An Open Letter to Georgia Tea Parties

We have before us an immense opportunity – an opportunity which has not occurred in the state of Georgia since before the existence of the Tea Party Movement: a vacancy in the United States Senate.

The recognition and protection of individual rights is the cause of all rational men and the aim of all just governments. It is for his own good that man lives, for his own happiness that he labors, and by the protection of his inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property that he is left free to pursue them. Yet man cannot be free, he cannot pursue his happiness, and he cannot live his life to the fullest extent that he ought, according to the rights inherent within his being, if those rights are subject to public whim. No majority of any size can justly vote away the rights of a minority, even the smallest minority in existence: the individual. Whether alone or in a country of over three hundred million people, man remains the same single, solitary whole. He is no less of a man simply because he lives in a society of men, and so the requirements of living – to act upon his own judgment and receive the benefits of his action, towards the fulfillment of his own life – are no different, nor are the rights derived from them. No appeals to the supposed “common good” give legitimacy to any thug – public or private – trying to abrogate man’s rights. And so, it is for my own good that I want a Senator who will respect and fight for my individual rights in Washington, and I trust it is for each of your personal goods that you want the same.

Since its inception, the Tea Party Movement has been the most active, consistent, and vociferous movement in favor of these principles in contemporary American politics. Though only in high school at the time, I remember the groundswell of opposition that arose, after the ill-fated McCain campaign of 2008, against the statist policies being offered by both Republicans and Democrats. ‘Republicans are supposed to be the party of low taxes, low spending, and small government,’ thought so many of us, ‘so why aren’t they?’

What followed was nothing short of remarkable. To quote The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, “It was as if an underground stream flowed through the country and broke out in sudden springs that shot to the surface at random, in unpredictable places.” Individuals around the country rose up and stated plainly: “Enough.” As Americans, we had been taxed, indebted, and regulated enough. No more was tolerable, and as we thought about it further, we determined that the current state of our Union is intolerable in itself. So far removed are we from the principles that made this country great that we knew, in the words of our own president, “It’s time for a change.” We needed to change the direction of our nation, away from the ever encroaching advances by the State into our daily lives towards a responsible, just government, and that is precisely what the Tea Party has striven to do.

When I attended my first Tea Party in Augusta, Georgia in 2010, the message was beautifully simple and unanimous:  “free markets, fiscal responsibility, and constitutionally limited government.” Similar calls for “principle over party” and “no more compromise candidates” were issued throughout the day.  This is the true essence of the Tea Party – any deviations from this simple and powerful message I consider contrary to the Tea Party’s spirit and thus external to it. You should not count such Coffee Drinkers – those who get a “kick” out of attending the rallies, waving the Gadsden flag, and chanting the slogans but then “crash” when comes to actual principle – among yourselves. Yours is a message of limited government based on reason. Theirs is a message of limited government until it is deemed inconvenient, subject to whim. The two are not compatible.

Yet before explaining the importance of this admonition going forward, let us refocus our attention to the matter at hand: the 2014 senatorial election. Whereas other states like Texas, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Utah have successfully placed Tea Party-oriented Senators into office, our own state has lagged in this regard – partly due to the sheer difficulty in ousting an incumbent, and partly due to the Tea Party’s infancy the last time our state elected a U.S. Senator. In any case, we face no such obstacles in 2014. The door is open. It is just a matter of whom we choose to send through it.

And unlike many states, we have a great deal of flexibility in whom we can send through that door. Not all states are as fortunate in this respect – this is part of the reason our opportunity is so significant. In some states, it simply is not possible to elect a true Tea Party candidate. In some states, a slightly more favorable version of the establishment Republican model is the best you can do, and even then, that is not always possible.

Georgia is not one of those states. It is not even a swing state. Aside from Texas, it is the largest, most solidly Republican state in the Union. Nine of its fourteen seats in the House of Representatives belong to Republicans, both of its Senators are Republicans, and both the General Assembly and governorship are dominated by Republicans. This is an advantage that should not go to waste.

Because of solid GOP control in Georgia, selecting a Tea Party Senator is principally a matter of winning the Republican primary. In all but very select cases, the winner of the Georgia Republican primary in a statewide race will almost invariably become the victor in that election. Even under normal circumstances, primaries are often more important than the election itself, as they will determine whether the populace has a principled candidate to support or must merely decide between two undesirable candidates across both parties — this is all the more true in a state where one party dominates so greatly.

While mainstream voices for the Republican establishment like Karl Rove, Charles Krauthammer, and others seek to marginalize the influence of the Tea Party, falsely believing it (rather than their own failure to stand on principle) as the cause for various Republican defeats, their objections have no resonance in our state. Though their arguments are incorrect and ought to be disregarded in any context, the political situation in Georgia should be grounds enough to unequivocally deny their calls for another “moderate” or “centrist” candidate such as John McCain or Lindsey Graham, the likes of which have brought failure on Election Day and, more despairingly, failure once in office to defend the principles we work to uphold. In the divided scene in Washington today, the supporters of individual liberty are forced to swallow more than enough moderation in the endless stream of compromises paid for by our taxes. Why introduce another compromiser into the system, especially when we can do so much better?

