There is something amazing happening in the Republican Party today and in just a few paragraphs, I will get to exactly how that involves Nashville's conservative talk show host, Phil Valentine, affectionately referred to by his supporters as "Uncle Phil."
The GOP is struggling to define itself, and it remains to be seen whether it will come out as the (libertarian) Republican Party or the (establishment) Republican Party, whether it will be for liberty and rule-of-law or for bailouts, corporate welfare, and special interests.
Living and participating in Nashville's political scene, I have the opportunity to watch a perfect microcosm of this national party struggle as an exciting narrative unfolds before my eyes- the attempted ousting of Matt Collins, the First Vice Chair of the Republican Party of Nashville-Davidson County.
As a colleague and friend of mine, I can tell you first hand, that Mr. Collins is one of Nashville's and Tennessee's truest patriots, and a perfect example of the most valuable asset the Republican Party has- young, passionate, hard-working, freedom-loving Republican activists.
Just days ago, the Republican Party of Davidson County took the first steps toward removing Matt Collins from his office, citing "unprofessional actions" in the use of his title when expressing opinions "derogatory to and disrespectful of Republican candidates or elected officials."
While I've seen the County Party's distaste for Mr. Collins (mostly because of his support for Republican Congressman Ron Paul) simmer and boil over for months, this most recent controversy broke over Matt's public refusal to shake hands with Rep. Zach Wamp (a candidate for TN Governor) because of Wamp's support for the financial bailouts.
When the battle lines are drawn, it would appear that Mr. Collins is on the right side, and his detractors in the County GOP are on the
wrong left side. The GOP prefers to stand alone with a bailout voter, Zach Wamp. Who is standing with Matt Collins?
Grassroots conservative activists like Chattanooga Tea Party leader, Bryan Haddock, for one. And as we learned on Friday- one of Nashville's favorite conservative talk radio hosts, "Uncle" Phil Valentine, whose conservative credentials are impressive- his work may be the number one reason Tennessee has no income tax despite the push for one a few short years ago.
On his show Friday, Valentine confirmed Matt Collins' political instincts when he interviewed country star, John Rich of Big & Rich- a supporter of Zach Wamp for Governor of Tennessee. Phil said (and you can listen to it here), "if you voted for the bail out, it's time for you to get the hell out!"
He also said of his own preferences for Tennessee's next GOP candidate for governor that he's "narrowed it down to two, one of them ain't Zach" before lamenting that "we're now having to take a 2nd and 3rd look at people that we thought were on our side."
So again, I must ask the Republican Party of Davidson County- on which side of the line do you want to stand? With a bailout voter, on the side of corporate welfare and party over principle? Or with true conservatives like Phil Valentine, many of Tennessee's brave tea party activists, and Matt Collins- on the side of liberty and principle over politics?
This battle is one of many that are happening across the country. Matt's a great guy and I hope for the best as this situation unfolds, but the key thing to remember is that his struggle is emblematic of something bigger- this is a fight over the very heart and soul of the Republican Party itself.
The outcome could drastically alter the future of this great country, for better or for worse.
UPDATE (11:20am Nov 2, 2009):
Rep. Zach Wamp says: "The last thing we need is any more squishy moderates in the state of Tennessee." Um... exactly.
Too bad if you voted for the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street with tax payer money, then you're one of those squishy moderates.