Members and interested parties,
This is a longer post than usual because of its significance. So, get a cup of coffee and take a few minutes to read it in its entirety.
It’s confirmed: The Sevier County Tea Party has made its mark. Three weeks ago, I was contacted by a woman named Jane from Senator Alexander’s Knoxville office requesting a meeting, which of course I agreed to. I met with not only her, but Senator Alexander’s Washington Chief of staff, David Cleary. We talked for a little more than an hour.
As a result of that conversation, Senator Alexander requested — and his offer was accepted–that he meet with me, Mel Cantebury, and Howard Kingsbury ( owner of the Diner). We met Monday, Sept. 29th.
At the onset of the meeting, Senator Alexander said he was there to listen to us. I appreciated the fact that he did not try to use our time as a private campaign event, per se’.
Howard and Mel spoke at length about some of the pressing issues facing our nation. ( i.e. immigration, energy, etc. ) When Howard brought up immigration, the senator stated he voted for the Gang of 8 immigration bill because it (purported) to secure our southern border first. He also said that he knew it was not the best bill possible, but that he was expecting it to go to the house for revision, then to conference. He would then see what the compromise bill would look like.
In that segment of conversation, he admitted that comprehensive bills are not the best way to pass legislation. He referred to Senator Douglas from Illinois of 1850 when he introduced individual bills, all of which pertained to the same matter at hand. Each bill was passed separately, but collectively changed the overall issue. Senator Alexander stated if the republicans were to win the senate, he sees the same tactic being used. He also said of immigration that after the border is secure, he wants to see a move that allows immigrants a temporary work permit system so immigrants can work in the agriculture business.
Howard then relayed a conversation he had with a friend of his in California who currently owns a vineyard. He said that his friend has a difficult time finding anyone to employ because the federal government has made it too comfortable for people–including illegals–to sit at home and collect government handouts. To the best of my recollection, the senator had no real response.
Mel touched on several issues, including energy. He elaborated on the coal industry, and the many plants being shut down due to EPA regulations. The senator agreed that we as a nation need to be more energy independent, but — paraphrasing — not at the expense of clean air. He pointed out that our neighboring county has the dirtiest air in the nation, and that the regulations on coal plants have been beneficial for the environment.
Mel also touched on the ever-increasing debt. The senator’s response was panned. He said everyone complains about the deficit and wants it cut, “but don’t cut MY benefits”. That response indicated to me that he has no real desire to address spending or the budget head-on. He did say, however, that there is a republican plan to reduce both issues in the long-run, incrementally.
When I spoke with the senator, I concentrated on the politics of Washington. I reminded him that Senator McConnell, Carl Rove, and the National Republican Senate Committee ( NRSC ) have openly declared war on the tea party. I also told him of a report in which the NRSC has warned primary winners not to use any firm associated with the Senate Conservative Fund. (The SCR funded a myriad of conservative challengers in the varied primaries.)
I pointed out that since the tea party gave the republican party the majority in the House, the House has not moved to lower spending, cut the deficit, stop Obama’s liberal appointees in federal bureaucracies, and has essentially promised to pass amnesty after the mid-term election. In short, once the republicans began controlling the house, they have not shown a will to represent the conservative values of the very people who thrust them into power. His response was, the republican house has stopped the democrats from spending more.
When I referred to Senator Cruz’s filibuster, the senator became visibly agitated. With passion / anger that is rarely seen from him, he criticized the filibuster for shutting down the government while Obama-Care remained. He said that the shutdown cost business owners in Gatlinburg a small fortune because the park was closed. He said the filibuster did more damage than good.
I rebutted that Senator McCain ridiculed Sen. Cruz and called him a wack-o bird during the filibuster. I said that the republican party was divided over an issue that was supported by the American people. I followed that by saying I know that the party doesn’t have the media on their side, but if the party is going to try to move the country to the right, they “really suck at messaging”.
When I mentioned the Senator voting record, he asked “What about it?”, as if to say what’s wrong with it? Not having his record in front of me, I could only speak in generalities, and that it hasn’t represented a conservative will. I said that it represents big government idealism more than individual liberty. Not getting into a deep discussion about that, he simply indicated that he disagrees with that assessment. Although we disagree, I do appreciate his honesty in his answers. It showed me that he wasn’t there to pander for votes. Personally, I have to respect that.
