“Rep. Anonymous” warns the GOP establishment that change is coming.
[Editor’s Note: One of the RTP crew was contacted recently by a member of the General Assembly, asking if RTP would publish the following article. As our readers will see, it is a scathing indictment of the establishment wing of the Republican Party — one that should serve as a warning to those who run for office talking like a conservative, but govern as something else.
[RTP agrees with Rep. Anonymous’ assessment. And as for the whole “incognito” thing, just take a look at RTP. We learned a long time ago the ability to tell it like it is requires a certain degree of anonymity. Let the speculation begin!]
Beth, Boehner and an Angry Republican Base
by Rep. Anonymous (R-TN)
During the House Republican caucus meeting a few weeks ago, the political gossip among my colleagues centered on the emergence of Donald Trump and other “outsider” presidential candidates. The consensus was that Trump would eventually fade (which has yet to happen). But what would become of his angry “anti-establishment” Republican voters who, along with supporters of candidates like Ben Carson and Sen. Ted Cruz, totaled well over half of the vote in most polls? The anger felt by the Republican base was quite the topic when it came to the presidential race, but it was all just speculation.
Then something happened. The political earthquake that hit Washington, DC this fall continues to reverberate around the country and all the way to Tennessee. First was a FOX News poll that asked Republican voters a question I had never seen asked before: “Do you feel betrayed by your party’s political leaders?” An astonishing 62% of Republicans said “Yes.”
That is worth repeating: nearly 2 out of every 3 Republican voters said they did not trust their Republican elected officials to do the job the voters entrusted them to do. These results should send shivers down the spine of every Republican office holder at every level.
Many pundits and analysts scoffed at the poll. Then just two days later, John Boehner resigned. Then a few days after that, the establishment’s heir-apparent Rep. Kevin McCarthy withdrew from the Speaker’s race. The shocking primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor last year now appears to have been the “canary in the coal mine.”
The revolt that led to the Boehner Blow-up was engineered by a group of conservative congressmen who were getting an earful from their constituents who had had enough of the constant compromise, surrender and ineffectiveness of leadership’s dealings with the Obama administration.
There are significant parallels to be found between the events in Washington and the political situation here in Tennessee, particularly in the General Assembly and specifically in the body in which I serve, the House of Representatives. Could it happen here? Absolutely. In fact, in the last session we were already seeing the canaries start to warm up: Insure Tennessee was defeated not once but twice, despite the strong backing of Gov. Haslam. Pretty much every major initiative of the Republican administration was soundly rejected – by Republicans. In the early days of the Haslam administration, House leadership constantly browbeat Republican legislators to “not embarrass the governor.” How times have changed.
But there is one major difference between Congress and the General Assembly that should strike even greater fear in the establishment wing of the party here in Tennessee. Strong conservatives in the state legislature comprise a much larger percentage of the Republican caucus than they do in the U.S. Congress. In fact, strong conservatives are likely a majority of the caucus in the state House. It is now dawning on my fellow conservatives that the strength of their numbers, combined with the strong backing of their constituents, means the power structure that has long dominated Tennessee politics and frustrated the will of the people is about to be shaken to its core.
For what seemed like an eternity, Republicans were a minority. Then they secured a majority, and then a super-majority in both houses of the General Assembly. Many of us conservative legislators thought we would finally be able to provide Tennessee a constitutional, free market, smaller government in the spirit of Ronald Reagan. Boy, were we wrong.
Instead, we watched in frustration as our own GOP leaders delayed, subverted and stymied scores of sound, conservative initiatives, while siding with bigger government, corporate cronyism and leftwing policies such as Common Core, the expansion of Obamacare through Insure Tennessee and pushing for an increase in the state’s gas tax while we sit on a $600 million revenue surplus. Instead of allowing up or down votes, they killed conservative legislation by employing dishonest and deceitful maneuvers like bogus fiscal notes, creative calendaring, conservative bills being “flagged” by the governor’s office and the Black Hole of conservative legislation they call the House Budget Subcommittee.
If you ask my fellow Republican legislators today if they feel betrayed by their party’s leaders, you might get an even higher percentage than the 62% in the FOX poll.
So what happens now? Will our state’s Speaker, Beth Harwell, be forced to resign? Probably not. But will she face a challenge when the next vote for Speaker comes up a year from now? That’s a distinct possibility. Other leaders will almost certainly come under the gun. It’s highly likely Majority Leader Gerald McCormick will be aggressively challenged should he decide to run for re-election. Caucus Chair Glen Casada is also unlikely to get a pass on his current or future ambitions. Retention of anyone in current leadership may prove to be problematic in this new environment.
By now you may be asking, why write all this under a nom de plume? Why not take credit for your observations? The need for anonymity is obvious to the many colleagues who have experienced firsthand the exclusions and retributions by leadership against those who stray from the accepted line. Being heard is difficult enough without be punished for speaking up.
Instead, I encourage my conservative colleagues to recognize and embrace the power of committed individuals who can come together for positive reform. That we are a much larger group than the leadership, the media and, yes, the governor are willing to admit only serves to underscore our potential.
Real, conservative change is coming and Tennessee will play its part. Somewhere down in Legislative Plaza, the canaries are singing. And somewhere above, Ronald Reagan is smiling.