Friday, March 16, 2007

The parties and who left who

Kleinheider takes the side of Mike Williams in Williams' declaration that the Republican Party has "left him."

I agree with A.C.'s historical analysis of East Tennessee Republicanism, I do not agree with his take on Williams. First, his historical take on the Republican Party in East Tennessee:

Tennessee is rather unique among southern states in that it has a strong tradition of Republicanism that predates the Civil Rights era. We are a Border state. The eastern portion of Tennessee has been Republican since the party's inception. The Tennessee Republican Party has always been a party entrenched in its moderate roots.

In other Southern states, conservative Democrats could basically create out of the Republican Party what they wished. Not so in Tennessee. The political realignment experienced in much of the South has been tempered in Tennessee by the original Republican Party of the East.

Our Republican Party has not been created out of whole cloth in the seventies, eighties, and nineties as it was across the South. It has been a merger of traditional Republican elements with conservatives and transplants from other regions.

There is some real truth to Kleinheider's analysis in this regard. The East Tennessee Republican Party has its roots in sympathy for the Federal power. This history is often reflected by the fact that the annual dinner is usually still called Lincoln Day in most East Tennessee jurisdictions, while many other places across the State and the rest of the South prefer to call their annual celebration Reagan Day.

People who have what I call "old Democrats in the line" have managed to remold the Republican Party in much of the rest of the South into something that has an ideology similar to the Democratic Party of my Grandfather's time. My Granddaddy was a Democrat, his Daddy was a Democrat, and his Granddaddy was a Democrat who wore a grey uniform. My Great Uncle, who passed away recently, served as the county Tax Assessor in Fayette County, West Virginia for 23 years-as a Democrat. My Grandfather left the Democratic Party because it was not the Party of his youth. Some may say this was because of civil rights, but my Grandfather believed in equal rights for everyone and he wasn't opposed to insuring that everyone was equal under the law.

What my Grandfather was concerned with was undue expansion of the federal government. The Democratic Party used to defend federalism, defend the Constitution, and defend the rights of the States. Because they have abandoned that mentality in so many ways (in so many areas of policy), many former Democrats crossed over. This changed the ideological complexion of the Republican Party-especially in the South. Because my Grandfather switched, his children tended to vote Republican, and I am a Republican.

The Tennessee Republican Party has been impacted by this change because ideological decendants of the old bluebellies must find a way to live in the same party with the ideological decendants of the old greybellies. A.C. is also right that demographic shifts and migration have impacted the Republican Party and made it much more conservative.

What I do not buy is Mike Williams' excuse that the Party has left him. He ran as a conservative, not as a "moderate," but what he has done in Nashville is quite different than how he ran for office. If I am going to vote for a so-called moderate, I would rather vote for one that is honest about who and what they are, as opposed to someone who says one thing and does something else.

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