stack of books and Republican elephant

Look Who Is Trying to Transform Tennessee’s Republican Party

You will never guess which organization now wants to be friends with the Republican Party in Tennessee and help them promote the “values and traditions” that make our communities and schools great. The idea is really rather laughable, but its efforts are serious, which makes the state Party’s response so puzzling.

The organization is the Tennessee Education Association (TEA). In a recent letter to at least some of our legislators, the TEA touts how it has worked to build relationships with Republican lawmakers. The TEA talks about how it has encouraged its members to vote in Tennessee’s open primaries, noting that “primary participation” was up “markedly” in recent years and that in “key races” member turnout “increased by more than 300%.”

No doubt the TEA wants its members voting in Republican primaries, because there are so few Democrats even left in the legislature to vote for in a primary. The Democrat-Republican balance in the legislature is such that the Republicans in both the House and Senate can have a few members absent and still convene a quorum without any Democrats present. For example, only five of the 33 state Senators are Democrats and all five are from either Nashville or Memphis.

TEA’s Connection to Left-Wing Radical Agenda

Of course, the TEA neglects to mention that it is part of the National Education Association, which annually touts positions that are not in keeping with the “values and traditions” that made our communities and schools great. The NEA, of which the TEA claims to be a “proud state affiliate,” has a well-documented history of promoting radical left-wing ideas. The NEA has repeatedly articulated a view of public education that makes our schools sometimes nothing more than a laboratory for social experimentation. For example, at the national convention this year, the NEA urged its members to support public school programs on the “diversity of sexual orientation and gender identification.”

But that’s not all. The NEA called for the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 and filed a legal brief with the Supreme Court denouncing Tennessee’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman. With its view of marriage, it’s not too surprising that the NEA has also refused to adopt any safeguards for the religious freedom of teachers and even ratified an agenda item allocating resources to fight state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Acts that protect Christians from legal liability when they decline to participate in gay “marriage” ceremonies.

While one could say that the NEA is not the TEA, the fact is the TEA pays regular dues to maintain its affiliated status with the NEA. Additionally, the two organizations routinely share resources, exchange information, and collaborate on various political and lobbying activities. To say that the TEA more closely aligns with Republicans and the values of average Tennesseans than it does with the NEA is just not very believable. When the TEA renounces its affiliation with the NEA, permanently stops sending any money to the national union’s coffers, and comes up with its own independent platform, then I’ll believe its propaganda.

The Republican Response

But what is even more surprising than the TEA’s newfound affection for the Republican Party in Tennessee is the Party’s insistence on not closing its primaries, having rejected such an effort earlier this year. In keeping primaries open, the Republican Party’s state executive committee continues to allow the seeds of its demise in terms of its values and platform to be sown.

Maybe instead of conservatives trying to elect more Republicans to the legislature, its time for them to turn their attention to electing more conservatives to the Republican Party’s Executive Committee who will close the primary. Then we may be able to keep future conservatives from being defeated in Republican primaries by Democrats.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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