The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.







Republican Party: Time for a Change

by JC Bowman

Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely. That observation and statement was made by Lord Acton, a well respected British historian. I heard that statement or similar repeated by several people in the last couple weeks, and it was directed at the Executive Committee of the Bradley County Republican Party. There is no doubt that members in attendance felt absolute powerlessness, trapped behind the by-law waving Michael Willis.

Any time you are engaged with information, the reality that you extract from that information is shaped by the tools that deliver it. Taking that in consideration I cautiously believed few of the rumors I had read and heard for the last several years, and then at the last Republican meeting I got to witness first hand the decline of the local Republican Party. It is sad to watch the wheels coming off, but that is exactly what is happening. To readers who want a glimmer of hope: Chairman Jonathon Cantrell seems to recognize the problem. Unfortunately, he seems to be fighting alone. I encourage you to support him.

Despite what those in power may wish, when the dust settles there are going to be changes in the local party structure and it will be open and transparent reflecting the will of the members, or there will be mass defections at the local level. The executive committee members simply can not be allowed to interject in contested primary races nor run for office without first stepping down. That seems to be the major issue.

If that is all it takes to fix the organization, they need to do that immediately and without hesitation. Failure to do so, gives Bradley County Republicans little reason to go to the polls in November. Republican Dewayne Bunch will be elected to the Tennessee Senate, and Republican Kevin Brooks will be elected to the Tennessee House since there is no opposition and they are the party nominees. Voters do not need to actually do anything. If voting is the only leverage point to bring about change in the local party then it is a weapon to be used. That should gain the appropriate attention of the state party. But it is a threat that should not even be needed.

The Greeks rightly believed that too much power entrusted in one person was dangerous. In this case the local party seems to be directed by a three-headed oligarchy: John Stanbery, Michael Willis and Bob Crane. They are called the SEG by some people (the Stanbery Elitist Group) a rather

J C Bowman

-J. C. Bowman, a native of Cleveland, is a well informed and outspoken conservative educator. Is a freelance public policy analyst who resides in Cleveland, TN. Prior to this, he was Director for the Center for Education Innovation at Florida State University.  He served as the Director for the Florida Department of Education Choice Office and as the Chief Policy Analyst of the Education Policy Unit for Florida Governor Jeb Bush.



harsh term and not necessarily true. These men do seem to want to control the organization for their own purposes. Their agenda is beyond seeing good men and women run for office as Republicans. Republicans thinking about running, must now think to themselves why bother? The party has hand selected its candidates. That is wrong.

In the turbulent world of kings and emperors, the Greeks became the first democratic society and were very proud of their ideology. Considering their passionate belief in the rule by many, it was not surprising that many Greek dramas revolve around an individual hero or a king's fall from power because of pride or some other personality flaw. It is eerily similar to the situation here. I am wondering if I am merely watching a drama unfold. Unfortunately it is a tragedy and the main characters are demonstrating their flaws and being blinded by their own power.

This is not merely recent disillusionment, this is a  problem that has been slightly under the surface for nearly 30 years, but is reaching a boiling point now. Reported by various news outlets and the Internet, it now fuels the debate. The most important thing we can do to bring about change is to be aware of, and understand what is really going on around us. You must be cognizant of the manipulation of the local party by the powerful people controlling the local group, Sir Edmund Burke, the 18th century English philosopher, is credited with the statement, "Evil prevails when good men do nothing."

Why is that important? Candidates and elected leaders need to be aware that merely a call to the local Republican Party leadership no longer translates into broad support from Republicans voters. A sign in the yard of certain people does not signal confidence, but rather identification of a person who may be bought and paid for by the oligarchy to increase their power. When that sign is in the yard of an executive committee member during a contested primary it very wrong. This is not directed at one person, but rather all who violated that tenet. If an executive committee member wants to support a candidate or run for office they should just step down

from their position. People are clearly tired of being manipulated, and as evidenced by the heated crowd at the last Republican meeting, people are willing to step up and do something about it.

These rather simple problems could be quickly resolved by addressing the issue. Republicans are asking why then have they not? The By-Laws cannot be amended according to Willis. Then he lays the blame at the feet of the state party. Which raises an important question: Why then does Bradley County allow the state party to dictate their local policy? I thought we believed in the separation of powers--it is called federalism. If we cannot control our own affairs then there is little use in supporting the local party.

Like many others, I have tended to avoid local Republican Party affairs. Often, as many have discovered, by engaging in the political process of the local party is to sully oneself to such a degree that whatever came out usually wasn't worth the trouble. I have chosen my battles carefully. My reasoning was I believed it to be better to focus on changing yourself and people around you, not to question local authority so much as bypass it whenever possible. Over time I have realized that by virtue of our abdication, a very authoritarian, assertive form of governance has taken control of the local Republican Party and personal agenda's have replaced what is best for the party.

That is not to say that there are bad people per se in the local party, but rather a group of people with the same blind spots unable to articulate a real vision. They have played musical chairs so long they all sound just alike and fear the inclusion of others. However, they are in desperate need of new people in leadership positions. Human beings generally are basically good. But human institutions are value neutral and I am not sure they can be classified as good. When people with bad traits are assembled in the same organization while marching in lockstep with freedom of thought discouraged we inevitably see the corruption of power. The party should embrace a more business like structure.

John Stanbery's response to the audience at the August meeting was perplexing to me. He expects local Republicans to wait until others have a majority on the executive committee. He stated he did not like Bill Clinton but did not want to rush out and change the constitution to get him out of office. Three quick points to that argument: 1) We are talking about an organization, not the government. 2) I am sure he favored impeaching Bill Clinton. 3) Thomas Jefferson favored rewriting the Constitution every 19 years -- once a generation -- so that the ideas in it stayed fresh. The by-laws of the local Republican Party are not even worthy of being mentioned alongside the United States Constitution. If the local Republican Party cannot advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty within its own party structure, then how can it be expected to implement them in government?

Jefferson also believed in the transparency of government. He was the only one of the Founding Fathers who thought that the Constitutional Convention of 1787 should have been open to the public. He believed that ideas should circulate, not be discussed in secrecy. Like Jefferson said: "It is more honorable to repair a wrong than to persist in it." Republicans need to re-engage in the political process of their own party. The next opportunity to do so is September 26, 2006 at the Bradley County Courthouse. If enough Republicans are there maybe we can see if democracy actually works in our own party. The executive committee members simply can not be allowed to interject in contested primary races nor run for office without first stepping down. I implore the party to make those changes immediately.

Finally people want to portray themselves as the most Republican, a ridiculous position. It did not work for Dan Gilley; it will not work for any other. I want to be the best American possible. I want to be the best Christian possible. I will not support corruption regardless of party affiliation nor should any Republican. People are Republican that state that they are Republican. There is neither litmus test nor a purity pledge. This is not Berlin and we are not Nazis. Keep in mind Joe Lieberman is enjoying broad support from Republicans all over the nation and that support goes all the way to the White House. I can cite example after example on the local, state and national level. To those pointing fingers hold everyone to the same standard. Please make plans to attend September 26, 2006 and take your party back, or do you want to let the few keep control?

--J. C. Bowman is a public policy analyst who resides in Cleveland, TN..
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