Post Politics: GOP official deserved his ouster

Sunday, December 6, 2009 at 11:45pm
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Matt Collins

In Teddy Roosevelt’s famous rebuke of critics, the nation’s 26th president praised the “man in the arena” who, at his worst, “fails while daring greatly.”

Those words call to mind the removal of Ron Paul supporter Matt Collins from his position as vice chairman of the Davidson County Republican Party.

Collins is a lot of things: an extremist, politically naive and even arrogant. But he’s not reluctant to get his hands dirty.

He wasn’t content to sit back and be just another Ron Paul Internet troll fighting the good fight for liberty behind the comfort of a computer screen. Collins entered the arena.

Paul may not have won the presidential primary in 2008, but the candidate certainly made a mark. He raised money, scored points in debates and inspired voters who felt marginalized. His message of Old Right libertarianism reached a new audience. But his campaign ultimately failed politically because it had no tentacles in the establishment, no institutional support. He had enthusiastic and committed foot soldiers, but they were disorganized and ultimately impotent. Collins and others set out to change that post-2008.

It’s not a myth that a determined and motivated few can overcome an apathetic majority, but those few can only triumph if they know where the buttons and levers of power are and how to use them.

And Collins does. Moreover, in the service of trying to be effective, the longhaired music engineer cut his ponytail and traded in his concert T-shirts for suits. He started attending local Republican Party meetings. It was far more than many partisans are willing to do in the name of any political cause.

But the Republican establishment looks askance at the Ron Paul revolutionaries as nut jobs and conspiratorialists. The job of a “leader” in that movement is to be an activist while at the same time making the establishment comfortable — putting them at ease while building numbers and fortifying a position of strength.

What a leader shouldn’t do after achieving a small measure of power is embody the caricature of those he’s trying to lead. And that’s where Collins fumbled. Every time he posted a sophomoric blog comment or refused to shake a congressman's hand at a picnic, he solidified the stereotype of the Ron Paul supporter.

What’s worse, Collins had the chance to correct his mistakes and walk back his missteps but chose not to. While his removal hearing was in recess, members of the county executive committee approached him and offered a deal. It was simple: Apologize for your inflammatory words and actions, and additional votes will be there to prevent your ouster. Collins declined even to entertain the possibility of apologizing publicly for his actions.

“I fail to see how refusing to shake the hand of a thief such as bailout-supporting Rep. ‘ZigZag Zach’ Wamp is ‘disrespectful’. In fact it was one of the more polite things I could do to show him I disapproved of his acting like a liberal Democrat,” Collins said in a comment to Post Politics.

No one likes to compromise, and it can be a constant struggle to determine where compromise ends and capitulation begins. Bend too much and you are a pushover for the establishment, stand too rigid and the powers that be will cut you off at your extremist knees.

Collins says he never should have been booted from his position in the party because he broke no bylaws. But it wasn’t the letter of the law that he violated — it was the spirit of leadership.

Collins refused a sitting congressman the courtesy most people would give a stranger off the street, and was unrepentant for it. Bylaws or no bylaws, he gave his enemies the knife to cut his own throat.

The Ron Paul movement is all that’s exciting and youthful about the national Republican Party these days. It’s the perfect time for the Ron Paul revolution to start shaping a modern, energetic Republican Party.

But that’s only possible when leaders act like leaders. Collins took the bold first step entering the arena as a participant but ultimately fell short, proving incapable or unwilling to make the sacrifices that can result in real political influence.

Nobody ever said bringing a fringe movement into the mainstream was easy. Now it’s time for someone to succeed where Collins failed.

Kleinheider is NashvillePost.com's political blogger. Visit him at http://postpolitics.net.

6 Comments on this post:

By: MattCollins on 12/7/09 at 2:09

ACK-

It is important to note that this situation is not about me it is about something much bigger. What is important is that we are locked in an ideological war internal to the Republican Party against those who want to put Party before principle, versus those of us who want to fight for limited and Constitutional government. Raising awareness of this contention is indeed critical. This epic struggle is for the direction of the Republican Party, which I believe will ultimately determine the future of our country for many years.

I am NOT an extremist, I am not arrogant, nor am I “politically naïve” as you have suggested. I will address each one of these points individually:

1- As Senator Barry Goldwater once explained “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice”. However if asking our elected representatives to follow the Constitution is somehow “extreme” then I guess I am guilty. If demanding that Republicans act like conservatives instead of Democrats is somehow “extreme” then I am guilty. If refusing to show respect to men who want to take my property by force and coercion is “extreme” then I am guilty.

2- Arrogant? Really, is this the best you can do? If you are going to criticize me your criticisms should at least have substance. I have been accused of arrogance however those who do not know me very well often times mistake my confidence for arrogance; the two are NOT the same. Knowing that I am on the moral, intellectual, and philosophical high ground alongside ideals such as limited government and the Constitution indeed gives me great confidence. This is transparent and it is a shame that it gets interpreted as arrogance by those who are quick to judge on false assumptions. The one thing the grassroots movement that I am a part of requires is outspoken voices to call attention to these ideals and increase their relevance within modern political dialog. The concept of limited-government has been missing from our political lexicon for many decades if not longer.

