frank_talk (2006-38)


Do you vote liberal or reward the party that betrayed you?

by Frank Cagle

Most Southern voters my age (with the exception of East Tennessee) grew up in a family of Democrats. We came of age when the Democratic Party consisted of segregationists George Wallace and Lester Maddox and Buford Ellington on the one hand while the national party was developing affection for the dovish Sen. George McGovern.

During the 1970s we were mostly confused. After a disillusioning experience in Vietnam, I spent the 1970s as a political dropout, occasionally supporting libertarian candidates. (My columns from those years criticizing Richard Nixon’s police state tactics got me labeled a hippie communist. I have found that amusing in recent years, often being labeled a right wing conservative, fascist and tool of big business.)

Like many Southern voters, I came to the Republican Party because of Ronald Reagan. Aside from winning the Cold War and making it less likely my children would be blown up by a Soviet missile, he also rescued the American economy. For the younger generation, I hope you never live in an economy like the one created by Nixon and Jimmy Carter in the 1970s: your money worthless, due to double digit inflation; mortgage rates out of reach of the average middle class family; unemployment rampant.

The high water mark for conservatism was 1994 when small government, fiscal conservatives took over the U.S. House, cleaned up the corruption, cut taxes and balanced the budget. They enacted welfare reform.

During the last six years with the Republicans in control of the White House, the Senate and the House, we have been betrayed. The corruption, the arrogance and the promiscuous spending are unforgivable. The lack of border security is a national disgrace. It is significant that the only bill George Bush has ever vetoed was funding for stem cell research. The Republican Party seems to think being a conservative is all about being anti-abortion and anti-science. Religious leaders can decide against funding research to fight devastating diseases. Then they want biology teachers to teach religion—a prospect that ought to horrify equally secular humanists AND fundamentalists.

So they betray the Reagan legacy on fiscal matters while crippling research that might prevent other people from getting the disease that took him away from us long before he died.

While they run up debts to bankrupt our grandchildren, they think they can talk about gay marriage and burning flags, and we are too stupid to realize what they are doing. Misdirection is the essential tool of the con man. If you don’t get the heaves when you hear “big government conservative,” this crowd is for you. But if you are disgusted with the Republican Party and feel they deserve some sort of punishment for their crimes, what can you do?

Thanks to careful gerrymandering in Tennessee the U.S. House seats are all safe. The only change in party affiliation possible is when the 4th District is an open seat. (Republican Van Hilleary to Democrat Lincoln Davis, most recently.)

That leaves the current U.S. Senate race. Tennessee’ rejection of Al Gore for president changed the course of American history. This time around Tennessee may decide who has control of the U.S. Senate. The question for state conservatives is whether to vote for Bob Corker, the Republican candidate, or vote for Congressman Harold Ford Jr., the Democrat.

Corker is a good man and would be a good senator. But I haven’t heard him excoriate Bush or congressional Republicans for what they’ve done. I haven’t seen any evidence he will be a change agent.

The question for conservatives is whether we might prefer gridlock as opposed to the well-oiled lobbyist-fueled money machine that Washington has become. If the Democrats take control of Congress, Bush might discover how to veto bills. Do we vote for Ford and demonstrate to the Republicans we will not sit idly by while they violate all our principles and deliver our country back into inflation, high interest rates and recession. Not to mention sitting by while our country is being invaded.

The question for conservatives is whether Ford is being truthful when he says he supports the House bill to secure the border and will support it in the Senate. But we do know that our current senator, Majority Leader Bill Frist, has presided over a bill that provides amnesty, makes a mockery of our sovereignty and sets up a system for the continued indentured servitude of an immigrant population. (What the hell is a “guest worker”?)

In this Senate election, conservatives have a choice of voting for Corker and rewarding the Republicans for their perfidy, voting for the liberal Ford (let’s don’t kid ourselves) or staying home.

It’s a choice each conservative has to make. I confess I haven’t made up my mind.

Frank Cagle is a political analyst and the editor of Knoxville Magazine . You can reach him at .