Posts Tagged ‘Eighth Congressional District’

Tennessee’s 8th, Continued — Ducking the Debates

September 20, 2010

A little local politics, again, from the arena of the 2010 election, in the race to replace retiring “Blue Dog,” John Tanner.  Do we swap him for another Democrat hack, a probable RINO, or a real Constitutional conservative? I sent this letter to the editor to the Jackson (TN) SUN, today (9/20/10), concerning the apparent difficulties of getting the candidates together for a debate. The Democrat is willing, an Independent conservative is able, but the Republican (RINO?) is — laying low.  Why? And, why not go ahead without him?

Here’s the letter to the editor:

To the Editor,

Over here in the northeast corner of the 8th Congressional District, I feel somewhat slighted as to the coverage of the Congressional Race.

Stephen Fincher is ducking opportunities to flesh out his views and demonstrate his ability to think on his feet. How? By refusing to debate the other candidates on the issues.

This is disturbing, because one’s views and one’s ability to defend them in public are qualities that make or break a successful lawmaker. Is Fincher afraid he lacks those qualities?

Yes, I’ve seen the Fincher signs, with the slogan, “Plow Congress!” What does this mean, exactly?

I’d like a little more detail on how Fincher proposes to fix the way Washington has turned its back on the Constitution over the past few decades. If he is unwilling to commit on any of that, well, that’s his choice, but it doesn’t make me want to vote for him just because there’s an “R” after his name.

Independent candidate Donn Janes has declared he is ready to debate the Democrat candidate, whether or not Mister “Plow Congress” wants to come out and play.

I really hope Donn Janes will get the chance to do so. Somebody needs to stand up for Constitutional principles, and if the Republican can’t or won’t, let Janes step into the vacuum and put his own views and principles on the line.

If WREG-TV can’t make it happen, perhaps the Jackson (TN) Sun will find some other venue. I sure hope so.

Tom Cox
Dickson County, TN

Tennessee’s Eighth, and Conservative Ideals versus the Republican Establishment

February 14, 2010

More on Tennessee’s Eighth

I got some reactions from Donn Janes on my earlier essay on history and current events in the Tennessee Eighth Congressional District. His comments add great value to the discussion, so I thought I’d produce an addendum trying to take them into account.

The most important item is that I need to correct a crucial factual error. I described Donn Janes as one of “two Republicans [who] have stepped up…” to fill the seat to be left vacant by Tanner’s retirement.

Oops. Fundamental error… Janes is running as an independent, having explicitly divorced himself from the Republican Party and its many betrayals of Conservative standards and ideals. I registered as an Independent in Dickson County when we moved here, after decades as a Republican in Indiana, for the same reason. I should have been a lot more aware of the difference.

As if to scold me immediately for neglecting the best arguments for the parting of ways between Establishment Republicans and constitutional conservatives that has taken root in the last few years, I found a column by Alan Keyes posted Friday, February 12, in World Net Daily that distills the grounds for divorce. Some excerpts are reproduced here, but I strongly recommend the original article for the patient, scholarly and thorough dissertation that Alan Keyes, as usual, produces.

“In the days when my awareness of the U.S. political scene was just budding there were politicians in the Republican Party who openly identified themselves as liberals. For this sort of fact Wikipedia is as reliable a witness as any other:

“‘In the 1930s ‘Me-too-Republicans’ described those who ran on a platform of agreeing with the Democratic Party, or proclaiming only minor or moderating differences. A prime example is presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey, who did not oppose New Deal programs altogether, but merely campaigned on the promise that Republicans would run them more efficiently and less corruptly. …’

“’From 1936 to 1976 the more centrist of the Republican Party frequently won the national nomination with candidates such as Alf Landon, Wendell Willkie, Thomas E. Dewey, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Indeed, other terms for liberal Republicans include Nixonian and Rockefeller Republican.’