We should not expect the big government Republicans to simply step aside while we try sending a Tea Partier to Washington. The Georgia Republican Party does not look favorably upon outsiders, and the “good ol’ boys” at its head will likely do all that is within their power to prevent us from upsetting the established order. We do not, as of yet, know who they will choose as “their man” in this race, but have no doubt that whoever it is will likely have the full force of the Georgia Republican establishment at their backs. Georgia may be a staunchly Republican state, but the Republicans in charge in Atlanta – from our governor and his administration to members of the General Assembly and party leadership – are far from being Tea Partiers.

With such a leviathan as the Georgia Republican establishment undoubtedly at odds with the Tea Party, can a Tea Party candidate survive the primaries and move on to face the Democratic candidate in the midterms? Yes. It is simply a matter of principle.

The 2012 General Election, as disappointing as it was on the presidential front, offers us a reasonable source of hope in relation to this particular issue: Sen. Ted Cruz’s victory over the Texas Republican establishment in his primary. Though I am not well-versed in Texas state politics, I can reasonably conclude from what I have seen that Sen. Cruz’s challenges were no different than they will be for us in 2014. His main opposition came from an insider from Austin – their state’s lieutenant governor – often polling between ten to fifteen points behind the establishment frontrunner and finishing over one hundred forty-five thousand votes short in the initial primary. But Sen. Cruz campaigned relentlessly, and on the day of the runoff, he won by over one hundred fifty-one thousand votes – a margin of over thirteen percentage points.

There is no reason to believe that we cannot do the same in our state. Through unfaltering principle on the part of the candidate and the tireless effort of supporters like you and me, a Tea Party Senator from the state of Georgia is a very real possibility. Now, more than ever, Americans are searching fervently for anyone willing to stand on principle on the national scene. Such is why Sen. Rand Paul garnered such unexpected levels of support during his filibuster on an issue which, by all accounts, few Americans even thought about: he stood for something. It is time the state of Georgia did as well.

This is where differentiating between Tea Partiers and Coffee Drinkers becomes so important. It will avail us little to have a candidate profess allegiance to the Tea Party Movement and its values, but then arrive in Washington and do the opposite. Moreover, it can do the Tea Party a great deal of harm – a man who professes the message of the Tea Party without integrity does nothing but muddy it, making it unnecessarily difficult for the average American voter to distinguish between the true values of the Tea Party and the lure of a false flag. This sort of confusion is unacceptable in an election cycle, as it costs voters who would otherwise support Tea Party candidates but have received mixed messages as to what principles the Tea Party supports.

Worse still, poorly chosen candidates can cost entire elections, even in decidedly secure races. Candidates like Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana can lose even against weak Democratic challengers for no other reason than their own failures. It is worthy of note that Mitt Romney claimed both Indiana and Missouri in the presidential race, though both states chose Democratic Senators. In the case of Todd Akin, the Democratic Party and its supporters ran advertisements in favor of him during the primary, betting correctly that he would trip up seriously on the campaign trail and give them an advantage they would not otherwise have. Simply put, if a candidate demonstrates a propensity to make gaffes and support poor policies in the past, he will more than likely do the same in the future. Mistakes such as these should be avoided — not by an improper candidate keeping his lack of qualifications well hidden by good press, but by the people choosing a thoroughly qualified individual from the start.

What remains for us is selecting a candidate who meets all these criteria: a candidate who understands and advocates the Tea Party’s principles of “free markets, fiscal responsibility, and constitutionally limited government,” a candidate who means what he says and has demonstrated it through the record of his actions, a candidate who will stand by his principles over his party, a candidate who will be judicious with his words rather than the downfall of his own campaign, and a candidate who will, per the oath that he will take, “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Undoubtedly, there will be a number of candidates that will come forward in the near future, each seeking your support and an office in the U.S. Senate. But before giving it, ask yourselves whether those most eager to run will be most eager to lead when difficult decisions and the need for principle reveal the difference between a politician and a statesman. Surely, there may be a worthwhile candidate who decides to run on his own accord, but I urge you to look beyond the obvious options before you. Look yourselves in every corner of our state for the man or woman best suited to represent us in the U.S. Senate – the candidate who will stand alongside Senators like Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Tim Scott against their own party’s leadership when necessary in order to shrink our government to its proper limits.

We have less than two years before the midterm elections. 2014 will arrive in short order, and we need to be as prepared as possible. The success of putting a Georgian Tea Partier into the Senate hinges upon the grassroots activities of individuals like you. So search for the best, most principled Tea Party candidate our state has to offer, encourage them to run, and wherever possible, lend them your support, and I will do the same. It is time for a change, and if we remain focused, principled, and dedicated, change will come.

Good premises,

Brian Underwood
Contributor, The Mendenhall
Columnist, Red and Black

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