Down in the comments of yesterday's Pith post on the Devaney Ultimatum (not quite as catchy as the Bourne one, but it does have a certain ring to it), Mark Rogers wonders:
For a group demanding action by the Tennessee Republican Party, there don't seem to be many people who identify themselves as Republicans on this letter. A point which I am certain Pith will ignore since it is not in Pith's agenda to recognize that the various Tea parties and other organizations are not the same thing as the Republican Party.
Pith has actually been wondering this for a while. For a group so critical of Republicans, Tea Party elements in Tennessee and elsewhere don't seem willing to slug it out in the general election with Democrats and Republicans. There's a certain tension to this whole affair: On the one hand they're wildly critical of The Senior Senator for a voting record which is insufficiently conservative. The use of the term RINO (Republican In Name Only) for him and others who don't follow their orthodoxy seems as though they are trying to redefine the Republican party away from anything approaching the middle. Leahy even refers to "rank and file Republicans" in his demands.
And, as we noted in the comments, if you run in the Republican primary and are trying to oust the sitting chair of the state Republican party, you're a Republican.
Conversely, this letter is signed by 22 different people who identify themselves as Tea Party members, activists or coordinators. We're fascinated at the number of groups who are attempting to influence the Republican primary — in an attempt to beat Lamar Alexander — yet brand themselves as anything but Republican. There are patriots and Tea Partiers. There are 9-12 Project types and campaigners for liberty. There are regiments of black robes. If these people are so committed to the cause of conservatism in the state and find the party to be irreparably broken or corrupt, why don't they form their own party and run?
We posed these questions and others to Michael Patrick Leahy, co-founder of BEAT LAMAR.
Is there any potential legal challenge here?
Leahy: We will not undertake a legal challenge. Our challenge is to Devaney's lack of moral authority to lead the Tennessee Republican Party, and we will compete in the political arena, not the legal arena, to address that issue.
If Chris Devaney stays, is there a chance that you could take the race out of the party?
Leahy: There is zero chance BEAT LAMAR will compete anywhere but within or on behalf of the Tennessee Republican Party. That means we will support a constitutional conservative candidate in the August 2014 Republican primary for the United States Senate here in Tennessee. We will announce our endorsement of a challenger to Lamar Alexander on Monday, September 30, after the completion of the five BEAT LAMAR Town Halls we have held across the state.
When it comes to the 2014 general elections, the Real Conservatives National Committee, the independent expenditure SuperPAC that launched the BEAT LAMAR project, will support only Republican candidates.
Will the Tea Party interests field candidates for the executive committee in the next election?
Leahy: Every member of the executive committee who does not support the ouster of Chris Devaney as the chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party and fails to explicitly state that he or she is not endorsing Lamar Alexander or any other candidate prior to the results of the August 2014 primary are in can expect to have a Tea Party challenger in their next election to the executive committee.
Let's face it. Everyone knows that the staff and much of the executive committee of the Tennessee Republican Party either publicly or privately is working to undermine a fair primary election and supports Lamar Alexander. That support comes not because Lamar Alexander is the right candidate to represent Tennessee, but because he is part of the established Republican power structure of the state.
If Tea Party interests are so clearly at odds with the establishment Republican party (in Tennessee and elsewhere) and believe there is a groundswell of constitutional conservatism, why don't they form another party?
Leahy: Under no circumstances will BEAT LAMAR entertain the idea of forming or participating in an electoral effort with a third party. The barriers to entry for the successful creation of a third party are enormous. Such efforts are doomed to failure. Instead, BEAT LAMAR offers this hope to constitutional conservatives around the country. We provide them a model in BEAT LAMAR — the "Tennessee model" — for the takeover of the Republican Party by constitutional conservatives.
We have studied how the left wing used the "Colorado model" to convert that state from one controlled politically by the Republican Party to one controlled politically by the Democratic Party. Unlike the Democrats, who took control of Colorado through the effective use of a complex network of non-profit organizations funded by left-wing billionaires, BEAT LAMAR intends to defeat the candidate of the liberal Republican establishment in Tennessee through the effective use of motivated manpower and state-of-the-art technology. Contrary to popular misconceptions in the mainstream media, billionaires don't support local grassroots Tea Party efforts.
We already have 600 door-to-door volunteers signed up throughout the state, and we fully expect that the face-to-face conversations these volunteers have with Tennessee's Republican primary voters over the next ten and a half months will result in Lamar Alexander's defeat.