When a Movement Fails to Mature, it Doesn’t Have Long to Live

When a Movement Fails to Mature, it Doesn’t Have Long to Live

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”   I Corinthians 13:11

If you have a child you can clearly identify childish behavior.  It’s not pretty.  But you understand and tolerate such behavior because you know that as that child matures, and he learns from instruction, his tantrums, pettiness, selfishness, and other childish behavior will become less and less prominent.  And as he grows into adulthood, he will likely become well adjusted.  He will respect others.  He will learn that to achieve his goals, he must often help others achieve theirs.  And ultimately, he puts away childish behavior.  

I was present at the inception of the tea party movement, having founded the Chattanooga Tea Party in April 2009.  It wasn’t my first rodeo, but the challenge of organizing and leading a grassroots movement was new.  So I came of age so to speak with this movement.  And I met a lot of wonderful people.  Many of those people are dear friends today.  Those who joined the movement were ordinary Americans who simply loved their communities and nation, and were worried that their future was gray and bleak.  And the facts and stats affirmed their concerns.

The tea party movement accomplished a lot in its early years, when enthusiasm was high and strategy was limited.  But as the years wore on, it became obvious that strategy and thoughtful deliberation would become more important.  No longer could the movement sustain itself on raw emotion, anger, or passion.  Rather, to succeed, it would require that we learn from our mistakes and failures.  Sadly though, nearly ten years later, the movement continues to struggle with the same blunders. 

As is the case with most elections, there are often several candidates who could be split into various tiers.  The first tier is the “perfect” candidate who might have a near unblemished track record, and his/her fidelity to tea party values is unquestioned.  

The second tier includes candidates who, while their voting record may not align perfectly with tea party values, and there may be other “complaints” some in the movement will lodge, they do have redeeming qualities.  Ultimately, if elected, they would advance many values the movement supports.  

Then there are the third tier candidates.  These are the ones who are so offensive or wrong in their policies, affiliations or track records, that most tea party members would likely never support them.  What we find though is that the candidates in Tier 1 are typically underfunded and thus not electable, while Tier 2 & 3 often have sufficient funds to mount a credible campaign.  

These three tiers expose one of the greatest flaws of the tea party movement: its unwillingness to coalesce together.  Independent elements, personalities, and egos are rampant in the movement, and unwillingness to tolerate the slightest variance from “perfection” is the norm.

Sadly, many tea party members are unwilling to consider anyone outside of Tier 1.  Because of this reality, what invariably happens is that other credible and acceptable candidates in Tier 2 are maligned and rejected.  Additionally, because Tier 3 candidates not only have sufficient funds, but they typically garner the establishment Republican voters, Tier 1 & 2 voters split all the other remaining votes.  Consequently the Tier 3 candidate often wins.  In every case this has been the worst case scenario for the movement, our state and nation.  We saw it with Romney in 2012.  And in Tennessee, we saw it with Governor Bill Haslam.  And Lamar Alexander.  And Bob Corker.  And others. 

Now again in 2017-18, tea party members in Tennessee are repeating the same old mistake.  The fidelity by many to their “perfect” but unelectable candidate is blinding them from the reality that there may be another “acceptable” candidate who is both credible and electable.  

Let me digress for a moment to state that there are times when one may not, for conscience sake, be able to vote for anyone in Tier 2 or Tier 3.  If that is the case, I would never attempt to judge someone else’s conscience.  At that point, it’s a deeply personal decision and no one should ever question someone’s deep rooted beliefs when they enter the voting booth.  

But in the absence of a moral reservation, the movement is missing another opportunity to help influence, and ultimately select, the next Governor in Tennessee.  It may require some to select what they consider to be a Tier 2 candidate.  But if they do, they will be selecting a candidate who can actually win, and they would be revealing a maturity that heretofore has been missing in the movement. 

Growing up requires that we oftentimes sacrifice perfection for good.  Maturity understands that we don’t always get what we want.  Honesty enables us to look into the future and predict what will likely occur and use our best efforts to influence that future.  Conversely, dishonesty keeps us glued to our own narrow-mindedness, trapped in our own little echo-chambers.  