“If this take on the GOP presidential candidates of the 20th century is accurate (and I think it is) it confirms the notion that, for all their posturing in opposition to the Democrats on particular issues, the controlling powers of the Republican Party have no quarrel in principle with the New Deal worldview. On grounds that are at once aesthetic, practical and self-interested, they decry the excessive Democratic tendency toward openly populist egalitarianism. Yet, impelled by a self-adulating sense of noblesse oblige, they tacitly concede that the Democrats’ “liberal” agenda represents the higher ground of moral sophistication. What the liberal GOP elites reject is their frequent lack of sophistication in carrying out that agenda.

“In this respect, I suspect that the preferred candidate of the GOP elites in the 2008 election was … Barack Obama. He had all the outward appearances of cool sophistication, purposefully controlled moral passion and seeming respect for the ironically unselfish elite ambition benevolently to secure a position of unchallenged control over every aspect of human life. He seemed so moderate.”

Ouch. A better rebuke for my neglectful lumping of a conservative independent and a nominal Republican together was never delivered. Thank you, Doctor Keyes.

Stephen Fincher certainly impressed me in our telephone conversation as a conservative at heart, using the Republican establishment framework to get to power. That was a subjective impression, however, with no corroborating evidence.

As I said, Mike Pence’s interest in Fincher made me interested in him. However – always, the however – as I mentioned before, Mike and I are not in lockstep on several issues of importance.

I have not forgotten Mike’s embrace of a very McCain-like form of “immigration reform.” It was a rotten idea when McCain championed it, and it was no better with Mike Pence out in front of it.

I also do not agree with Mike’s tendency to go along with “anti-terror” legislation that has the effect of making America less of a fortress than a prison. If we want a safer country, let’s put the bars on the outside, not on the inside.

I have always harbored the irrational hope that  Mike was immune to the effect of cumulative exposure to the insidious, Inside-the-Beltway atmosphere he has been subjected to since January, 2001. Rationally, I have to admit that no one is completely immune to those effects – even Mike Pence.

I doubt that he has succumbed to the wiles of special interest like the United Autoworkers Union or the Sierra Club, but I can’t rule out that he may have been co-opted by an equally-powerful influence in his environment – the Republican establishment.

I described before, my phone conversation with Stephen Fincher. It would be reassuring to see the conservative, constitutionalist views I heard from him then, explicitly laid out on his Website. I would be especially impressed to see him step away from the farm policies that are the oldest vestige of socialism in American government, and that have done as much damage to the free market in agriculture as government involvement in health care has done, and will continue to do, to the free market for that industry.

My favorite civics text is by Libertarian P. J. O’Rourke: PARLIAMENT OF WHORES — a Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government. The author of this caustic, penetrating and hysterically funny appraisal of our “system” of government yields up the following observation concerning American “farm policy:”

“Farm policy, although it’s complex, can be explained. What it can’t be is believed. No cheating spouse, no teen with a wrecked family car, no mayor of Washington, D.C., videotaped in flagrant has ever come up with anything as farfetched as U.S. farm policy.”

If Stephen Fincher can convincingly break free of the web of obligation and obfuscation of current farm policy, emblematic as it is of what is wrong with the U.S. government, I, self-appointed mayor of Lower Danley Road, northeastern suburb of the unincorporated area of Bellsburg, Tennessee, will give him a serious, second look. As a farmer in a farming community, Stephen Fincher would be showing his allegiance to principle over economic and political self-interest by disavowing government farm policy, and the integrity required to take that step would be very impressive. As cordial and genuine a gentleman as Stephen Fincher is, I’ll have to wait to believe that when I see it in print.

The problem right now in Tennessee’s Eighth is the same problem we have had all over America as a result of going along with the Republican Establishment. The elephantine elite are distinguishable from Democrats/Progressives/Socialists/Economic Fascists only in style; not in substance. We who have followed this herd have swept up enough elephant dung to keep the compost heap going indefinitely. We don’t need any more.