I also mention secession. I told him that in 2016, Californians will vote to break into six states or remain one. 10 counties in northern Colorado are considering secession. Massachusetts has made similar noise. Over the weekend, a New Hampshire GOP House member said secession may be the only option for the state, citing the U.S. and state Constitutions. I said that the New Hampshire story reported that 25% of Americans are willing to secede.
All these states mentioned are deep blue states, and even they are tired of liberal big government. He seemed to dismiss that conversation as simply the lunatic fringe spouting off. My intent was to say, no matter how remote the likelihood of seceding is, it indicates the mood of the nation: discontent. I don’t think it had an impact on his understanding.
I finished my time by saying that I’ve spoken with a few tea party leaders since the primary who told me they “will not vote for Senator Alexander come hell or high water”. I then told him that I’ve spoken to one leader who said he’s considering supporting Lamar’s democrat opponent, Gordon Ball. (That, too, went over like a lead balloon.)
With that, he reiterated what he said several times during our conversations: “A vote for Ball is a vote for Obama’s agenda”. Again, he said that if the republicans can control the senate, then they would be in charge of the committees, move conservative proposals out of those committees to the floor for a vote, and control the agenda. He admitted that moving the country back to a conservative footing will take some time, especially looking forward to the 2016 presidential election. He stated that in moving the country to the right, the party is concerned about alienating the undecided./causing them to elect another democrat as president. Meaning, if there is a planned move to the right, it’s going to be a slow process because of political concerns. (Looking back, I should have stressed that if the republican party concerned themselves more with representing their base and our conservative values, then their base would come out in force, negating any concerns of loosing the undecided.)
Overall, it was a cordial meeting, and we thank County Mayor Waters for opening his office for two hours as we met with the senator. However, I personally did not get the feeling that our concerns were taken to heart. I could be wrong because, as I told the senator at the beginning of our meeting, perception is reality, and his perception of the issues in the Washington bubble are in contrast with the grass-root conservatives. Because of his years in politics and climbing the political ladder, his views are naturally skewed in that light.
At the end of our meeting, the senator said that if he wins the general election, he would like to keep a line of communication with us open. I looked at his chief of staff who gave me a nod of agreement. I have his business card, so we’ll see if that offer was genuine–if Lamar wins.
That said, I’m of the opinion that Senator Alexander is concerned about his chances in the general election. An argument could be made, that is why he reached out to the SCTP. Since our meeting, I was contacted by the Roane County Tea Party who told me the senator met with them a few hours after our meeting. I don’t know if the senator has contacted more tea parties in the state.
Here’s the quandary we now find ourselves in: If the democrat challenger, Gordon Ball, were to win the election, then the senate would remain in the democrat’s hands, thereby assuring the complete fundamental transformation of American Obama promised in 2008. Regardless of how conservative Gordon Ball sounds on the campaign trail, he’s still a democrat and will vote with the democrat caucus if elected.
Regarding the independent challenger Danny Page, the truth is, the best he can hope for is 3% or less of the overall vote. That 3% may or may not be enough to be considered a spoiler. If it is, he could give Ball the victory. If the votes cast for Page will be strictly anti-Lamar, then the voter must live with the political consequences if the democrats retain control of the senate, as will the rest of Tennessee and the nation.
Knowing Lamar’s record, I can not say Lamar is a good candidate for conservatism. But if a vote is cast for him, that vote — in truth — will be for control of the senate more than it is for the senator. I know that sounds like what we’ve heard before, and it’s not easy to say; hold your nose and vote for the lesser of two evils.
I’ve stated at a few of our monthly meetings that I will not belong to a tea party that is nothing more than a shill for the republican party. Conservatism, constitutional government, and American values are what we strive for. But after all is said and done, all I can do as the SCTP Chairman is point out these political realities and leave it up to you individually what to decide. However, I am a fighter, and having a republican majority gives me reason to continue the fight.
I do suggest that the individual voter strongly consider the long-term consequences of their vote. I can say with certainty that letting the democrats continue controlling the senate means we stand zero chance of influencing the direction of the country. If the republicans take control then we have a better chance of influencing the republican party as a whole. If we can do that, then Alexander will vote with the majority.