Sadly though, if a movement never grows up, it ceases to be relevant.  And once it’s no longer relevant, it doesn’t have long to live. 

The tea party movement in Tennessee is at a crossroads.  It can stay on its present course and drive over the cliff, never to influence again.  Or it can take a right turn, and begin to coalesce around principled pragmatism, which is simply recognizing reality and attempting to win as many battles as possible by remaining as true as possible to one’s principles.  

Losing elections never advances one’s principles.  Winning elections with imperfect candidates can advance some of our principles.

So will the tea party movement put away childish attitudes and grow up, or simply fade away?  

The Left’s Words of Hate & Their Role in the Deeds of Hate

The Left’s Words of Hate & Their Role in the Deeds of Hate

Cause and effect. Words and deeds. Ideas and Consequences.

Most would readily acknowledge that for every deed or action there is a corresponding force, idea or motivator behind it.  But all too often biases and subjectivity cloud the facts and the understanding of them, even when the clues are abundantly clear.  This week was a case study of these truths.

On Wednesday, a 66 year old political activist picked up a rifle and handgun, with deliberate premediatated intent, and hatred in his heart, and drove to a baseball field where Republican Congressmen were preparing for the annual baseball charity benefit game.  These Congressmen hailed from the party that pushes grannies over cliffs.  They were men whose mission in life was to steal money from the poor and give to their rich friends.  They were polluters whose chief aim was to destroy the globe they lived on.  They were men who were racists, bigots, and homophobes.  These men, in baseball cleats and uniforms, were the worst of the worst America has to offer, or so news reports, media, pundits, late night show hosts, Hollywood elites, millions of Americans, and particularly their Democratic colleagues across the aisle, would have you believe all these obvious lies and slander.

And so Mr. Hodgkinson, a staunch Bernie Sanders supporter, and avowed left-wing activist, following months and years of hearing his ideological leaders malign and defame Republicans and conservatives, made the horrific decision to do what seemed the logical thing to do, given the “crimes” of these Republicans.  He would grab his weapons and descend upon these “vile” GOP Congressmen, becoming their judge, jury, and executioner.  He would do what others could only bring themselves to verbalize, whether through innuendo, jest, theatrical drama, or outright threats.  He would carry through.  He would extinguish their lives, and in so doing, he would finally mete out the only justice these “immoral” Republicans were worthy of… destruction and death.

Thankfully, Hodgkinson’s murderous plan was foiled due primarily to the grace of God, and secondly to the heroic actions of the Capitol Police, who just “happened to be there” because Rep. Steve Scalise, Republican House Majority Whip, had his assigned security detail with him. Rather than a mass shooting with numbers of lives lost, there were a handful of Republicans (including Scalise) and Capitol police who were shot up, but are expected to recover.  In a move of swift justice, the would be executioner met his Maker that very day, receiving the ultimate judgment reserved for unrepentant murderers.

But, is that the end of the story?  Are there others, beyond Mr. Hodgkinson, who played a role in the tragic events of this week?   If for every effect there is a cause; and if words drive actions; and if movement is preceded by force; and if ideas have consequences, then there is a mountain full of blame to spread behind the left-wing ideological lines, as I wrote about a couple months ago in this post.

Recent Calls for Political Assassinations

Whether it’s Kathy Griffin’s recent graphic beheading stunt of President Trump, or the Julius Caesar play in New York this week that depicted the main character, a Donald Trump look-alike, being assassinated, these are just two whose ideological DNA are at the scene of the crime.  To call for or fantasize about the death of anyone, but particularly a member of an opposing party because you find him objectionable, or even reprehensible, should be intolerable and be met with the swiftest condemnation. Those participating in such despicable behavior should pay a heavy price.  Tragically, when those toying with such hideous fantasies are nationally recognized, they water a soil that is already sown with seeds of hatred and thoughts of violence. To be clear, Mr. Hodgkinson was completely responsible for his actions.  But before his fateful day, those calling for Trump’s assassination lent credence to such crimes and played a part in fanning into flames the embers of Hodgkinson’s hate.  

