garner’s truth-twisting in his letter to her:

“While you are certainly entitled to your own opinions about who is best suited to serve as Speaker, you are not entitled to your own set of facts about what happened in the last two legislative sessions, nor should you mislead the people of Texas in an attempt to support your desired outcome in the Speaker’s election. . . . I know that we are well past the time when we could expect that President Ronald Reagan’s ’11th Commandment’ would be honored and that we would not ‘attack a fellow Republican.’ Even so, I had hoped we could have avoided the unfair and distorted attacks that have been made in recent days against those very conservatives who have stood in the trenches with you over the years — attacks that have included a level of vitriol and venom that would cause Ronald Reagan to spin in his grave.”

It’s important to remember that this isn’t a battle between conservatives and liberals. After all, Straus and his Republican supporters like Miller are what most Texans have long defined as conservative. But extremists like Garner and Barton think that’s not good enough. That’s making it easier for some Republicans to see that their party has been hijacked by fanatics.

You can read the full letter from Rep. Miller here.