Or, as Alan Keyes summarizes, in the piece cited above:

“People are now rising in opposition to the all-too-conclusive evidence of the Obama faction’s repugnant extremism. But they urgently need to ponder the fact that the phony moderation of the GOP leadership elites did more than anything else to put Obama where he is. Unless we look beyond the false alternatives they offer, we will only enable equally false election victories that will not put an end to the destruction of American liberty Obama represents.”

With apologies to Stephen Fincher, if I had to vote in the Tennessee primary today, I’d vote for Donn Janes.

2010 — Last Exit Before the Obamaland Socialist Utopia

January 11, 2010

My fellow Boomers will remember the family road trips we took as kids. Those of us who grew up in urban areas and the suburbs remember marveling at how spread-out things were, Out There.

Before the Griswolds were even an idea,  billboards on deserted stretches of pre-Interstate-era, US highways warned, “Last Gas Next 150 Miles,” or words to that effect. Dad glanced at the gas gauge, and Mom took an informal poll of passengers as to how far we could tolerate going before our next bathroom break.

These days, we wonder if we will survive the grand social experiment that is the Obama era. Is there an exit from this nightmare before our freedom is gone? Are we stuck in the fast lane to a haven for foreigners who hate us and our way of life? Will our country grovel before the oil-producing dictatorships around the world, while we freeze in our homes, and other countries develop our domestic energy and sell it to us?

What will those of us collecting or about to collect Social Security do, when the money runs out? If our medical problems rise above a certain level of expense, will we be invited to visit the local suicide clinic? Will the Department of the Interior decide our retirement homes are a danger to the habitat of the Rocky Mountain Spotted Tick, and put us in the street, or will the local government decide, as in Kelo v. New London, that our homes need to be bulldozed so a pharmaceutical plant can be built there?

It may be too late already, if the aging radicals who currently run things have their way. Every illegal alien, convict, corpse and cartoon character in the world will get the right to vote in the 2010 election, if these aging hippies and Mao-worshipers get their wish. All of those new voters will automatically vote absentee as Democrats, since the Democrats will promise to give them the income, homes and cars of all those people who earned them.

Out of completely unfounded optimism, I will assume for a moment that this last step in the takeover will run into problems. Fictional characters, and residents of Cuba, Venezuela, the Gaza Strip and Iran will not get to vote in this year’s American elections.  Real people who can read and write English, understand the Constitution and do not agree that it is obsolete and irrelevant, will get to vote.

I know, it’s crazy talk, but let’s brainstorm. This applies to the Eighth Congressional District of Tennessee, (where I happen to live), but there is a similar situation near you. Find it, and deal with it.

My district has been “represented” in the US House by a self-described Blue Dog Democrat (in fact, he is credited with helping to found the Blue Dogs), John Tanner. I wrote on Center of Mass  about a “Telephone Town Meeting” Tanner had last August, which I sort-of attended, if you could call sitting at home, listening to the meeting go by, attending.

I waited through the meeting to hear Tanner address my questions, which had been submitted at the beginning of the meeting, but, of course, they weren’t answered. As he invited us to, I wrote up my questions, and emailed them to his office. I got not even an acknowledgment of receipt, and certainly no answers.

Tanner claimed to be a conservative, but it’s hard to tell from here how often he voted for the Constitutional way, and how often he caved to Comrade Pelosi when the blinds were drawn and roll call votes were not required.

Did he, like a couple of nominal Republicans in the senate, vote for the procedural steps that allowed leftist bills to advance, and then vote against them when Pelosi had secured enough votes from other Dems to be sure of passage? That way, he could come home to our district and claim, honestly, that he had “opposed” this or that anti-Constitutional power grab, or this or that confiscatory tax or regulation.

Nice arrangement, if that’s what he did. However, and this may be “damning with faint praise,” Tanner is seen by the political establishment as one of the most conservative Democrats in the House. Regardless, it’s all irrelevant.

