In the wake of the last Presidential election, we can look back now and see evidence that the decisions regarding the candidates during the primaries were polarizing for America, perhaps more so than at any other time in recent memory. In past elections, there were people in all demographic, economic, religious, and historical affiliations who could make a case for voting for either or any of the announced presidential candidates.
Not so in this past election.
In the 2016 presidential primaries, factors outside of historical party loyalty and alliances were at work. Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democrat party successor of her husband and Barack Obama, was almost (and might have actually been) defeated by an outspoken Progressive Socialist.
For the Republicans, the Establishment Republicans offered their predictable slate of big government favorites during the primaries, only to have the entire slate clearly rejected by the rank-and-file Republican voters.
What we saw was a stark break between the voters and the major parties’ leadership-preferred and financed candidates.
Those people who tended to support big business, supported abortion, supported big government, supported federal control of education, supported Hollywood, opposed traditional marriage and traditional values, supported gun control, believed that America was a global bully, supported illegal immigration and “sanctuary cities” all voted for the same kinds of candidates in the end. At least in the Republican primaries, those traditional establishment “tolerated” candidates lost.
In the years that the Tennessee Firearms Association has charted support or opposition for constitutionally based 2nd Amendment legislation in our state, TFA has found big government candidates in support of state-regulated permitting, stated mandated training, unreasonable levels of fees for handgun carry permits, the protection and expansion of gun free zones, the watering down of legislation in sacrifice to the god of political correctness. TFA has seen only marginal support for allowing gun possession in public places, reducing fees, removing the Department of Safety from the micromanagement of training, and moving toward permitless carry that a growing number of states now have.
TFA also heard big government Republicans claim – almost exclusively during the months leading up to an election – that they are ready to pass Constitutional Carry and eliminate gun free zones. Of course, once the elections were over the Establishment Republicans and their leaders returned to their same old ways that have clearly contributed to, if not exasperated, the mess that now exists.
Today, Democrat government officials in Tennessee are almost uniformly opposed to removing infringements as required by the 2nd Amendment. There are too few exceptions. But even the exceptions are in the minority party and have no real political capital to effect change unless Republican leadership concurs (as it did with raising the gas tax).
Clearly, since 2010, Democrats (well at least those who openly identify as Democrats) do not control state government and they do not have a meaningful means of impacting policy.
More often than not, TFA is discovering that there are concerning patterns in the Republican Supermajority in Tennessee. It is clear that it is the leadership of the Establishment Republican controlled oligarchy in state government that is actually the problem for achieving strong 2nd Amendment progress or for that matter progress on any other conservative agenda.
Since 2010, voting records and news reports are confirming the suspicions. There are those who identify as Republicans but who reportedly openly support Common Core, support more government spending on useless education programs (Pre-K), support increasing spending for college tuition assistance, support giving illegal aliens in-state tuition, support expanding ObamaCare, support an increase in the gas tax, support the expansion of state spending by 8-9% per year and similar non-conservative agendas.
From TFA’s experience it is the same groups of legislators who are promoting the foregoing agendas that are consistently objecting to and stonewalling efforts to fully restore and recognize the 2nd Amendment by passing Constitutional Carry, prohibiting local regulations and eliminating almost all gun free zones.
So, while Democrats are in a clear “superminority”, what would have been traditional Democrat platform items curiously seem to be flourishing under existing Republican supermajority leadership.
Another similar curious development has surfaced over the last decade or so. TFA is seeing a pattern of some gun rights advocates financially supporting and endorsing incumbents and candidates who have been or are more likely to be a risk to the advancement of true 2nd Amendment issues in Tennessee. These advocates seem to “cast their lot” with Republican leadership – no matter the consequences – rather than to strongly support the kinds of candidates that are willing to change the composition of the supermajority and to implement truly conservative policies such as removing gun free zones and throwing off the government infringements on exercising the right to keep and bear arms.
Can it truly be that if an elected official or unproven candidate claims some “endorsement” from a self-identifying “gun-rights” group, that in reality that they are not the “protectors” that they claim? In recent years there are numerous circumstances for consideration. Consider races over the last 8 years involving Doug Overbey, John Stevens, Todd Gardenhire, Charles Sargent, Jon Lundberg as just a few examples.
Senator Overbey served on the Senate judiciary committee in 2016. He has a history of voting against or derailing 2nd Amendment legislation. In that year, Sen. Mark Green was sponsoring a constitutional carry bill which the TFA helped write and which the NRA finally asked its members to support. The NRA’s lobbyist was present in the Senate Judiciary committee when Senator Green presented his bill to enact constitutional carry (SB1483). Senator Overbey voted on a roll call vote “no” against the bill. However, the national organization gave him an “A-“ rating and an endorsement in his primary race. Is that the way to hold legislators who kill your legislation accountable? If it is, its no wonder that so many in the Establishment have voted to kill 2nd Amendment legislation over the years because they have learned, perhaps, that there will be no “judgment day” and perhaps even rewards for doing so.
So what about the correlation between voting against 2nd Amendment bills and voting for progressive “big government bills”? It was Sen. Overbey who carried the bill for the Governor to expand ObamaCare in Tennessee. It was Sen. Overbey who carried the TNInvestCo bill that bilked $200,000,000 from Tennessee taxpayers to give to businesses in the name of “job creation”. Comptroller Justin Wilson has recently admitted that taxpayers have gotten back less than $6,000,000 of those monies. Rep. Charles Sargent, an insurance agency owner, sponsored that same graft in the House and spent his entire career as Chair of the House Finance Committee advancing what some might as billion dollar increases in the state budget under Haslam but who has also blocked 2nd Amendment legislation in his committee.
Big Government Republicans and Firearms Freedom apparently have nothing in common.
It is an election cycle again. You will perhaps receive communications in special elections and in the upcoming primaries about endorsements or grades particularly on 2nd Amendment issues and likely on other conservatives issues as well. Can you or should you just assume that the positive encouragement is always accurate on the merits? Are you now forced by prudence to ask whether there is some other factor that explains the rating or endorsement? Is it fair to ask whether the rating is not on the merits but perhaps hedging a bet as to likely winners and trying to maintain good graces? Is the endorsement an appeasement to other powerful members of leadership? Is it fair to ask if there are back channel influences on the ratings?
TFA cannot answer for the causal influences on ratings by other groups but we can identify trends where there is a different assessment by groups that are supposed to be supporting the same constitutional principles. And we intend to be clear with the voters as to who the REAL Firearms Freedom Champions are and who the imposters are hiding behind national “endorsements”.
Watch for our updates as the General Assembly begins its work. Encourage your friends to get informed and to sign up for the free TFA Legislative updates.
P.S. If you want to wage in on the battle to elect someone to the office of governor (there is only one who supports Constitutional Carry), the State Senate and the State House in 2018 – candidates who put the constitution first and who are true public stewards of your rights, please take a moment and go to the TFA’s PAC website and make a donation so that we can raise the funds to restore our rights.