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Republican Jewish Coalition meets in West Knoxville


If a few dozen Vancouver, Wash., conservatives can ignite a national “Tea Party” firestorm of protest and activism, why can’t Farragut-West Knox County Republicans be encouraged to at least make more of a political impact?

That was a central message from professor Glenn Reynolds — who’s drawn national attention with conservative reflections from his Web site, Instapundit.com — to Knoxville Chapter of Republican Jewish Coalition during its meeting Thursday, Jan. 28, in Wesley Place subdivision clubhouse off Ebenezer Road.


Reynolds, Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law at The University of Tennessee whose work has appeared in such publications as Harvard Journal of Law, illustrated the rise of conservative “Tea Party” activism.

Noting it was orchestrated neither by conservative nor Republican organizations, Reynolds said Tea Party protests began with Vancouver citizens Feb. 15, 2009 — irritated by President Barack Obama’s “spending and bailouts.”

It was a release of “pent-up frustration,” Reynolds said, but added, “people were having fun doing it.”

“This was not the party organization telling loyal soldiers what to do; this was people deciding what they wanted to do,” Reynolds added.

While on hand for a Knoxville Tea Party protest in World’s Fair Park drawing about 2,500, Reynolds illustrated the diversity of protesters: “Who walks by? My stock broker walks by, a doctor walks by,” he said.

Among Republicans on hand in the park was Dr. Aaron Margulies, RJC chapter president, who briefly commented about the experience.

The movement has advanced, Reynolds said, “From marching ... to actual political work, which is what it takes to accomplish.”

Reynolds, whose UT courses include administrative, constitutional, Internet and space law, said Asheville, N.C.’s Tea Party group “has to be Heath Shuler’s worst nightmare.”

U.S. Rep. Shuler [D-N.C., 11th District], former UT Volunteers All-American quarterback (1992-93), “made the terrible mistake of treating them with disrespect early on,” Reynolds said.

Tea Party protesting quickly grew, the professor said, through “Facebook and Twitter and chat rooms.”

Reynolds said he spoke to Roger Simon, “an old lefty, a big Hollywood screen writer” about a 2009 Tea Party protest early in the movement — in front of the White House — drawing about 300 people.

“We had dinner where he was telling me, ‘This is going nowhere’ and ‘it’s amateur night,’ Reynolds said.

“I said, ‘just watch,’ because you could tell, there was an energy to it,” the professor added about his reply to Simon.

One key element of Tea Party success nationwide, Reynolds said, “Is when you see people who had never been to a protest before, protesting; and then when you see people who had never volunteered for a candidate before, volunteering and people who had never donated money to a candidate, donating.”

By April, Reynolds said there were “huge protests all over ... tens of thousands in lots of cities around the country.”

Pointing to Republican Scott Brown’s U.S. Senate upset victory in Massachusetts last month, Reynolds added, “the [Repub-lican National Committee] really didn’t get into that [Massachusetts] race until the Tea Party people got some momentum going.”

Reynolds also is author of “An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower the Little Guy to Beat Big Media, Big Government and Other Goliaths.”

Also speaking at the RJC meeting were Knox representatives of three GOP gubernatorial candidates: William Lyons, UT political science professor, on behalf of Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam; Bonnie Brezina on behalf of U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn., District 3) and Cade Benedict on behalf of Bill Gibbons, Shelby County attorney general.

Ray H. Jenkins, Knox County GOP chairman, also addressed an audience including Republicans John Duncan III, Knox County Trustee candidate, and State Rep. Ryan Haynes (District 14).

Among Jenkins’ points was his personal dislike for election early voting.

 

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