Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's devastating loss this week by little known University Professor Dave Brat sent shockwaves throughout the nation. Democrats and Republicans alike were taken back by such an upset. No doubt pundits will dissect and analyze this phenomena for weeks to come.
But what does an election in a congressional district hundreds of miles away from Tennessee mean to you and me?
Are there any lessons for us to learn here in Chattanooga and across the Volunteer state? I think so.
So what was Brat's message and why did it resonate in such a way that he was able to prevail, in spite of Cantor's $5 million Goliath-sized budget versus Brat's $123,000 David-sized budget. What were the people in his Virginia district looking for that enabled Brat's message to resonate with them?
Well, let's examine a few of the key messages of Brat's campaign:
Term limiting Rep. Eric Cantor who had spent over twenty years as a professional politician, thirty of those as a Congressman.
Fiscal Responsibility -- a $17,000,000,000,000 (trillion) deficit threatens every American, whether you are female, male, democrat, republican, black, white, brown, young or old.
Free Markets -- the backbone of America's unprecedented economic success in the 19th and 20th centuries was due to the entrepreneurial spirit that was unleashed exclusive of government regulation, intervention or antagonism but which is now threatened by that same government's regulation, intervention and antagonism.
Respect the Constitution by restoring the Rule of Law -- our nation was founded upon the rule of law as laid out in our founding document, the Constitution, thus establishing a fair and impartial system of justice. But that founding principle is now threatened by the rule of man, a partial and unjust system that picks winners and losers and is subject to the whims and treacheries of fallen men and women.
As I review Brat's basic common sense message I believe it is one that would resonate in Chattanooga and across Tennessee. While Brat is obviously not running here, there is a "Brat / Cantor" type election in Tennessee. You see, we have our own David vs. Goliath contest that we will each have the opportunity to weigh in on in August.
Tennessee has the unfortunate distinction of having a US Senator who, like Cantor, has made a life as a professional politician. This same Tennessee US Senator has been a significant enabler of and contributor to our $17 Trillion debt. This Senator has voted time and time again against free markets and is even now the chief proponent of raising taxes on Tennesseans and all Americans via an internet sales tax. And finally, this Senator has a consistent voting record of ignoring and even rejecting the values embodied in the US Constitution.
Who is this Tennessee US Senator? You guessed it, Lamar Alexander.
And who is the "David" challenging this most powerful US Senator? Tennessee Representative Joe Carr, a farmer, small businessman and six year state representative.
And what are Joe Carr's core values?
Respect for the Constitution and the Rule of Law
Of course Carr's message is familiar because it's what We the People in Tennessee are looking for -- some good 'ol common sense. And in Joe Carr's case he has a track record via his legislative performance that reveals that his is not just talk or theory. Rather, Joe's voting record as a three term Tennessee representative aligns with his campaign message.
So will Tennessee be another Virginia and reject an elite career politician? I would suggest that we can. But we have an unknown.
The big unknown is you.
Will you as a voter reject the idea that Lamar, Tennessee's "Goliath", cannot be beat?
Will you put your country above a political party and agree that Senator Alexander's $17 trillion debt is a recipe for fiscal disaster that will affect every American?
Will you as an employee or small business owner step up and reject Senator Alexander's meddling in your work or business with his Big Government solutions?
Will you reject Senator Alexander's intrusion into your personal and family life as a result of his extending the power and pervasive tentacles of the Federal Government over his years in Washington?
If you identify with Joe Carr's message and will share that message with just ten other friends and/or family members, then Tennessee can present Senator Lamar Alexander with a pink slip on Aug. 7 and in so doing maybe, just maybe, we can once again turn our nation in the direction of blessings, stability and success.
For your reference, here's a short list of some of Senator Lamar Alexander's destructive voting record:
In 2009, Senator Alexander voted against the National Right to Work Act
That same year, Senator Alexander also voted to confirm Hilda Solis, Barack Obama's first Labor Secretary.
For federal minimum wage increase
For federally funded embryonic stem cell research
Against striking the guest worker program from Kennedy’s bill
Against decreasing the US contribution to UN Peacekeeping
For Increasing Foreign Aid
For Increasing Labor-HHS-Education funding
For increasing Amtrak subsidies
For reauthorizing Head Start
For Economic Stimulus Package
For Mortgage relief
For warrantless searches
For the Farm bill
For National Service Programs
For IMF Funding
For Cash for Clunkers
For Confirmation of Sotomayor
For Transportation-HUD Appropriations
For Agricultural Appropriations
For Interior-Environment Appropriations
Against Auditing the FED
For Bernanke confirmation
For continuing Airline Subsidies
For use of the Patriot Act to search Americans firearm records
For extension of the Patriot Act
For Raising the Debt Ceiling again
Against Restricting the EPA from regulating power plant emissions across a state
Against an Amendment to restrict government’s right to indefinitely detain US citizens
For Export-Import Bank funding
For the FDA to regulate food and dietary products advertisements
Against Returning national forests to the states
For another Farm Bill
For sending Abrams tanks and F-16's to the Muslim Brotherhood Egyptian government
For budget deal that reduced military retirement benefits
Lamar Alexander scores 41 percent on the Heritage Action score card. The average Republican Senator scores 69 percent.
