Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Never-Ending Kent Williams Saga, or, Here's An Editorial That Won't Go Away

I know blogging about politics tends to be the sport o' the moment for some while also being as dull as three-day-old dirt to many others. But I keep at it because the political back and forth is more than the sum of its parts. Political wrangling and fights have formed the backdrop for much of human history, though sometimes the stage can be either quite small or quite large.

I had been reading and enjoying the teacup tempest between members of the Tennessee House of Representatives as the GOP seemed poised to take the Speaker of the House position for the first time in a very, very long time in 2009. Then Carter County Republican Kent Williams went rogue and ditched the plans of party leaders like Robin Smith and got himself named to the position. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued. Security guards were actually called in to shield him from the angry House members.

Biblical damnations were issued on the floor of the House, Democrats snickered or laughed loudly, and the press and the blogging world hummed with the Sturm und Drang of events. I really tried to stay out of that, but, just like Michael Corleone, I got pulled back in.

This morning I read an editorial from the Elizabethton Star about Rep. Williams with a most stern talking-to aimed at Robin Smith for ejecting Williams as a member of the Republican party. I made a reference to it and quoted from it in a comment I made for Michael Silence's blog at the Knoxville News Sentinel. But when he asked for a link to that editorial, it was gone. Vanished into some digital wasteland.

Well, foo. I know I did not imagine it. So I called the Star's offices and was transferred to their IT department. I was told that was the editorial for Sunday the 8th and they don't keep archives online. I asked if he could email me a copy of the editorial and he did so, quite promptly in fact. I thank them for that.

I thought the piece was a pretty strong taste of 'Don't-Tread-On-Me' Americana, and so, that a copy of said editorial can be found online here at your humble-but-lovable-Cup Of Joe Powell, I am reprinting it in full:

"Republican Party Is Bigger Than One Person

Robin Smith, Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, has called a press conference Monday to announce her decision regarding House Speaker Kent Williams's membership in the Republican Party. The decision rests solely with Smith, and perhaps nothing would delight her more than to kick the Carter County lawmaker out of the party.

Williams' re-election last November helped give the Republicans a majority in the state House. Williams, who claims to be a Republican, who was elected as a Republican, and we do believe has Republican values, was elected Speaker with his vote and that of the 49 Democrats in the House. He defeated the GOP's hand-picked candidate for Speaker, Jason Mumpower, who, too, voted for himself. He received all the Republican votes in the House except for Williams'.

Should the chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party have that much power? Power to decide who has membership in the party, who can be a Republican and who can not? Rep. Williams has said that he will leave the party voluntarily, Ms. Smith only has to ask.

This decision will be made by one person, who has never run for political office -- someone who has a lot of experience campaigning for Republicans. Her goal in life is to elect Republicans at all levels of government to every office.

The Republican Party is bigger than any one person. It is bigger than Robin Smith and it is bigger than Kent Williams. No one person should ever have the say of who can and cannot be a member of any political party - be it Republican or Democrat.

The two-party system has served this country well. There is never going to be a time when everyone agrees on the same candidate. We all have different values, different views and different opinions on how government can best serve the people, and how people can best serve their government. To disagree is not wrong. Not every Republican agrees on every matter nor does every Democrat. Heaven help us if they do.

Furthermore, we do not think that Republicans in Memphis and Chattanooga, where Ms. Smith is from, should be meddling in Carter County politics. We may live in the mountains, but we aren't ignorant. We are learned enough in politics to vote. We don't need the bright out-spoken lawyer from Memphis nor the "blonde" saleswoman from Chattanooga to tell us how to vote, nor do we need them to select our candidates. My gosh, our ancestors were the first to settle in Tennessee. They formed the first independent government west of the Alleghenies. Long before there was a Tennessee or a Chattanooga or a Memphis, our folks were living here in the Watauga Settlement. They were busy building a community and forming a government. I don't know if they were Republicans or Democrats, but it really doesn't matter. They were daring, brave and they sure didn't let the British tell them what to do.

Perhaps, Ms. Smith should know that when she kicks our representative out of the Republican Party, she has dealt a blow to every Williams voter in Carter County.

And, what's more, the members of the Republican Party will have shot themselves in the foot -- they no longer will have the majority in the Tennessee House. It keeps getting worse for Rep. Jason Mumpower. First, he was shot out of the saddle as House Speaker. Now, if Williams is kicked out of the Republican Party, he will become chairman of the minority party rather than the majority.

You know, the Baptist Church is more democratic than the Republicans. They do allow the membership to vote on who to let in the church and to dismiss from their ranks."

NOTE: The editorial today in the Star, taken from the Jackson Sun, was a kinder-gentler shift in opinion. I suppose I should give kudos to the Star for offering very different views on one topic. This editorial is titled "Williams Was Foolish" and included these paragraphs:

Tennessee Republicans had every right to banish House Speaker Kent Williams from their party. But the political get-back seems counter productive for a party with a one-vote, now no-vote, majority. At a time when Tennesseans are worried about their jobs and suffering along with the ailing economy, political bipartisanship is what people want to see. Instead, the state GOP chose to put hard-line conservative ideology first, and to its own detriment.
"Hard line, ideologically driven partisan politics can become destructive and self-defeating, regardless of which party is involved. Americans want more from their elected officials than mere party loyalty. They want to see things getting done. They want to see politicians coming together to put citizens ahead of partisanship. The state GOP didn't help itself or Tennesseans by punishing the House speaker."


Now the commedia dell'arte of our political world can continue. And I know it will. I think I'll write up a post next time about kitties or something.


  1. Anonymous4:19 PM

    Robin Smith and her cronies have just created a public relations nightmare for themselves. To not understand the backfire from their decision to oust Kent Williams is to not understand Upper East. Kent Williams will be re-elected for certain and the Grand Old Pac will have to live with their decision. - I am a Carter County native and blood is thicker than water.

  2. Anonymous11:57 AM

    Well I am a Carter County RESIDENT and I am anxiously awaiting to vote "Lefty" out of office in 2010.

    PR Nightmare? Just think about it. If Republicans pick up just one more seat in 2010, Mumpower takes his rightful place into the speakers chair, democrats will no longer have a puppet and Williams will be best known for slinging god-awful Lasagna at his downtown RINO's restaurant (an apt name change considering that a)he is no Dino Senesi and b)RINO is a much more fitting name for the owner)

  3. Anonymous12:01 AM

    Johnson City Press - Weekly Poll
    Do you support Rep. Kent Williams, R-Elizabethton, as speaker of the state House of Representatives?

    Yes 81%
    No 14%
    Undecided 2%
    I Don't Care 3%
    Total Votes 3,988
    (FINAL Tuesday Jan. 27, 2009)

  4. Terrance Pearson7:06 AM

    I am a resident of Carter County. I am ashamed of both parties. I am tired of Left and Right. IMHO, no one cares about the constituency, the middle any more. This is not a game. If our elected leaders don't get off thier a$$e$ and start working together, the people will clean house. Finally, I hope that I have the opportunity to bump into MR. Anonymous Carter County Resident and debate this issue. Oh and by the way, I am a registered REPUBLICAN. I guess I better be prepared to join Kent as a non-partisan.