When you hear about a politician falling into a “scandal” after a “secret recording” comes out, you automatically assume it’s about sex or perhaps some criminal act. In the case of the soon-to-be-ex-Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Dennis Bonnen, his sin is far graver: He plotted against members of his own party, then went over the brink by disrespecting Donald J. Trump. The Texas Tribune explains:
First-term Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen announced Tuesday he will not seek reelection to the lower chamber in 2020 — completing a stunning fall for the Angleton Republican who enjoyed near unanimous support in the House just months earlier …
Bonnen’s political future was first called into question in late July, when hard-line conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan, who heads the group Empower Texans, revealed that Sullivan, Bonnen, and one of the speaker’s top allies had met at the Texas Capitol the month before. At that meeting, Sullivan alleged, Bonnen and state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, suggested Empower Texans go after a list of 10 House Republicans and told Sullivan his group could have media access to the lower chamber in 2021. Bonnen also disparaged multiple Democrats, calling one “vile” and another “a piece of shit,” and said his goal for the next legislative session is to make it the worst “in the history of the legislature for cities and counties.”
After a lot of back-and-forth and name-calling, Sullivan released a near-hour-long tape of the meeting, which documented his allegations. Pretty much everyone in Texas politics had reason to be offended by Bonnen’s arrogant ramblings. But the cherry on top of the rancid sundae of his remarks is a comment about POTUS, as reported last week by the Washington Post:
“I just think we’ve got to get through 2020, guarantee if we try and hold this majority — which, with all due respect to Trump, who I love by the way — he’s killing us in the urban-suburban districts,” Bonnen says in the recording, according to the transcript.
It didn’t help that the tape came out during preparations for a big Trump rally in Dallas.
Bonnen’s immediate future is unclear; the Texas House is not in session and isn’t scheduled to return until January 2021, when he will no longer be in office. Even as Republicans jockey to replace him, their bigger problem is that they are in danger of losing control of the chamber next November thanks to the very Trumpian phenomenon Bonnen was incautious enough to mention out loud.
If citing well-established political facts about Trump is deemed scandalous, it’s a sign of how far Republicans in Texas and elsewhere will have to come before even thinking about abandoning their warlord.