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Exuding that essential vibe in Tennessee politics

Jennie Young, Community Voices Columnist • Sep 9, 2018 at 8:30 AM

The day I began this writing about our insecure president’s desperation for silencing critics, the Johnson City Press ran a report from Kingsport Times News which reminds us how others, besides Trump, imagine they are served by creating division.

Sullivan County Commissioner Pat Shull, not alone but in league with the Sullivan County Republican Party, proposes forming a Republican Caucus within the all-Republican 24-member commission. Kind of like the wonderful congressional Freedom Caucus. Maybe with a loyalty oath? Why? Well, naturally, to separate out and identify those who are not Republican enough to be called really Republican. Heaven forefend should a Republican commissioner show aptitude for independent judgment.

Let’s not forget how good and honest government is built on principle, vision, and persistent inquiry, not inflexible certitude. Shull’s attempt to either caution or purge seems blatant and closed-minded. I hope Sullivan County Republicans rethink this walling-in and walling-out maneuver, realizing it’s possible evidence for the party’s shrinking numbers, making it unrecognizable to many long-time members, and increasingly unattractive to young people. Leaving little recourse but defensive strategies, truth slanting (with outside help), voter suppression and gerrymandering, short of outright election theft.

That said, I’ve noticed that many on Donald Trump’s growing “enemies list“ consider it a badge of honor. Especially former intelligence officials, all true patriots and many notable Republicans, whose security clearances are being threatened and pulled because they criticize him. They don’t seem intimidated. People with their integrity intact tend not to be cowed by would-be autocrats expecting blind loyalty. They understand, and are not the sort to overlook, Trump’s general unfitness or the real threat to national stature and security his mentality represents.

Almost two years now into the most chaotic, corrupt, and embarrassingly inept administration in our history, Sen. Bob Corker is the only Republican in Tennessee’s congressional delegation who shows willingness to brave Trump’s signature public attacks. He’s raises alarm when it matters. We know Lamar Alexander can show backbone but often avoids confrontation, as if his long record of service couldn’t withstand Trump’s vengeful pettiness.

Phil Roe, Marsha Blackburn, Diane Black and the other four Republican representatives have seemed eager to be measured by their degree of Trump loyalty. You’d think they never really understood their old party’s guiding principles, or have gotten over all that, and accept trashing of traditional Republican values. It causes whiplash because we all remember the same people during Obama’s tenure, and their willingness to sharpen and employ every arrow in the conservative arsenal. None have really acknowledged the taint of corruption surrounding Trump and the people in his wake: the undeniable disposition to criminality, the unparalleled show of greed, the suspicious dealings with Russia, the constant lies. A small fraction of all this would have landed Obama in impeachment trials, early and swift. Why? Do they sense, in this case, an edifice so shaky that admitting flaws could send the whole enterprise tumbling?

Even setting aside the “family values” party’s acceptance of Trump and his entourage, surely the historically defining issue of fiscal responsibility cannot be ignored. Ordinary folks know by intuition, and by now in fact, that the tax cut primarily makes the already rich much richer and is ballooning the deficit, by Forbes reporting, to upward of a trillion dollars by 2019, predicted to grow thereafter. Tennessee’s Congresspeople rarely flag this as it deserves. Not even when Trump borrows another $12 billion to mollify soybean and hog farmers whose markets he’s harming with trade-warring. (It isn’t working. Farmers want sustainable markets built up under Clinton, Bush and Obama, not a temporary gimmick to buy their support. Once damaged those markets stubbornly resist comeback.)

What about the also to-be-borrowed $21 billion (a shaky estimate, especially considering all the lawsuits from property owners, communities, and cities) for a massive border wall boondoggle, a sunk-capital project we’ll come to regret the more it‘s impracticality emerges. Old timers and history buffs recall the Maginot Line built to protect France. Worse than a near total waste, it’s expense starved other defensive measures. The Nazis just went around. Smart citizens on both right and left will call out wasteful dog-whistle proposals. Which begs the question: But for Corker, why have the Tennessee delegation so bought in, particularly Blackburn who trumpets her approval?

As for being the “law-and-order” party, remember that? Republicans have become as easygoing on white-collar crimes as is the president himself. It’s obvious he may simply recognize in them his own behavioral tendencies. He‘s named shady characters as associates, and can see nothing wrong with using the presidency for profit, along with his family. (No wonder he wants to call Hillary the ringleader of a criminal enterprise.) There‘s Price, Manafort, Gates, Cohen and Ross clearly exposed. Also Zinke, Mnuchin and Pruitt, all inclined to treat the government purse like a nice well-deserved inheritance. But no worries. They are well-off males, white as they come, exuding that essential Trump vibe.

So how in the world should a “true Republican” be defined in 2018? There may be many who still remember, but I’m not sure they are being consulted, even in Sullivan County.

Jennie Young of Elizabethton is a retired language arts teacher.

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