3- “Politically naïve”? Let’s take a look. I received half of the delegate votes at the Nashville GOP convention in which I turned out dozens of individuals new to the Party. I was able to get 5 other individuals elected to various officer positions within the Nashville GOP, none of us had previously held a Party office. I was one of a handful of individuals who raised a US Senate candidate over $1 million in a single quarter (most of which was raised within 24 hours). I was a top-level local volunteer coordinator for a presidential primary campaign. I have advised several Republican candidates running for office. I have influenced legislation both at the State level, and federally. I have been asked my opinion by State legislators. Hundreds of people signed a petition to have the GOP keep from purging me. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/keepmattcollins/signatures.html And I also seem to get as much press as I want. I am not listing these items to point out my accomplishments, but to make the point that for someone who is 27 years old, without a degree in political science, and not born into an elite family, how exactly is it that I am “politically naïve”? Judging by the success of myself and those of us who want limited government I’d say we’ve accomplished a great deal in the last 2 years and we’re still charging ahead at full steam making great strides on a daily basis!

I do find it a bit intellectually dishonest however that you have asserted that I failed to negotiate / compromise with officers of the Nashville GOP. What was stated at the recess of my purge hearing was that if I were to make a private apology for name-calling and being insulting, and also not write in such an insulting manner in the future, that several individuals would vote against my ousting. Those members lied to me and voted for me to be purged like a heretic based on nothing more than country-club puppetering by Party leadership. And I have mentioned a multitude of times that I am of course willing to compromise, but unlike so many in the Republican Party during the last decade, I am not willing to compromise away the principles that I stand for.

But what is the fundamental issue at hand? Perhaps could it be that the People of this country have not seen anyone with integrity, consistency, or willingness to stand up for principle in such a long time that it is hard for them to recognize it when they see it? Could it be that perhaps we have had such a lengthy period without anyone vocally calling for adherence to the Constitution that those who do so are ostracized because it is perceived as abnormal? Or perhaps it is because principle in American politics is so rare that those who attempt it are immediately laughed (or purged) out of the mainstream? Or is it because the American political system has moved so far away from its origin that ‘truth is now treason in an empire of lies’?

It is the mark of a leader to step out, take risks, and blaze a trail for others to follow. If more individuals followed my lead, become involved in their local Party, and demonstrate to their elected officials that their actions are not acceptable, we would start to see some REAL change within our government. If more Party officers refused to shake the hand of those Republicans who abridge our Constitution then we would start to see some immediate accountability. If more Republicans showed their displeasure towards those who act like Democrats then those imposters would eventually take the hint and follow Arlen Specter off to a place better suited for them. If more members of the Republican Party held their leadership accountable as I have attempted to, then Barrack Obama would not currently live in the White House, and the Democrats would not currently occupy Congress.

While some may confuse it for being “naive” I simply don’t play the game that establishment politicians play. Their game obviously doesn’t work because government has only grown outside of the bounds of the Constitution, even under the watch of those who have promised to reduce its size. It’s finally time to do things differently and try another approach because our current course is taking this nation down the wrong path. As Susan B. Anthony allegedly once quipped: “Cautious, careful people, always trying to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform.”

And while I am paving the way for others to follow, my purge from the Party has only increased awareness of the struggle within the GOP. The People must determine whether or not the Party is to continue down the path of big-government country club status-quo, or to instead choose the path of inclusion of young tech savvy limited-government tea partying Constitutionalists who refuse to compromise their principles in exchange for political power. The future of this country depends on this decision.

By: rguzman on 12/7/09 at 3:05

I find it funny that the writer would refer to Matt Collins as arrogant considering the blast that he/she just displayed. That's comical. I don't know Matt but I am a Ron Paul supporter... thanks for calling us disorganized and impotent dear writer... much appreciated. I wonder who you work for??? I can't believe that a paper would pay you for the job you have done. Seems like a pansy way out of a good ol American parking lot brawl. I got $20 on Matt... 10 to 1 .... LMAO.

"His message of Old Right libertarianism reached a new audience. But his campaign ultimately failed politically because it had no tentacles in the establishment, no institutional support." ... Last I checked.. its a government BY the PEOPLE FOR the PEOPLE. Take your 'establishment' or "institution" and go somewhere with it. More and more Americans are waking up to what is actually going on .. hence, we raised more money in a single day than ever before in history. I love how you minimalize this FACT in your derrogatory little monologue here.

In the grand scheme of life who really gives a damn if a person of Matt Collins stature didn't shake a hand? There are still children starving to death in third world countries. Go make a big deal out of something that deserves it. You are petty and ridiculous. If you read your own article I am sure you can see the humor. Blast him for being a no one while stating how insulting he was. He was good enough to get your time... mad writing skills... and utterly stupid retorts... LET THAT MARINATE!

By: cashnthings on 12/7/09 at 6:24

This is why the Republican Party is out of touch with the people.You have people who are fighting for small goverment and they kick him out.Just goes to show you who they are really looking out for and it is not us.Keep fighting Matt.

By: dogmrb on 12/8/09 at 12:48

This is why both the Republican Party and the Libertarian or Ron Paul party are out of touch with the "people". People are interested in their own self-interest as they identify with personalities that appeal to them -- not principles of small government, states rights, politics, internal fighting etc. I'm amazed that Karl Rove and Co. held it together as long as they did.

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