Chuck Muth is one of the brightest minds in grassroots politics this side of the Mississippi. He runs an outfit called Citizen Outreach, and has put together two successful Conservative Leadership Conferences (think CPAC for the Rockies).
He recently recounted how a Republican legislator in Tennessee cut a deal with Democrats to get himself elected Speaker, and what resulted. It is an instructive lesson for legislators everywhere – particularly here in Arizona given our history of former Senate President Randall Gnant cutting a similar deal to be Senate President, and the (likely untrue) rumor that Rep. Sam Crump was shopping such a deal with Democrats earlier this year. Muth’s column below:
RINOing Republicans In Name Only
By Chuck Muth
In the Catholic and Mormon churches they call it excommunication. The Amish refer to it as shunning. The Klingons call it discommendation. In each case, it’s a process by which an individual who has committed an egregious offense so serious they are literally kicked out of the organization.
In Tennessee, Republicans have invented a new term for this action: disassociation. I like “RINOing” better, but what the heck. Here’s what it’s all about.
“In November, the GOP won control of both houses of the state legislature for the first time since Reconstruction,” reports Brendan Miniter in Political Diary on February 11th. “That victory was one of the few bright spots for Republicans across the country in 2008 and seemed to set the stage for a GOP resurgence and possible capture of the governor’s mansion in 2010.
“Then, on Jan. 13, the wheels started to come off.
“Republicans had rallied behind Rep. Jason Mumpower for House Speaker, and he appeared to be a lock as late as the morning of the vote, when every House Republican prayed together. When it came time to vote, however, it became clear that GOP Rep. Kent Williams had cut a secret deal with Democrats to elevate himself with unanimous support from across the aisle to the Speaker’s chair.
“Mr. Williams was booed in the process, with at least one person shouting out ‘Judas,’ but he was unfazed, telling a reporter that he had ‘been booed before.’ He went ahead and organized the House chamber, splitting committee chairmanships between Democrats and Republicans.”
So what did the Tennessee Republican Party do?
They kicked Williams out of the party. Literally.
On January 30, 2009, the Executive Committee unanimously adopted a resolution which included, among others, the following “whereases”.
Whereas the supporters, voters and donors of the Tennessee Republican Party have a right to expect that, having collectively campaigned for and won a majority in the state House for the first time since 1868, both houses of the legislature would be lead by loyal Republican leadership; and
Whereas the evidence shows that Representative Kent Williams had been planning his betrayal for eight weeks and conspiring with Democrats to crown him Speaker in exchange for betraying his fellow Republican caucus members; and
Whereas Representative Kent Williams rewarded his Democratic allies with committee chairmanships, putting at risk the Republican agenda the majority of Tennessee voters voted for; and
Whereas Kent Williams’ actions and words provide indefensible evidence to the 30 written challenges questioning the Bona Fide status as a Republican; and is entitled to its constitutional right of Freedom of Association; and
Whereas the Tennessee Republican Party seeks to disassociate with Representative Kent Williams;
And this is the best part:
BE IT RESOLVED:
1. That state Representative Kent Williams of Carter County, Tennessee, be forever barred from seeking elective office in Tennessee on a Republican ballot; and
2. That the Tennessee Republican Party immediately request all media outlets in Tennessee to cease referring to Representative Kent Williams as a Republican.
3. That Kent Williams receive no support, endorsements, or financial backing by those affiliates of the Tennessee Republican Party.
Can they DO that? I don’t see why not. As the resolution notes, the Republican Party enjoys the constitutionally protected right of Freedom of Association – and the Tennessee Republican Party is the official governing body of the organization. So if they want to kick somebody out of the party and not let them run for office as a Republican, why not?
Have the state parties in Pennsylvania and Maine – home to RINO (Republican In Name Only) sell-out Sens. Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins – heard about this?
“The politically expedient thing to do would be to overlook whatever he’s done,” Tennessee GOP Chairwoman Robin Smith said in explaining the decision to oust Mr. Williams. “We’re either going to stand for something or we’re no different from Kent Williams.”
Gee, I sure hope no one suggests that local Republicans consider “RINOing” Republican state legislators who sell out their party and conspire with Democrats to give the Democrats “bi-partisan” support for tax hikes in the middle of a recession.