By Gail Kerr | The Tennessean
July 18, 2012
The newest political technique of the rightest of the right segment of the Tennessee Grand Old Party: If you can't beat 'em, bully 'em.
The target: anyone with a brain who doesn't hate people who look, worship or love differently from themselves. That now includes Gov. Bill Haslam, despite the fact he has become one of the most popular Republicans statewide in recent decades.
"Political cannibalism is never a good sign," said Jimmy Leo Richardson III of Smyrna.
Republicans now command all the power in Tennessee. They own the governor's office and the legislature. There is no doubt the state will vote red for Mitt Romney, Haslam's pick, in November. Yet a small segment of the nuttiest members of the GOP, controlled by the tea party and the National Rifle Association, is hellbent on revenge against GOP leaders who don't share its narrow agenda. It is an agenda based on hate.
They hate gays. They hate Muslims. They hate the United Nations. They hate anyone who reasonably believes business owners' property rights trump free-wheeling gun rights. And, apparently, they hate the idea of Tennessee growing jobs. Because if you saw this sort of bigotry spewing out of a state, why would you want to locate your new plant there?
"Forty years ago, these same people would be as upset if the governor hired a black person," said Nashville's John Owen.
Haslam is the latest target. This fringe group has caught the eye of small-minded Republicans at about 10 county party meetings across the state. They are taking votes condemning Haslam for having gay, Muslim and Democratic state employees and for refusing to sign one of the stupidest anti-U.N. pieces of legislation ever passed.
The efforts are akin to "fascism," said Nashvillian John Cannon. "Their actions reek of racism and oppression."
Matt Davis of McMinnville agreed: "These people say they are for freedom, but their hair seems to catch fire when a Muslim woman or a gay man earns a living."
And this just in for all you GOP "leaders" voting on this trash. There are gay people -- some of them Republican -- Democrats and Muslims everywhere. They work in your offices. They worship in your churches. They buy food at your grocery stores. They won't bite you.
"The Republican Party in Tennessee is clearly infested by a bunch of nuts," said John Rutherford of Nashville. "The tea party is now bordering on being dangerous."
The anti-Haslam resolutions call for the state party to impart some sort of mysterious, unspecified sanctions against the governor. Good luck with that.
Haslam has the approval of 79 percent of the state's conservative Republican voters, according to a May poll conducted by Vanderbilt University in partnership with The Tennessean. His approval is an impressive 60 percent among all voters, partly because he has demonstrated the ability to work and play well with others. He will be the chief cheerleader to raise the fire of the state's GOP delegation at this summer's national convention.
Sanction Haslam? They are kidding themselves. They ought to realize if you can only try and win by bullying, you are already a loser.
Gail Kerr's column runs on Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. She can be reached at 615-259-8085 or firstname.lastname@example.org.