It’s irrelevant because Tanner announced on December 1st that he has decided not to run again.

The vacuum is being filled, of course. Two Republican candidates for the primary have surfaced, with an interesting move being made by one of them.  Stephen Fincher is a farmer and gospel singer from (no kidding) Frog Jump, which is a not-necessarily-officially-incorporated community in Crockett County.

Copied directly from his “On the Issues” page is this bullet-pointed, somewhat vague list of Fincher’s positions:


Stephen stands strong with Tennesseans on the issues:

  • Stop runaway spending in Washington that is bankrupting America’s children and grandchildren
  • Never vote to raise taxes, and I will fight to end forever the death tax and marriage penalty
  • Stop any health care plan that fails to protect America’s seniors, families and our right to make our own medical decisions
  • Protect Medicare and Social Security, and all the promises we’ve made to our seniors
  • Recruit jobs and businesses that will thrive in rural and small town Tennessee
  • Develop a comprehensive energy policy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and grow markets for our farmers
  • Honor our veterans and keep the promises we’ve made to those who serve our country
  • Defend traditional marriage, the Right-to-Life and the Second Amendment
  • Keep America strong, safe, free and secure

[end of excerpt]

I sent an email to Mr. Fincher’s contact address on January 8th, asking for some details to flesh out the bullet points, and to see if he identifies with any of my bullet points:

I was glad to see that a Tennessee businessman with real, private sector experience is thinking of running for the seat to be left vacant by John Tanner’s resignation.

However, after visiting the “Issues” page, I still don’t know where Mr. Fincher stands on some issues of importance to me.

Some examples:

Constitutionality tests for new legislation: Will Mr. Fincher commit to vote against legislation that violates the United States Constitution?

Regulation without Representation: Will Mr. Fincher commit to supporting and voting for legislation that removes funding for federal agencies, such as (but certainly not limited to) the EPA, the BATFE or the FCC, when their regulations violate the Constitution?

Term Limits: Will Mr. Fincher commit to serving no more than two terms in the House of Representatives in a row, and will he support and vote for legislation that sets term limits?

Taxes: Will Mr. Fincher commit to supporting and voting for legislation that abolishes the IRS and the progressive income tax, and to the adoption of the Fair Tax?

That is just a start, but it is a good one. Please let me know where I can find more information about Mr. Fincher’s position on these issues.


Thomas D. Cox


Will somebody from the Fincher campaign reply, with enough specificity to convince me that Fincher is not just another plug-in Republican, but also a committed follower of the Constitution? Not as of January 11, three days later

I’m standing by.

I’d also love to know what Mr. Fincher has to say about a speech given by the namesake of his home county, Colonel David Crockett, regarding the confiscation of one man’s wealth by government, to be given as “charity” to another?

Here is a small excerpt, but the entire speech is required reading for anyone who wants to see the most common-sense argument ever made against the “redistribution of wealth”:

I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money.

What does Mr. Fincher think about the simple but profound truth expressed in Colonel Crockett’s speech?

Stephen Fincher is not the only Tennessean to step up and state he wants this Congressional seat.

Donn Janes, another West Tennessean, navy veteran and networking engineer, has also stepped forward. Janes declared his intentions in June.

The big news about Donn Janes is that he just announced that he was separating himself from the national Republican apparatus and running as a Tea Party candidate. The text of his press release, which I received as an email, is reproduced below in its entirety:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                                                    January 11, 2009

Contact 901-482-6705

Donn Janes announces he will run as a Tea Party Candidate; pulls out of Republican Party primary.