The Media & Entertainment 

It’s long been established that the overwhelming slant of ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, nearly every major newspaper, and the vast majority of entertainment (Hollywood elite and musicians) in our nation participate in the unholy alliance that seeks to portray those on the right side of the political spectrum as all that is wrong with America.  Every kind of disparaging remark is hurled at those of us whose “guilt” is simply embracing an ideology that, while at odds with their alliance, is most in tune with the philosophy of our founders and our Constitution.  If it’s any consolation for conservatives, were our founders alive today, they would undoubtedly be targets of the left’s smears, vilification and even assassination attempts by their most radical elements.

Since Trump’s election, the barrage from the left has only increased and intensified.  And so Hodgkinson’s mission to “Destroy Trump & Co.” as posted on his Facebook page, was affirmed time and time again by Hillary, Obama, Pelosi, Schumer and their partners across this nation with their latest message of RESISTANCE and disruption.  This article from American Thinker identifies a partial list of the threats against the GOP and Trump by Hollywood celebrities.

Purveyors of Hate

One cannot discuss this subject without highlighting the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organization that speaks in unison with the agenda of the progressive left.  Like a rabid animal, SPLC’s fangs can be extremely destructive and even potentially lethal.  SPLC targets many of the leaders in the Republican and conservative mainstream, listing them either as “hate groups” or affiliating with the “hate groups” they singularly pronounce.  So was the case with Rep. Scalise, the Republican Congressman shot this week by Mr. Hodgkinson.  SPLC had asserted that Scalise had associated with groups it deemed hate groups.  And it should be noted that Hodgkinson had “Liked” SPLC’s Facebook Page.  

SPLC’s ties to violence were furthered portrayed when they labeled Family Research Council as a hate group several years ago.  Note that FRC is a mainstream political and policy organization that affirms both conservative and biblical values.  In 2012 another left-wing gunman attacked FRC, seeking to kill dozens.  Thankfully the security officer at FRC was armed and neutralized the would be murderer.  Later, when interviewed by the police, the gunman acknowledged that he had gone to the SPLC “hate group” website to gain info on FRC before his attack.  Shamefully, while SPLC boasts that it calls out those who hate, they have become purveyors of hate and violence themselves, and share some part in the climate that led to Hodkinson attack yesterday.

Are all liberals to blame?

It’s tempting to use a broad brush when opining about political matters but to do so would be wrong. Many Americans who voted for Hillary were appalled by the Griffin stunt and other such vile deeds. But while hatred doesn’t drive all liberals, many of them are certainly influenced unduly by the biases of their deceptive sources.  And so the mouthpieces of the left, too numerous to list, carry a high level of responsibility for sowing the seeds that eventually sprout into full blown violence by some against their fellow Americans, whose sole “crime” is believing differently.  

At the end of the day, this whole matter reminds me of a couple of truths from God Himself.  In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus stated, “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.”

And in 1 John 3:15, we see that hatred is merely murder in one’s heart:  “Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.”

These are weighty thoughts and should cause all of us to look inside to test our own attitudes. If hate is equal to murder, it’s no light matter.

The question many ask themselves today is whether America can be saved from herself?  Is she too far gone?  Is the tenor and level of our disagreement in America between the predominant political and spiritual ideologies too far split to see a patching of our nation together again? Time will tell. But if the machine of the left continues on its unrelenting agenda to vilify and slander all views contrary to theirs, then what we witnessed this week at a baseball field in our nation’s capitol, will spill over into your city and mine next.

Plant a thought and reap a word;
Plant a word and reap an action;
Plant an action and reap a habit;
Plant a habit and reap a character;
Plant a character and reap a destiny.

Obamacare Repeal: Broken Promises By a President, a Party, & Its Politicians

Obamacare Repeal: Broken Promises By a President, a Party, & Its Politicians

It was March 23, 2010.  One of the most contentious political battles in recent American history was over. President Obama had just signed into law his signature legislation: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. House Republicans immediately introduced legislation to repeal Obamacare, and over the next six years, Republicans would introduce more than 60 different bills to repeal all or parts of Obamacare.  

