Conservative nonprofit Hamilton Flourishing embraced the spirit of Presidents Day by cosplaying as the nation’s first leader while they spread awareness around downtown Chattanooga. With Jacob Goldsmith and Alexander Tonnidis donning blue coats, wigs, and old-fashioned hats, they traipsed around Chattanooga with small cards in hand.
“We’re just promoting Presidents Day, going out dressed up as George Washington and having fun and handing out cards and promoting Hamilton Flourishing,” said Mr.
Goldsmith, who along with Mr. Tonnidis goes to the nearby UT-Chattanooga.
“It’s a nonprofit think tank that’s a little different from the mainstream think tank,” said Mr. Tonnidis. “It’s conservative-based and we’re looking for the best solutions to try to address the issues going on in the county.”
When asked about what kind of problems they believed needed addressing in Hamilton County, the first thing mentioned was the always-controversial issue of education. At the heart of this debate is figuring out how much control parents have over where their children go to school.
“There’s a big debate right now about whether we give more money to public schools, or do we try to invest in alternative options like school choice,” said Mr. Tonnidis. “We just want to get the information out there, and let them make up their own mind, instead of hearing how they should think. I’m actually independent. I just love my community and am just trying to get people more engaged.”
Patrick Hampton, vice president of the nonprofit, explained his reasoning for why he believed the think tank was necessary in Hamilton County.
“In Hamilton County, we have people who are conservative just as we have liberals,” said Mr. Hampton. “But we didn’t have a lot of research coming from the conservative side. So what we decided to do was to hire different people to do research from the conservative perspective. Not to just fight against the liberals, but to have proven and scientific data that our ideas work.”
Mr. Hampton responded to the claim that the think tank’s research as based on confirmation bias, where they would cherry-pick information that would support their beliefs. He argued that the think tank’s ideas were all based upon the constitution, and that they were simply following what the document said.
“Our ideas are going to come based on the constitution that supports freedom, free markets, freedom of speech and religion,” said Mr. Hampton. “So that’s something that’s already established, and we don’t want people to tell us how to think. But we want to be able to say “Let’s look at the constitution and find those solutions that can find us in our community.”
The vice president claimed that, while the think tank branded itself as conservative, it was not strictly aligned with the Republican Party. As Mr. Tonnidis had mentioned earlier, people of various political leanings were affiliated with Hamilton Flourishing.
“We have different people who support us,” said Mr. Hampton. “For instance, Alex here is an independent and he supports us. So we have a lot of different people who support us because they like the county. We are supporting everything that is good government for our county.”
According to Hamilton Flourishing’s website, the nonprofit says “Our mission is to seek the well-being of Hamilton County and Chattanooga through effective solutions to Public Policy.”