Liberty in Morristown, TN

Charles Cook leading the group

This evening, I had the opportunity to meet with Campaign for Liberty of East Tennessee.  The group covers the counties of Cocke, Grainger, Greene, Hamblen, Hawkins, & Jefferson Counties.

For those unfamiliar with the larger C4L organization, it was one of several pro-liberty groups that formed after the 2008 Ron Paul presidential campaign.  As I had never attended a regional gathering of Campaign for Liberty, as they don’t really have a presence in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, I was intrigued by the prospect.

The meeting attracted twenty-one, including several city and county officials, as well as Tennessee State Representative Tilman Goins (R-Morristown).

The first topic discussed was the issue of the welfare state.   According to the data presented, the average welfare recipient in many states earned a surprising sum of money.  For example, someone in Virginia would make the equivalent of $11.11 per hour, assuming he or she was working a 40 hour week, considerably more than the minimum wage.  Given such an incentive, it would seem going on welfare would provide better financial security than some forms of employment.  In addition, the leader, Charles Cook, pointed to statistics which showed that Hispanics had a lower percentage of welfare recipients per capita than either whites or blacks.  Immigration, he argued, isn’t the major problem concerning jobs in the nation, but rather the continued expansion of welfare.

The second issue was an examination of campaign finance data from selected candidates and a PAC in the recent primaries.  Apparently, one PAC in particular donated considerable sums of money to its preferred candidates in this election.  In addition, one of the candidates seemed to have mislead voters regarding these funds.

Personally, I thought it was a good sign to see a fairly sizable gathering of individuals, committed to principle, work together to make a positive impact on their community.  I especially appreciated the fact that quite a few of their elected officials seemed to care about the ideals of liberty.  Perhaps it is a model that can be used in other parts of the country…like a number of regions of Virginia.

A Sign In The Sky

Campaign billboards seem to be all the rage in the eastern part of Tennessee.  I’ve seen them for candidates for Governor and the statehouse.  Now that I think about it, I might have even seen one for a federal race.  Personally I have never really understood the point of a campaign billboard.  Sure they do raise visibility, but how many more yard signs could one get for the cost of a single billboard?  Billboards show that a campaign has money, but yard signs in peoples’ yards add the human dimension.  They indicate that the person who lives on or owns the property cares enough about his or her candidate to let his or her neighbors know of their public support.  Nevertheless, while driving through Hamblen County last month, one billboard caught my eye.  It displayed a smiling image of a statehouse candidate on one side and President Obama on the other.  The sign informed the reader that Larry Mullins was a Delegate at Barack Obama’s nomination convention in 2008.  The message was simple and to the point.  Larry Mullins is a Democrat who supports Democratic leaders like Obama.

The more I thought about the sign, the more it nagged me.  Do Democratic voters really need a rallying cry to support their candidate?  Wouldn’t a fairly rural community of approximately 60,000 residents have heavily supported John McCain over Barack Obama back in the 2008 election?  With this assumption in mind, I decided to check the Tennessee State Board of Elections website.  Sure enough, McCain won in a landside, 15,508 votes to 6,807.  Like in most areas of the country, I think it would be safe to assume that the President’s popularity has decreased since 2008, so that means an even greater majority of voters in Hamblen County would be against him.  It just didn’t make sense to me why the Mullins campaign would tie themselves to such a negative in the community like President Obama.

About an hour ago, I was out driving through Hamblen County and came across the vexing sign once more.  Finding a safe spot alongside the road, I pulled over and grabbed my camera.  It was possible that I remembered the billboard incorrectly.  If not, I could determine what organization or person was foolhardy enough to pay for this ad.  Upon closer inspection, here is what I found.

As you can see in the small lettering at the top of the billboard, the Tennessee Republican Party paid for the ad.  The sign doesn’t serve as a clarion call to Democrats but rather a grim warning to Hamblen County voters.  It is as if the sign reads, “Hey Hamblen County, you overwhelmingly rejected the guy on the right two years ago!  Larry Mullins, the guy on the left, strongly supported him then, so shouldn’t you reject him as well now?”

I doubt that few, if any voters in Hamblen County, Tennessee have given as much thought to this billboard that I have. I will admit, however, that it did give me something to ponder until I took the time to discover all of the details.  Although I still recommend against campaign billboards for the reasons stated above, maybe a few of them, like this sign in the sky, have some hidden value.