Tennessee Capitol and LGBT flag and connecting the dots

Tennessee Conservatives Better Connect the Dots

The 2018 election cycle is going to be interesting because of the number of incumbents in the Tennessee Legislature who will not be running for reelection. Most of them are Republicans, and mostly likely there will be primaries. What do I predict?

My prediction is that there is a force out there ready to bring in a whole new group of Republicans to bolster the “establishment” and strengthen the Republican-in-Name-Only caucus.

You don’t have to be too smart to see it coming. You just have to pay attention and connect the dots. However, my experience over the last 20-plus years in state politics is that conservatives, and particularly Christian conservatives, don’t do a very good job at that. The latter group, in particular, tends to pay attention after they’ve been bulldozed and are wondering what hit them.

I hope this dot-connecting commentary can help ward off that result. Perhaps I’ll know the likelihood of that based on how many people ask me what can be done to avoid it. Anyway, here are the “dots.”

1: Tim Gill’s Southern LGBT Strategy

The first “dot” can be found in the June edition of Rolling Stone Magazine. It interviewed Tim Gill, the mega donor financial catalyst behind most of the efforts driving the LGBT political and legal agenda for the last ten years. He said he had a “southern strategy,” namely, to go into “the hardest states in the country” to push the LGBT agenda.

His stated goal, “We’re going to punish the wicked,” very clearly means Christian conservatives. How do I know they are the target? Because of the stated means: a push for the sexual orientation and gender identity laws that have Christian wedding vendors on the run (and soon others) and opposition to any bills that touch on religious liberty. The vehicle to drive his goals and push his means is Freedom for All Americans.

2: Georgia Prospers

The second “dot” is Georgia Prospers, a group of businesses that subscribes to the LGBT agenda lest their states will be on the wrong end of an economic boycott. Georgia Prospers hired the former Republican leader in the Georgia senate. He provided the leadership needed to get the organization’s business members to kill Georgia’s efforts to enact a religious freedom protection measure.

3: Tennessee Thrives

Now that you know the modus operandi, let’s provide another “dot”—Tennessee Thrives, the Tennessee version for Georgia Prospers. Following the Georgia model, it hired a well-known Republican to be its consultant, Stones River Group, founded by Mark Cate, Gov. Haslam’s former chief of staff, and Stephen Susano. If that doesn’t connect the dots to Mr. Gill well enough, then consider that Freedom for All Americans described itself as Tennessee Thrives’ “launching partner.”

Tennessee Thrives wants you to think it is not a lobbying organization. And it is not, in a strictly legal sense. It just provides information about state politics to its business members.

To that end, Tennessee Thrives was told (presumably by Mr. Cate and Stones River, since they are consultants to the group, but I can’t say for sure) that a host of conservative bills last year were “bad.” If you want to believe that none of the executives among the organization’s business members expressed their opinions on those pieces of legislation to our legislators, then please put your head down in the sand.

Of course, I could be wrong, but that’s what Tim Gill said the business owners in Georgia did when told by Georgia Prospers that the religious freedom measure was a “bad bill.”

But now let’s speculate as to the next step in the game. Would Mr. Cate tell those business leaders who the good establishment, won’t-rock-the-economic-boat candidates are in the Republican primaries? Would those business executives put their political contributions toward those candidates? Would they direct the PACs their business may control to fund those candidates?

Again, if you don’t think so, then please put your head back in the sand. But if you do, remember what part of your anatomy will be left most exposed, because you may just get it kicked really hard next August.

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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