BRIGHTON, TN –  This past Saturday, Donn Janes, a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Tennessee’s 8th District spoke in Paris, TN, to an estimated 300 Tea Party activists from the West Tennessee area.  There he announced, As of today, I am no longer going to run for the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican. …we need to change the way we elect our representatives. We continue to rely on the two-party system to provide us with different choices; but thanks to this corrupt system, there is little difference between the two of them. Both parties voted to increase the size of our government; both parties voted to trade your freedoms for security; and both parties are responsible for our monstrous debt, our failing economy and the exporting of our jobs overseas.  I will be running as an independent Tea Party Candidate, a candidate who doesn’t answer to or work for party leadership, but a candidate who will work for the people of West Tennessee.”

When asked about what led to this decision, Mr. Janes stated that the National Republican Party continues to aggressively support candidates who lack depth on issues and conservative values, but instead focus on candidates who are able to self fund or raise large sums of money.

During the extended question and answer portion following his speech, Mr. Janes was asked if he thought his running as an independent would split the vote. “I intend to.  I will be asking for votes from both Democrats and Republicans, many who are fed up with their party’s refusal to adhere to their respective party platforms. Over the course of my traveling within the 8th District, I believe there are enough conservative Democrats and right-minded Republicans who will enable me to win.”

Janes was asked about the Proposed “Contract From America”.  He replied, “We’ve had a ‘Contract From America’ for over 200 years.  It’s called the Constitution of the United States.  That’s the only contract we need.”

Donn first attended a TEA Party event in Memphis, TN, on April 15, 2009.  He later challenged the views of ACORN founder, Wade Rafke, at a University of Memphis Lecture.  Janes participated in a “Pink Slip” TEA Party event in Nashville on November 7, 2009, to protest the currently proposed health care legislation.  Last month he attended the FCC meeting in Memphis to challenge the expansion of its responsibilities.

Donn Janes is a candidate for the United States House of Representatives for Tennessee’s 8th Congressional District. A Navy veteran and businessman, Janes is an outspoken critic of how both Republicans and Democrats have continued to ignore any calls for fiscal responsibility, causing the United States to plunge deeper into debt.

[end of release]

I just revisited Donn Janes’s Issues page, and there is a lot more meat there than one finds so far on Fincher’s site. From browsing the whole site, I get the impression  that Janes is positioning himself as more of a Constitutionalist than the average Republican, and certainly much moreso than the average Democrat, Blue Dogs included.

I haven’t spoken or corresponded with either candidate, but as of now, having seen all I could find on the positions of both on Constitutional issues, I am inclined to vote for Janes in the primary and general elections.

The Republican establishment needs to understand that we will no longer settle for Republican candidates and officeholders who are indistinguishable from Democrats when it comes to their actions, as well as their public stances.

This may well be the last exit before the Obama Socialist Utopia. It’s where we need to get off.

A Town Hall Meeting Without the Meeting — My Congressman’s “Telephone Town Hall Meeting”

September 1, 2009

Ah, the miracle of modern technology. You can have a town meeting with your congressional district’s constituents, and never step outside the Beltway.

I just put down my overheated cell phone after a “telephone town hall meeting” with my US Representative, John Tanner, Democrat, of the Eighth District of Tennessee. I was in line to ask questions, but the time ran out before I could ask any of them:

1) Will you pledge to vote in a way that upholds the US Constitution, regardless of the political consequences?


2) Isn’t a bill too big to read too big to vote for?

Those of us with questions unasked when time ran out were given an opportunity to leave a voice mail with the questions in it, along with contact information implying that there would be a reply. I did so. John Tanner has replied to my emails in the past, in terms that were at least polite, if not agreeable. I expect something similar — polite, but non-committal — from this.

I wonder how many others were left in line when the approximately hour-long call was over? There would be no YouTube videos of confrontations and protesters appearing online after this meeting, and no accounts of a town hall meeting running for hours while the host got an earful from disgruntled constituents. When this one was over, it was over. Except for the voice mail opportunity.

Of course, there would be no opportunities for the left-wing bloggers to show right-wing members of the “mob” brandishing swastikas or firearms, either, so it may have been a wash, in terms of propaganda value.

Here’s how it went.