In 2015, the House and Senate, both under Republican control, passed HR 3762, a bill that repealed the most significant parts of Obamacare. (President Obama would veto the Repeal bill.)   It’s noteworthy to highlight that support for the 2015 Repeal of Obamacare was near unanimous by Republicans with only 7 House Republicans and 2 Senate Republicans voting Nay, or against it. (239 Republican Representatives and 52 Republican Senators voted Aye, in favor.)  As a side note, my Congressman Chuck Fleischmann and both of my Senators, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, all voted for the Repeal Bill.

During the three election cycles (2012, 2014, 2016) following the passage of Obamacare, Republican House and Senate candidates, challengers and incumbents alike, would nearly unanimously, and repeatedly, promise that if voters would elect, or reelect, them, they would Repeal Obamacare.  And based on those promises, Republican, moderate, conservative, tea party, and independent voters entrusted their vote to these elected officials.

Then the 2016 Presidential cycle happened.  While the Republican Primary was one of the most crowded field of candidates in memory, with each of them offering their own ideas and promises, there was one issue on which all the candidates agreed: Their unanimous commitment to the Repeal of Obamacare.  

Following the Primary, and with the nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for Presidency, the GOP’s nominee promised to Repeal Obamacare.  And the 2016 GOP Platform further reiterated the Party’s commitment to a full Repeal of Obamacare.  Note this quote from the Republican Platform (page 36):

“Any honest agenda for improving healthcare must start with repeal of the dishonestly named Affordable Care Act of 2010: Obamacare. It weighs like the dead hand of the past upon American medicine. It imposed a Euro-style bureaucracy to manage its unworkable, budget-busting, conflicting provisions. It has driven up prices for all consumers. Their insurance premiums have dramatically increased while their deductibles have risen about eight times faster than wages in the last ten years… We agree with the four dissenting judges of the Supreme Court: ‘In our view, the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety.’

To that end, a Republican president, on the first day in office, will use legitimate waiver authority under the law to halt its advance and then, with the unanimous support of Congressional Republicans, will sign its repeal.”

Let that last sentence sink in.

Is there any question that the full Repeal of Obamacare was promised, ad infinitum, by the Party and all of its candidates?  

But if there’s one thing that seems to be synonymous with politicians, it is broken promises.  There is nigh a profession that has a lower credibility rating than that of a politician.  I have met many politicians including local, state and federal ones. And one thing I’ve noticed about most of them is that they are fond to commit to the voter in order to gain their vote.  But once they are elected, there is something that flips in the politician’s mind; something that quickly turns the page on those campaign promises, as they jet off to Washington or their state capitol.  Whether it’s a character flaw in the type of individuals that are attracted to the profession of governing, or whether it’s that as they leave voters behind, they can also leave promises behind, it’s a rare instance when politicians are willing to fulfill the promises they make.  

Sadly that’s what American voters once again witnessed this last week.  When the Republican health care plan known as RyanCare, TrumpCare, or the American Health Care Act, was put forward, a promise was broken.  And it wasn’t just one promise. The Repeal of Obamacare was promised by:

    President Donald Trump,

        each Republican Senator,

            each Republican Representative,

                Republican Speaker Paul Ryan, and

                    the Republican Party in its 2016 Platform.

And as already noted, nearly every Republican Representative and Senator voted in favor of the 2015 Repeal of Obamacare as well.

I once heard someone ask the question, 

“How do you know when a politician is lying? Answer: When their lips are moving.”  

Of course, this is a very cynical, over-generalization of an entire profession.  But when the overriding theme of a political party and their nearly 300 elected officials is the Repeal Obamacare, for six long years, and when they are ultimately entrusted with the power and authority to do so, what should voters conclude when such a material promise is broken?

What is also commonplace amongst politicians is to deflect blame when they’re under pressure, rather than simply owning up when they break their promise. Once again, this week we saw the blame game, from Trump to Ryan, and from House Representatives to the Republican Party. That blame was heaped on 40 or so Representatives who, unlike Ryan, Trump and an entire party, resolved to keep the promise they made.  This group, known as the Freedom Caucus, had a simple message: “Let’s keep our promise. Let’s Repeal Obamacare. Let’s simply vote as we did in 2015.”  

