While Republicans remain strong in Tennessee, the brand has clearly been taking a beating nationally.
Polls show that conservative identity is on the uptick of late but still no strong Republican has stepped up to lead the way. The Tea Party movement has been an interesting development but it, like the GOP, seems to be rudderless and unfocused.
The Republican Party though, however sullied, remains a potentially powerful vessel for some small motivated group of individuals to infiltrate and make their own.
This is what a group called the Campaign for Liberty is about. It was founded by Ron Paul as a continuation of his 2008 campaign for President. That year, Paul Republicans gave their candidate an impressive $30 million dollar war chest from a broad diverse donor base.
One of those Paulites is right here in Nashville. Matt Collins, Davidson County Coordinator for the Campaign for Liberty, got himself elected vice-chair of the Davidson County Republican Party back in April in a much talked about runoff election.
While the vice-chairman ship of the Davidson County GOP may not be the height of political power in Tennessee, it is something. And for a movement that, thus far, had only proved it could create a critical mass of Internet trolls who could type 'RON PAUL FOR THE LONG HAUL' in all caps into blog comment sections, it showed some in the political establishment that maybe these crazy Paul types had something to offer, that they were interested in actually influencing the system rather than just making symbolic stands against it.
However, at a recent Davidson County Party picnic, Collins proved this wasn't the case. In a blog post on July 13, Collins recounts an interaction he had with current Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Zach Wamp at that event.
"Several DCRP officers and myself approached [Wamp] near the conclusion of the Picnic because we wanted to discuss HR1207 (Audit the Federal Reserve Act). Representative Wamp extended his hand to me to shake it and I absolutely refused; I am not interested in being friendly towards those who violate the Constitution," wrote Collins.
Wamp apparently had committed the cardinal sin of voting for one of the bailouts of the country's financial institutions back in October. For that, he was refused the courtesy civilized men commonly afford strangers.
Mind you this is not a petulant child or even a college kid who refused the Congressman's handshake but a 27-year-old man — a man who purportedly wants to serve ''the cause of liberty."
Excuse me, but how do you serve the cause of liberty, or any other for that matter, by coming off like an eccentric jerk? This is politics after all. It is a form of combat, but it is not one where a blunt instrument or an antisocial personality is going to serve one particularly well.
What exactly is the point of joining "the system" just to go spit in the eye of the establishment the first chance you get? What kind of influence can one hope to have if, at every turn, one is burning bridges. Politics is as much about personal relationships as it is about policy or ideology. It is about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. And most of all, it is about keeping from sight the knife you wish to plunge into a man's back until you are strong enough to strike the finishing blow.
Collins may think he made a principled stand for liberty when he refused to shake the hand of a "traitor to the constitution" but all he really did was further marginalize a movement that was already marginal.
Whether you are left, right, or moderate, Democrat or Republican, you have to admit that the Republican Party and the modern conservative movement has run out of steam. The Right may still be healthy in Tennessee, but nationally, it is on ropes.
The Ron Paul movement is certainly not the answer to all that ills the Republican Party, but, at the very least, it is a breath of fresh air. It is a right wing movement that shows youth, vigor and potential for growth. If moderated, if absorbed into the elements of the establishment Right, one could see how it could provide some of the vision and foot soldiering for the GOP's trip out of the wilderness.
However, if the Ron Paul Republicans, the Tea party protesters and the other "growth sectors" of the Right remain content with "keeping it real" and thumbing their nose at "the man," they should not complain when their ideas are discarded and dismissed. It is not the Establishment that is keeping the "revolution" from occurring, it is the revolutionaries, through their myopic view of politics, who keep the boot on their own neck.