There is a tragic, toxic feud taking place in Tennessee between some grassroots activists and the Legislature. Part of the tragedy is what it means for grassroots relating to legislators moving forward. The grassroots don’t like the way legislators are acting. Equally tragic is what it will mean for legislators relating to grassroots moving forward. Clearly, the legislators don’t like the way grassroots are acting, either.
From where I sit, responsibility for whatever consequences there are lies with the grassroots. They will accept no result but 100% success. Absent that, they are unwilling to abide by reasonable dialogue between natural allies. They are willing to die on every hill upon which they fight and all that disagree with them are the enemy. It’s a flawed strategy.
Grassroots’ analysis says legislators are “traitors,” “treacherous” and have “betrayed” and been “disloyal” to those who elected them; legislators sold out citizens to Big Business. Lawmakers are “liars,” “anti-2nd Amendment,” “unconcerned with Constitutional issues” and more. There is a huge body of rhetoric out there which is both highly critical of and incendiary in nature towards the Tennessee Legislature.
It’s bad form and it’s not true.
Legislators are people, too. Cut them and they bleed, treat them badly and they will resent it. Unwilling to be a perennial whipping boy, legislators know the names they are being called and the conclusions being drawn concerning their character and integrity are, put bluntly, untrue.
In the last two years, this lying, treacherous, disloyal, constitution and 2nd Amendment hating group of lawmakers passed SJR 127 championing state’s rights in the matter of abortion. They passed Collective Bargaining reform of the sort getting GOP Senators and a Governor recalled in Wisconsin. They fundamentally changed the way education is provided in Tennessee with this year’s TEAM act basing teacher evaluations in merit and not length of service. They abolished the Hall Income Tax, the Estate Tax and the Gift Tax. They cut $1.5B from the budget. They enacted one of the best Voter ID laws in the nation. They passed the Guns in Restaurant bill and the Carry in Parks bill along with other pro-2nd Amendment legislation.
I could go on but you get the point. Please, God, may legislators everywhere be such lying, treacherous blackguards!!
For their trouble, whenever there was an honest difference of opinion, the threats began. “We’ll primary you,” and “You lied,” have been the order of the day. Few insults or defamations were off limits. Frankly, from my perspective, the legislators have had enough. They see the political process as a collaboration. Grassroots seem to see it more of a Master/Servant relationship. Rebuilding bridges will be time consuming if it’s even possible.
This feud is now being driven by a single issue. The Safe Commute Bill which pits Property Rights against 2nd Amendment Rights. Many in the 2nd Amendment crowd (full disclosure – I am in this camp) seem unable to grasp that someone can disagree with them without being evil. The grassroots’ treatment of legislators on this has finally polluted the hearts of the legislators as well. More than one legislator has said to me they didn’t pass the bill out of committee precisely because of the actions of the grassroots. Who knows? That might even be true.
I do know two things:
1) The grassroots are ignoring good advice. I wrote last year to give up this strategy. A TownHall last weekend featured speakers who, when asked how to relate to legislators, reminded us we catch more flies with honey. It’s the world’s way of explaining Proverbs 25:15, “By long forbearance and calmness of spirit a judge or ruler is persuaded, and soft speech breaks down the most bonelike resistance.” (Amplified)
2) The grassroots are in no win scenario. Proverbs 25:14 notes, “Like billowing clouds that bring no rain is the person who talks big but never produces.” (The Message) Primary threats are only effective if they work. There are several current attempts to replace sitting Republicans. If they fail, the grassroots will be further marginalized.
The Legislature has done well without the grassroots. They’ve done better with them. Both are needed for maximum effectiveness. Unfortunately, the grassroots may have made themselves irrelevant by their actions. We’ll see. But Conservatives believe a man is responsible for his own actions. That’s about to play out across the state in elections. Sadly, regardless of who wins, Tennessee loses.
One can only hope that next year, we’ll find ourselves building more together than we do unilaterally tearing our own house down today.