I had an earlier commitment and was unable to attend yesterday’s Red to the Roots rally in Bartlett. Governor Haslam was there, along with Senator Alexander and Congressman Stephen Fincher.
Mick Wright, who is running for alderman in Bartlett attended and shared his thoughts at his own website. However, I am reprinting them here because it was interesting.
In an earlier post, I wrote about the importance of challenging people in government who lose their way, especially members of your own political party.
Being “independent” does not mean you are “unaffiliated,” it means thinking for yourself and drawing your own conclusions. When you care about your community, and when you care about the reputation of your party, it’s your duty speak out against bad behavior, lapses of judgment and abuses of authority.
I think I understand now why people sometimes ignore that duty. If your assessment is not shared by other members of your party, it can cost you relationships, position, esteem and support. It’s much easier to go-along and get-along.
Yesterday our city was visited by three well-known candidates: Governor Bill Haslam, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and a U.S. Congressman Stephen Fincher.
From the stage, Congressman Fincher said he used to criticize the Senator’s record until he got into office himself and had his own record criticized. The point, I think, is we shouldn’t judge people in elected office. We may not realize the pressures and tradeoffs involved in their decisions, or perhaps we’re not aware of the information at their fingertips, information that would reverse our positions and align us with those in office.
I agree that we shouldn’t judge people in elected office. In Matthew 7, Jesus commands us not to judge anyone. But as voting citizens in a democratic republic, it is our right and our duty to evaluate their service, and to support candidates who represent our views.
What struck me about Fincher’s words was less about the pressures of the office and more about the pressures of the candidate. When you’re the new kid on the block and the popular figureheads of your party ask you to go on tour with them, are you going to say no, or will you make a concerted effort to remain in their good graces?
When Senator Alexander spoke, he held up his Little Plaid Book of political advice and quoted a laugh line from within: “Walk in parades… If it is the Mule Day parade, walk at the front.”
After the program, I asked Alexander about another section of the book.
“Senator, what about #297?”
“From the book you just quoted.”
“You’ll have to cite it for me.” [even though it was in his back pocket]
“It says, ‘Serve two terms and get out.’”
“Didn’t I do that?”
“Yes, you served two, now you’re running for a third.”
“As Governor, I served two terms.”
“It doesn’t say ‘serve two terms as Governor…’”
At that point, the Senator turned his back to me. The conversation was over, and his defense was that #297 was written exclusively to apply to the office of Governor.
There are two problems with that interpretation.
First, the subtitle to Lamar Alexander’s Little Plaid Book is, “311 rules, lessons, and reminders about running for office and making a difference whether it’s for president of the United States or president of your senior class.”
In the introduction, he says he finished the book for a young man who asked him for advice about serving in public office and “for anyone else who has ever thought about running for and serving in office.”
In short, Alexander’s rules are not specific to a single office. They are intended as general advice for anyone seeking any elected position.
Second, Alexander would not have written rule #297 to apply specifically to his term as Governor because that office is already term-limited by the Tennessee Constitution.
Article III, Section 4, states, “The governor shall be elected to hold office for four years and until a successor is elected and qualified. A person may be eligible to succeed in office for additional four year terms, provided that no person presently serving or elected hereafter shall be eligible for election to more than two terms consecutively.”
Are we really supposed to believe Senator Alexander wrote a rule limiting himself to two terms for an office in which he was already limited? If that were the case, Alexander’s intellect would be in question.
Instead, I think the question is his commitment to his own principles. The political process has a way of corrupting good people. Many politicians begin with good intentions and make an effort to really reach out and connect with voters. At the start, they know power corrupts, so they limit the time they intend to serve. But politics eats away at principle, and soon enough you turn your back on the people you were elected to serve. Literally.
It’s our duty to challenge such people, no matter what the cost might be to our own reputation.
So often people will tell me that they are fed up with the Republican party and our inner party workings (or lack of them). Who among us hasn’t agreed at times?
But this is not a reason to leave the Republican Party. As Mick points out, it is up to people in the party to be on guard and make sure politicians follow our philosophy and ethics. It’s so easy to sit on the sidelines and complain or walk away. But where does that lead us? It leads us to Democrat/Leftist ideology and loss of our freedoms.