* * *
Once again, Mark West and the "Tea Party" glorify themselves and howl at the moon. Members of the "Tea Party" are not Republicans. I have no idea why the local, state, or national Republican Party allows these disturbing and divisive individuals to caucus with the Republican Party. I think of Tea Party members like the crazy uncle you invite to the wedding and someone gives him the microphone and you can't get it away from him.
As far as Joe Carr, I have many questions for Joe. He claims that he owns and lives on a 95-acre farm yet records show that he does not own the property. Apparently, in required election filings, he counts the farm as an asset and other times not. His credentials indicate that he is a small businessman but the only record I find is where he owned a small company that was administratively dissolved in 2006.
In his most recent filings for the U.S. Senate race, he claims that he earned in the last reporting year $2,000 from selling cattle and the small pay he receives for being a state representative. He filed the paperwork eight months late and only after the newspapers questioned him on it. His wife states on her Facebook page that she is a stay-at-home mom. So how does Joe support a large farm and family of five on about $20,000 a year?
Joe also seems to have an issue with time management. He is the chairman of the House local government committee. During a vote relating to college students using their state university ID as a form of voter ID, Joe and his colleagues denied the request. Many students in attendance stood to walk out and began to sing a song from the Civil Rights era. Joe came unglued. I watched the video and so should you. He then called for a five-minute recess and adjourned the committee meeting. After a number of House members left to use the restroom or attend to other business, he returns to his chair within one minute into the recess, declares a quorum, and frantically starts shoving through votes on legislation. When members returned from the "five-minute recess" and found that the proceedings were in session, he dismissed their objections saying it wasn't intentional.
I can assure you that I will not vote for Joe Carr. Lamar Alexander has served Tennessee well throughout the years. Joe Carr has many things to explain about his finances and Joe should learn to handle his temper with some dignity.
* * *
Mr. Harris, I concur with your assessment of the Tea Party.
Mr. West unsurprisingly throws a straw man argument out there with a glorification of Joe Carr and a demonization of Senator Alexander. He produces a laundry list of items that Senator Alexander either voted for or against that, according to the Tea Party’s own eye-of-a-needle definition, makes him unworthy of our vote. He then goes on to list three bullet points in favor of Joe Carr. Mr. Carr gets three bullet points because he does not have a Senate voting record to speak of. It’s easy to denigrate Senator Alexander while conveniently ignoring Carr’s lack of political experience outside of the Volunteer State. Even Donald Duck’s senate voting record is sterling compared to---oh anyone who has actually had to cast a difficult vote in the Senate. This juxtaposition indicates to me that Senator Alexander is an experienced voice for Tennessee who has made difficult decisions during his tenure. Despite the Tea Party’s maddening push for the holy grail of ideological purity, the world we live in is hardly black and white (or blue and red). Life’s reality is much more complicated than that. I respect the members of both political parties who realize this and act accordingly.
The second issue I have with Mr. West’s optimistic letter is the apples to oranges comparison. This is Government 101. Eric Cantor holds a seat in the House of Representatives. This branch of Congress is elected through district seats. Senators are elected at-large throughout the state. It’s a different kind of seat, and a different kind of race. Senator Alexander represents all of Tennessee, not one hand-drawn district. Voter apathy aside, I don’t see a valid comparison with Cantor’s loss.
* * *
There are no end of speculations and analyses about why US Rep Eric Cantor lost Virginia's 7th District race. The results even brought forth several comments to the Chattanoogan.com. I'd like to add one observation for everyone's consideration: the Virginia 7th district race drew a whopping 12% of the eligible voters.
When voters don't vote, they leave the door wide open for candidates whose appeal rests in narrowly focused interest groups. This type of candidate, for one reason or another, wouldn't usually have been expected to have a chance, let alone to win.
* * *
Mostly what Mark West noted was Lamar Alexander's voting record and then some folks attacked him for it and tried cast him in a bad light. Let me add, after reading Lamar Alexander's voting record he is much worse than I realized. Thanks for the heads up on Alexander's votes.
* * *
Dave Brat had a successful campaign because he ran on Republican principles which include support for the Constitution, free markets and fiscal responsibility. These are also the same principles the Tea Party movement has been voicing for several years all across the country. Many candidates have been running on conservative principles but, once in office, going with the elite power structure to get appointed to certain positions on committees to enhance their own career.
The Tea Party has become the voice of many conservatives who are dissatisfied and disgusted with people who will so easily toss aside the principles that made our country the leader of the free world.
Who is the Tea Party? It is more than the people who go to monthly meeting or to planned rallies. They are people who recognize the danger we are in and are trying to find elected officials who will stand by their word and sworn oath. It is a movement that is giving a voice to “We the People”. It will be hard to kill something that is ingrained in our hearts.
In our current Senate race, we welcome Senator Lamar Alexander to come and discuss his voting record with “We The People”. The only part of his record I have seen him talk about in a TV ad is the Freedom To Fish Act which was passed last year. This ad appeared about the same time as the vote in the Senate on amnesty. It is a moratorium for two years on the fishing restrictions on the Cumberland River by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. We look forward to hearing how he will get the Freedom to Fish Act made permanent and at the same time he can explain all his other votes and how they reflect his support for the Constitution, free markets and fiscal responsibility. We can set up forums across the state where he and Joe Carr can make their case to the voters of Tennessee so as to let voters make informed decisions.