But they became the villains. The scapegoats. And many voters are falling for Trump and the Republican Party’s blame game, forgetting that those doing the blaming are the ones breaking the promise.  

The 2015 Repeal bill, supported by nearly every Republican member, was actually introduced by Freedom Caucus member Jim Jordan last month.  But Ryan and Trump and a couple hundred other elected officials, effectively affirmed Obamacare and all of its destructive regulations, by refusing to honor their promise.  Had they simply taken up the Repeal Bill that was passed by each of these Congressional members in 2015, Obamacare would be history, with a two year phase out period.  This time frame would have been ample time to pass common sense healthcare reform.  

Beyond keeping a promise, the reality is that only a full repeal of Obamacare will insure that the virus that has infected our government will be extricated from our healthcare system.  Anything less will simply insure that the destructive nature of Obamacare will be allowed to remain.

So what’s next? My guess is that politicians will be politicians, and do what they do best: Promise the world but deliver a sack of IOU’s. And their credibility will sink even lower than Trump’s favorability ratings. But my hope is that for once, these men and women will honor their promise, and just do the right thing. 

Our nation’s future, and your healthcare, hang in the balance.  

Let your Yea be Yea and your Nay be Nay…”  (Matthew 5:37)

Liberal Violence vs Conservative Protests:  A Moral Equivalence?

Liberal Violence vs Conservative Protests: A Moral Equivalence?

For the last several years I have watched in utter disgust as a steady stream of liberal groups have acted out violently in cities across our nation.  Whether it was the Occupy Movement, Black Lives Matter, or most recently the anti-Trump “protesters,” there is a common thread to all these anarchist-type leftists.  While some of their grievances may have merit, what might begin as organized protests soon turns to threats, rioting, vandalizing, destruction, and assaults.  Common to many of these violent events are clashes with police, tear gas, arrests, and injuries.  Sadly, some of these criminal leftists have even killed those we entrust our safety to — our men and women in blue.

The media is quick to cover for these radical extremists, often comparing them to protests by the tea party movement on the right, as if there is some moral equivalence.  But this comparison could not be more distorted, and intentionally fraudulent, by a media that is hell-bent on uplifting the radical leftist groups and marginalizing and misrepresenting peaceful conservative protests.

I founded the Chattanooga Tea Party in early 2009, and was present at the inception of the modern tea party movement.  I’ve been engaged in this worthy and impactful conservative movement every step of the way.  Our group in Chattanooga, just one of thousands across our nation, began as a protest rally on April 15, 2009 with patriotic songs, prayers, inspiring speakers, and more than 2,500 local citizens.  The family-friendly protest was peaceful and consisted of mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, professionals, blue-collar, white, black, hispanic, elected officials, clergy and more.  As was the case in all of our rallies, we consistently left the locations we rented, as clean or cleaner than when we arrived.  And not once did we have any clashes with authorities.  

In the fall of that same year, more than a million tea party members and conservative groups traveled to Washington DC to protest the policies of our government.  The protest was peaceful, patriotic, respectful and not one violent clash with authorities or citizens.  In 2013, I had the opportunity to speak at the Audit the IRS Rally on the grounds of our Capitol in Washington DC.  Many tens of thousands of tea party patriots attended and again there were no clashes, violence or destruction.  

Most of us who led in the founding of the tea party movement had never participated in a grassroots political effort, particularly one that was focused on expressing the frustration and anger that had been simmering for many years.  But while tea party members had little experience in leading protests, there was a common thread of love of country, respect for the law, and regard for our fellow citizens, even when we disagreed.  Furthermore, our strategy was to use the power of citizen lobbying, persuasion and ultimately the ballot box, to affect change; not intimidation, violence and rioting.  

To be clear, the tea party is not a perfect movement.  We have had our share of struggles and some of our members have not represented us well.  But those are the rare exceptions.  And even in those instances, they do not include rioting, violence or worse.

