A Question for the Tea Party: Has This Outlaw Thing Gotten Out of Hand?
How can these elected representatives serve their constituents when they constantly choose to be in the dog house?
As I drove down the road in my pickup truck the other day, one of my favorite Outlaw country songs came on the radio. Ironically, the song was “Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit Has Gotten Out of Hand” by Waylon Jennings. If you’re unfamiliar with the tune, it’s about Waylon’s arrest for cocaine possession in the 1970’s and how he felt targeted by the government because he and Willie Nelson were called “Outlaws.”
Willie and Waylon were different. They signed record contracts that were unheard of in Nashville, sold more records than anyone ever had in country music and sold out shows all over America. And we’re not just talkin’ about honky-tonks and dive bars. These guys were selling out stadiums. In his biography, Jennings talks about how they were able to market their songs to the young rock-and-roll crowd because popular culture had come to accept them as actual outlaws.
They were so successful that they changed country music forever.
The “outlaws” of current Republican politics are the self-proclaimed members of the Tea Party. Like Waylon and Willie, they’ve done well for a number of years by rousing rebels across our great country.
In much the same way that Waylon brought a new audience to country music, the Tea Party has attracted huge numbers of people into the political process and reenergized the base of the GOP. People who had never worked on a campaign or attended a political rally have been coming out of the woodwork since 2010. The Tea Party almost single-handedly brought the U.S. House back to the Republicans and helped – although there were missteps along the way – win the Senate for Republicans in 2014.
Waylon was targeted by the Drug Enforcement Agency just like the Tea Party is targeted by the Democrats and the mainstream media, the latter looking for every silly, little thing they could find to try to blemish the reputation of the movement.
By the time of his arrest in 1976, Waylon was asking himself if being branded as an “outlaw” was worth it. In 2015, some in the Tea Party need to be asking themselves the same question. At the national level, House Speaker John Boehner is looking to pass mainstream legislation while ignoring cries from the Tea Party to focus the party’s entire agenda on ending Obamacare, investigating Benghazi and turning back illegal immigration. While many may agree these are important issues, myself included, Americans in general are looking for legislation to move our economy forward.
Here in Texas, committee assignments were announced in the State House and every representative who supported the unsuccessful campaign to get rid of Speaker Joe Straus will now find it difficult to have a real voice in the process. Members who voted against Straus were put on committees like County Affairs, Corrections and Special Purpose Districts. Rep. Matt Rinaldi, a Republican from Dallas County, is a good example. He might be puzzled as to which farms and ranches in suburban Dallas he’s supposed to represent on the Agriculture and Livestock Committee. (By the way, I say all this as someone who donated to and supported three lawmakers who voted against Speaker Straus.)
The point is this: How can these elected representatives serve their constituents when they constantly choose to be in the dog house? Will they ever come to the logical conclusion that this “Outlaw Bit” has gotten way out of hand?
Willie and Waylon did change country music forever, but they didn’t change Nashville. All you have to do is turn on the radio to figure that out. They had to come up with their own way of doing business.
For the Tea Party to change DC or Austin, they are going to have to come up with a new plan.