Ever heard the expression "Where you have two rabbis, you have three opinions"? It's kind of the same thing with members of the Tea Party. Some people who align themselves with the movement that congealed in 2009 and 2010 profess to be political middle-of-the-roaders with allegiances to no party, while others are dyed-in-the-wool cultural conservatives.
Nationally, the Tea Party takes credit for giving Republicans control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Closer to home, the Mississippi Tea Party claimed victory when Phil Bryant became the state's first "Tea Party governor" last fall.
Given the party's influence, we recently met with Central Mississippi Tea Party president Janis Lane, a retired marketing manager who resides in Byram, along with Mark Mayfield, a real estate attorney who lives in Ridgeland, and Kim Wade, a Nation of Islam member-turned conservative radio talk host, to talk about Mississippi politics, 2012 presidential race and America's wrong turns.
Are Tea Partiers still outraged?
Kim Wade: When you say you saw this (outrage) at the beginning, are you sure you saw it or did you just read reports? So much of that stuff, we believe if there were any indications of (in on) posters and flyers and banners, they were brought in by instigators.
I remember those early town-hall meetings on the Affordable Care Act. People were pretty fired up.
Janis Lane: At the time, we were facing the people making these laws that we did not support, and when we were in those town-hall meetings, we're speaking to our representatives. ... We may be members of a Tea Party outside, but we're there as individuals to confront that lawmaker with the very poor decisions he is making or she is making and that is our right as citizens of this country. ... We have taken the wrong path, and it's been on the wrong path for many years now. This is not something new.
Mark Mayfield: It's not political, either. It's not Republican or Democrat(ic). It's a wrong turn. Our righteous indignation is against both parties.
So is the Central Mississippi Tea Party primarily interested in state politics?
Lane: Last year we were interested in state politics because that was the focus. This year, we have a national election, and we are interested in who the next president will be, who the next president will choose as his running mate, who the next president will choose as his cabinet members.
MS Tea Party Chat: Pics
Kim Wade, Janis Lane, and Mark Mayfield sit down and chat with JFP reporter R.L. Nave.
How would you like federal candidates to engage the Central Mississippi Tea Party?
Mayfield: We think conservative constitutional principles have worked for the last 200-plus years in America, and they have provided the most opportunity for hope, growth and success for the most Americans as opposed to any other form of government.
Lane: That has always been America's draw--hope. When you come to America, you leave other countries where there is no hope, and you come here because there is hope. And like Mark said, we're getting to the point where we're getting ready to step off, and we're going to become a hopeless nation. And we don't believe in pork-barrel politics, either. We don't want to send people to D.C. to bring money back to Mississippi.
Isn't that Congress' job?
Mayfield: They sure think it is. We've got a senator up there right now—Thad Cochran—who's just as guilty as anybody. He's probably the worst one up there in terms of pork-barrel legislation.
Wade: As it relates to fiscal responsibility, you made the note that it's the purpose of Congress to bring money back. It is to do it in a responsible way. We're not against government for being against government's sake. We're in it for the purpose of providing the most good for the most people.
Isn't it hard for people to be engaged in Mississippi with it being so conservative?
Mayfield: I think if you're willing to get off the bench and get in the game, it's not hard. I was never involved in politics until I saw the direction we started taking with the bailouts, the stimulus, TARP, Obamacare--you name it--this endless, mindless overspending and over-borrowing.
You all had some harsh words for Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves after the last session. I'm interested in your assessment of the rest of the session.
Mayfield: We applaud (Reeves') stand on fiscal responsibility. He's right in line with the Tea Party on that. Tate Reeves drew a line in the sand on any more state borrowing this year. But we've got a problem with him on immigration. We have reason to believe he blocked the immigration enforcement bill.
Wasn't it because the Mississippi Sheriff's Association, the Farm Bureau and other groups came out against it?
Lane: Associations do not elect him; individuals go to the polls.
But they're associations of job creators.
Wade: We will come together with Tate on issues we're in agreement on. He did not come out with a blanket endorsement of the Tea Party's position on illegal immigration. At the same time, that doesn't remove our responsibility to fight vigorously for things we believe in.
You're doing outreach with groups that haven't traditionally supported the Tea Party--African Americans, minorities. What parts of the Tea Party platform do you think resonate with those groups?
Mayfield: Jobs and economic development. Things like giving voters a choice on where to send their kids to school. They don't have to keep sending them to a failing public school. We want to give them the option of sending them to a successful charter school or perhaps look at vouchers where they can send them to a successful private school.
Wade: Our position on charter schools is incoherent as black people. We're sitting up here watching our kids be destroyed because our leadership says we're supposed to dislike private schools because they were born out of segregation. Well, what wasn't? Everything was segregated 40 years ago.
Sorry to shut the men out of the conversation, but I wanted to ask Janis about the role of women in conservative politics and reproductive rights.
Lane: I do not agree with the federal government supporting killing a preborn human. A child is a child from the moment of conception. The argument is: They've done it before, they'll always do it. That's probably true. My point is a nation should not support or condone the killing of anybody. Then you'll come around with what about capital punishment. Well, you know what, if you're on death row, you're an adult and you made a choice to be there. An innocent child in the womb does not have a right to make a decision because they haven't been born, yet. We're taking that right away from that child.
But do you think there are too many male politicians telling women what to do with their bodies?
Wade: This is about right and wrong. How is it that they find a cell on Mars, then there's evidence of life on Mars, but if there's a cell in a womb, it's not a baby? ... You don't have the right to kill.
If that was the case, then they had a right to kill us as blacks. If it's just a matter of having enough votes in the Legislature to kill someone, then there's nothing wrong with it.
Lane: I'm really going to set you back here. Probably the biggest turn we ever made was when the women got the right to vote.
What do you mean?
Lane: Our country might have been better off if it was still just men voting. There is nothing worse than a bunch of mean, hateful women. They are diabolical in how than can skewer a person. I do not see that in men. The whole time I worked, I'd much rather have a male boss than a female boss. Double-minded, you never can trust them.
Because women have the right to vote, I am active, because I want to make sure there is some sanity for women in the political world. It is up to the Christian rednecks and patriots to stand up for our country. Everyone has the right to vote now that's 18 or over (who is) a legal citizen, and every person that's 18 and over and a legal citizen should be active in local politics so they can make a change locally, make a change on the state level and make a change in Washington, D.C.
God bless America.