But not so with many of our fellow citizens on the left side of the aisle.  The record is one of consistent and regular rioting and violence over the last several years.  Here are just a few examples of their detestable criminal activity, but there are literally dozens and dozens:

Occupy Movement

Black Lives Matter

Trump-era Protestors

While certainly there are millions of Democrats and liberals who would never protest by picking up stones, bottles or even guns to vent their anger, the truth is there are millions who would and tens of thousands who have.  There is a quote that states,

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak.”  

There’s a deafening silence from many Democrats/liberals as the behavior of many in their party can only be characterized as criminal.  Most agree that our nation is deeply divided.  But there is no doubt that the continued silence of the left when their own engage in violent acts, will only worsen the deep divide.  So I call on my fellow Americans who may not identify with a conservative ideology, or even the unorthodox style of our new President, to reject the path of violence and anarchy.  Protest if you feel the need, but do so in a peaceful and respectful manner.  Convince your fellow Americans of the soundness of your views and values via your ideological arguments, not your violent acts.  Only then can we hope “to form a more perfect union.”

Party, Principle or Pragmatism? What Drives the Tea Party?

Party, Principle or Pragmatism? What Drives the Tea Party?

With the inauguration of our new President just hours away, our nation is approaching new, unchartered water.  Of course, the same could be said of the era we were entering eight years ago. But just as there were troubling reasons why Obama was elected then, so there are gnawing explanations as to why Trump was elected in November.  

As George W. Bush was quick to sacrifice many of the values that historically characterized conservative orthodoxy, his popularity plummeted and contributed to the election of the most “progressive” President to ever lead our nation. And with the election of Barack Obama, the political polarization that gained steam during the Bush years skyrocketed under Obama.  

But as Republicans over the last eight years continued to say one thing and do another, particularly when they controlled both houses of Congress, voters grew more and more frustrated with the Party of Lincoln.  Consider that while there were 17 Republican candidates for President, ultimately the 16 “Party-faithful” candidates were rejected in favor of Trump, someone whose political credentials were questioned by many.  One could ask then whether the victory in November was that of a Party or a personality?  And will the coming Trump era see Party, Principle or Pragmatism prevail?

As someone who has consistently voted for Republican candidates, I have always favored principle over party.  So in 2009, as the tea party movement was launched, I took an active role, with millions of other Americans, in expressing my grievances with both parties. Since then, while certainly much of our movement’s protests were focused on Obama’s policies, a considerable amount of our ire was directed towards Republicans as well. The party of conservatism had, for the most part, lost its compass. 

But then Trump appeared.  

And everything changed…

The truth is there is little evidence that Trump is a conservative Republican, in the purest definition.  Not only does his multi-decade track record affirm this reality, but many of the policies he campaigned on are at odds with long-standing Republican positions and orthodoxy.  I won’t take the time to recite the myriad of examples but these articles here and here reference several of his most glaring departures. 

What we do know about Trump though, is that since his Presidential announcement in June 2015, the billionaire candidate attracted:  1) Republicans disgusted with the Republican Party, even though they had consistently supported the GOP, and
2) Democrats tired of the failed policies of the Democratic Party, for which they had voted for in prior elections.

So with Trump’s rise to the Presidency we witnessed a powerful new constituency, the Pragmatic voter. No longer was Party the driving factor for many. Nor was Principle the overriding variable for others. Rather, Pragmatism ruled the day. 

But with the election now over, and Trump stepping forward to lead, versus merely tweet, his words will soon morph into policies, laws and regulations. As this occurs, it will be telling to see if the millions of voters who supported Donald Trump will remain enamored, enthused and engaged.  

More specifically though, I am eager to see how tea party members will respond to our new President. As a movement that has for the most part been known for its allegiance to Principle and the Constitution, will its members continue to overlook Trump’s policies that might violate both?  Will the tea party devolve into simply a pragmatic political force?  Or will the movement that became the rallying cry and impetus for one of the greatest political victories in the modern era, embrace the spirit of the original Tea Party in 1773, standing on principle first and foremost?

On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock.”  Thomas Jefferson