Those of us who had pre-registered on the Congressman’s Website got an automated call from the Congressman at about 6:40 PM, this evening (Monday, August 31).  The call was from 202-226-9928, which returns from a reverse search as coming from the US Capitol. Comments on the search site are to the effect that it is a generic, “top number” in a rotation, meaning it shows up when the caller is using any number in the US Capitol. Calling that number back gets a message about it being a “non-working number.” Well, it is in Washington, after all…

I don’t know whether John Tanner was in DC for the recess, or if the call was initiated by a staffer who remained there. Was John hiding in a “secure, undisclosed location” from potentially irate constituents, or was that just a convenient point for originating the call? If all the callers were in Tennessee, how convenient could that be? Just wondering.

I was instructed to hang on, while some on-hold music kept me entertained… Well, it kept me reassured that I hadn’t been disconnected, anyway.

If this was a typical, automated conference call offered by a third-party service, as it appeared to be, it would not have been possible to call a number at this point and be admitted to the call as a “walk-in.” No appointment; no conference call; no interactive communication with the elected representative.

A seemingly automated female voice (probably from the conference call service provider) came on and advised us to enter “Star 3” if we had questions, which I did, and I did.

A few minutes into the call, a live female (staffer?) voice came on the line with me, and I lost the audio from the conversation between the Congressman and his constituent while she talked to me. She asked me my name, location, and what my questions were. I read her the questions as I had prepared them, above. I assume all other callers had to present their questions in advance, as well.

I can’t claim that questions were screened according to content, although the opportunity was certainly there. From the composition of the questions that made it through in time, however, I have to conclude that any such manipulation of the audience would have been unsuccessful, if it was intended to show support for health care “reform.”  I have more to say about the tone of callers below, but the overwhelming majority of questions were anywhere from skeptical on the details of government health care, to flat-out opposed. If staffers were looking for calls in support of Obamacare, they must have been in short supply.

A live voice, male — probably a staffer — came on and said the same thing about punching Star 3, and gave us a pep talk about being patient, and keeping our questions short. The staffer introduced each caller, with a name and location, and the caller asked his or her question. Some questions included comments, and some went fairly long, but nobody appeared to be trying to make a stump speech.

Congressman Tanner, a self-styled “blue dog” Democrat, seemed to answer skillfully and forthrightly, with only a moderate amount of political tap dancing. Where the questions showed a bias on health care reform, the bias was negative, with the exception of one call. There were no hardball or hostile questions, but only one unabashed supporter of Obama and Obamacare, who sounded like a lifelong Democrat party hack, and indeed, described herself as a multi-generation Democrat.

Most questions included a preamble that was critical of the concept of government health care, ranging from concern over some particulars to blanket disapproval. Many callers were older (I hate the term, “Seniors”) describing themselves as of retirement age, up into their 80s. None of them mentioned health care rationing as a likely way their participation in government health care would end.

My concerns with the direction of the Obama administration go well beyond the particulars of health care “reform,” into what appears to be a (so far) successful, and (so far) bloodless coup d’etat, installing a socialist interim government over the dying remains of a constitutional republic, with an ambitious and unending series of piecemeal usurpations of power by the executive over the judicial and legislative branches.

If they pull this off, I expect history to repeat itself in the form of the socialist democracy’s rapid degeneration into a communist dictatorship. Too many of the people with whom Obama surrounds himself have expressed admiration for communist dictatorships to make this outcome seem unlikely.

Anyway, the call ended before I could ask my question, so I left a voice mail.

I sort of expected an outgoing message like, “You have reached the office of Representative John Tanner, member of the soon-to-be-irrelevant legislative branch of the former United States government. Please leave your questions, and an address where the White House can send ACORN thugs to provide you with end-of-life counseling. Thank you (beep).”

Okay, that wasn’t the message, but it will probably turn out to be about right, when the coup is complete.

And if the ACORN thugs show up in my corner of the Eighth District of Tennessee, they better bring some heat.