Mr. Republican Speaker, You're Not A Republican Anymore

So get out of our party. And while you're at it, formally relinquish our party's claim on the majority in the state house.   According to the Tennessee Republican Party, the Speaker of the state house, a Republican named Kent Williams, is a heretic and no longer deserves to be affiliated with party of Lincoln.  The party's executive committee affirmed the political disbarment, throwing Tennessee politics out of equilibrium.

Republicans won a bare majority in the House; Williams had won the Speaker's job by negotiating with Democrats; he promised to be inclusive and says that the Republican Party will die out if it does not open the tent. Establishment Republicans in Tennessee were furious. They had one electoral goal -- to win a majority -- and Williams, by compromising with the hated opposition, by promising to legislate and govern, rather than to precipitate Republican hegemony, became an immediate outcast.  (Horrors: he assigned the 49 members of the House just 46 offices to work in. And he gave six committee chairmanships to Democrats; seven went to Republicans.)   Robin Smith, the GOP chair, notified Republicans this morning "of my decision to remove Kent Williams' status as a bona fide Republican."

The Tennessee GOP is one of the most conservative state parties in the country, and, as A.C. Kleinheider notes in his extensive coverage, its actions today herald in" a new Tennessee Republicanism, an ideological Republicanism" -- not the Republicanism of Lamar Alexander, Bill Frist, Bob Corker or Fred Thompson. Kent Williams is at the leading edge of a generation of Republican officeholders who are rejecting the ideological Republicanism of the past twenty years.  These battles will be fought state-by-state, just as they're beginning to show up nationwide.