It has been almost 3 weeks since the story broke that a state legislator secretly changed the language of Tennessee’s state budget just before it was sent to the Legislature for a vote. Despite it now being generally accepted the offending legislator is a prominent GOP Senator, he has not been named and no explanation for his actions has been given. This is true to such an extent that were you consider the public statements by members of the Legislature you would never know anything happened.

Bluntly, Ron Ramsey and the leadership of the Tennessee Senate appear to have no intention whatsoever of dealing with this issue. They appear to be adopting the attitude that if they will just wait long enough all of this will blow over.

There are several explanations for this; none of them good. The GOP caucus has: 1) taken its base for granted; 2) adopted a dismissive attitude toward representative government and transparency; 3) approved the “Don’t ask us about stuff. We’ll tell you what you need!” approach toward the people; 4) decided it doesn’t matter what character they reveal to us by their actions, or; 5) all of the above.

But citizens are outraged. At first it was that such a thing could happen at all. Now the outrage is with with how it is being handled.

They are telling me things like, I have lost faith in Ron Ramsey!”, “This has cost Ramsey my vote!” and “I am so disappointed in people I trusted!” Perhaps the actions of the caucus are good politics. But the base still longs for leaders who do what is right. Not because it fills campaign coffers and ballot boxes but because it is the right thing to do. When the secret Senator betrayed us by changing the state’s budget we waited for the rest of those we elected to do the right thing. It’s grown lonely at that particular altar …

The secret Senator defied the publicly stated intention of the GOP caucus to de-fund Planned Parenthood. Kent Williams defied the publicly stated intention of the GOP to elect Jason Mumpower Speaker. Williams became a pariah while the secret Senator enjoys the complete support and protection of the GOP caucus. Explain to me how I now trust any future appeal to principle from the GOP?

The secret Senator’s intentional deception means he put himself before the caucus and before the people. In the face of this, the caucus itself did nothing. Nor will they name him so Tennesseans might weigh in on the matter for themselves. This is not representative democracy. This is not the values of our national Republic being expressed at the state level. This is a king protecting one of his barons from the serfs.

I would hope Senate leaders are as angry as I am over the matter. How would I know since they won’t even admit anything has happened, let alone express an opinion on it. How does one respond to that? The actions of the secret Senator are a threat to all that has been promised. It exists in the midst of the caucus. Yet he is protected and honored rather than expelled and shamed. Am I expected to approve of this? Were this done in a company, he would be demoted at a minimum, more likely fired and prosecuted. Were it done in a family, divorce attorneys would be involved. That is the usual way betrayal, faithlessness and disregard for those one is to serve are usually dealt with. Here it is ignored and winked at.

I believed those who told me they shared my values and principles. I gave them time and money and lent them such value as might exist in my praise. That trust and support now seem to have been misplaced.

I have a choice. We all do. We can choose cynicism and wash our hands of the matter, returning to life as we lived it before we got involved. Or we can learn from our mistakes and continue searching for today’s version of the men who shaped and founded our nation. Men of integrity. Men of principle. Men we can believe in both today and in the midst of all the challenges tomorrow brings. Men of whom we can be proud and with whom we can be proud to associate.

I will not cry over failed attempts to find such men. I will not complain that it is a difficult search. I’ll just keep looking. The founder of Cynicism, Diogenes, searched for years for an honest man. The least I can do is hang on another election cycle or two. When the stakes are this high, there really isn’t any other option …

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