|Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey may have closed shop, but a full-blown clown act appeared in the Texas State House on Monday. Republican State Representative Matt Rinaldi (HD115 – Irving) played the fool disrespecting himself, his colleagues and his constituents in House District 115.
Loud but peaceful activists were in the House Gallery protesting the egregious “show me your papers” anti-law enforcement, anti-Latino immigration bill adopted by Texas Republicans last month. Matt Rinaldi took the opportunity to provoke and taunt his Latino colleagues telling them, “I’m glad I just called ICE to have all these people deported.”
When Rinaldi’s colleagues spoke up in defense of the demonstrators, things deteriorated quickly. A shoving match ensued, and Rinaldi lost it – cursing at his colleagues and even threatening to shoot Representative Poncho Nevarez (HD74 – Eagle Pass).
The whole thing played out before the cameras and was covered by statewide and national press.
Is Matt Rinaldi the new normal within the Texas GOP?
There’s nothing unique about Matt Rinaldi – and that’s the problem. As a hot head, big mouth, low skills legislator, he fits right in among the Tea Party/Empower Texas dim bulb faction of Republican legislators. At the bottom of this page, we’ve highlighted just ten of Matt Rinaldi’s votes that, while bizarre and divisive, more and more reflect views held by Texas GOP officeholders.
Rinaldi’s blow up is further evidence that reason and efforts to find middle ground no longer work among Texas Republican legislators. The badly named "Freedom Caucus” made up of backbench, bomb thrower Tea Party Republican obstructionists tied the House in knots several times during the session blocking constructive work.
For years, relatively even-keeled Republican House leaders could maintain control of their off-the-edge members and hold enough leverage with state Senate leaders to get essential legislation passed and head-off the destructive Tea Party/Empower Texas priorities. However, reason and responsibility didn’t hold much sway this session. The most active and aggressive House members openly defied responsible leaders and their own district needs, instead devoting their time and energy to disruption and grandstanding.
Matt Rinaldi popping off and nearly sparking a brawl on the House floor on the very last day is a fitting image to characterize the entire session. And, it may be confirmation that responsible Republican leadership and fair-minded appeals to reason just aren’t tolerated by Texas Republicans any longer.