Free Press editorial page editor Drew Johnson replies to questions and issues raised in emails, letters to the editor and online comments in response to Free Press editorials. Submit questions on Twitter: @Drews_Views
The Free Press editorial page has always espoused the values of the Republican Party. Drew Johnson needs a third editorial page because he's no Republican.
The Free Press editorial page is not a "Republican" page. It is a place where all center-right ideas, principles, policies and beliefs are valued and advocated. This page certainly espouses the values central to the Republican Party, likely more so today than ever.
To the extent that the Free Press' values and the Republican Party's values don't align, it's that the GOP — or, more specifically, its candidates and lawmakers — don't reflect conservative virtues. The Free Press' commitment to the principles of liberty, the free market, personal responsibility and limited, accountable government is unwavering. The same isn't true of many Republicans. In other words, some Republicans simply aren't conservatives.
There is a divide between conservative principles and the policies and votes of some members of the Republican Party. As long as liberal Republicans, like Sen. Lamar Alexander, continue to vote for more government and higher taxes, and unprincipled Republicans, like Rep. Scott DesJarlais, continue to sully the Republican brand by failing to live up to their own standards, that divide will continue to grow.
In general, this page will support Republicans — as the numerous endorsements for principled Republican candidates indicates — so long as they advance and defend the conservative values revered by this page.
The Free Press, however, refuses to praise, endorse or defend a candidate or government official just because he has an "R'" behind his name. Quite simply, protecting the values of free markets and a free society is more important to this page than defending unprincipled Republicans.
The Free Press' endorsement of Eric Stewart, and the reasons for it, have to be the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. Are you telling me it shouldn't matter how a person votes in DC? Really?
Are you telling me it shouldn't matter that Rep. Scott DesJarlais evidently lied about his beliefs in order to snooker you into voting for him?
DesJarlais has clearly voted more conservatively as a member of Congress than state Sen. Stewart would, if elected. However, DesJarlais misrepresented himself as a social conservative and then exploited family values and pro-life principles in order to rack up votes, endorsements and campaign contributions. That is more than sufficient grounds for losing an election. In fact, if the state Republican Party had any courage, its leaders would have stripped DesJarlais of his party affiliation and demanded his immediate resignation.
If DesJarlais is returned to Congress, it sets the precedent that candidates can enjoy the benefits that come with running on a set of conservative principles, even if they don't actually believe them or espouse them in their own lives.
In the end, having a Democrat represent the 4th District in Congress — especially in a time in which Republicans will have a comfortable majority in the House — is better than having a hypocritical fraud represent the 4th District in Congress. Besides, in two years there will be plenty of great Republican candidates for the seat.
The Free Press' endorsement for the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, all in the name of sending a message to Washington, is not the type of thing Hamilton County Republicans have grown to appreciate.
Do Hamilton County Republicans appreciate a candidate who increased taxes and fees by close to a billion dollars, supported most of the McCain-Lieberman "cap and trade" bill that would kill the economy, advocated the outlandish McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law and continues to back ethanol subsidies and farm handouts?
What about a candidate who signed taxpayer-subsidized abortions into law? Or one who proposed to increase government spending by 8 percent? Or one who hiked fees on marriage licenses and gun permits?
Do local Republicans appreciate a candidate who created a government-managed, socialist-style health care plan?
Apparently, these are exactly the types of things Hamilton County Republicans have grown to appreciate since, unfortunately, this is Mitt Romney's record.
Romney's record of increasing the size and scope of government is exactly what led the Free Press editorial page to endorse Gary Johnson — and that's something all Republicans should be able to understand and appreciate.
The editorial encouraging people to vote against the Sequatchie County tax increase is totally false! Sequatchie County is a real treasure and our leaders are fine people.
In reading every line of the Sequatchie County budget (which I can do better than most since, before I became the editor of the Free Press editorial page, I was primarily a budgetary policy analyst), I discovered that the county's general fund budget increased by nearly 10 percent in the last year alone. I also discovered case after case where the county could trim expenses and save tax dollars. Like it or not, Sequatchie County's bloated budget is an indication that the county doesn't have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.
Sequatchie County leaders may be fine folks, but that doesn't mean they should be allowed to treat county residents like ATMs by forcing through a half-cent sales tax hike to cover up their fiscally irresponsible ways.
By the way, if you want to see the Sequatchie County budget for yourself, good luck. It isn't available online or by email in any useful format. That's a troubling indication that county leaders don't want county residents to be informed and hold them accountable.
Does Drew Johnson understand that his endorsement for Gov. Gary Johnson is, in effect, a de facto endorsement for Barack Obama? A vote for Gary Johnson is a vote for Obama.
I must've received 50 emails stating some variation of this argument. The claim that a vote for Gary Johnson is a vote for Barack Obama is offensive, unrealistic and intellectually dishonest.
First, it's incorrect to say that every person casting a vote for Johnson would've otherwise voted for Mitt Romney. Most would-be Johnson voters believe, understandably, that on many issues — spending, taxes, expansion of federal powers and entitlements, for example — there is little difference between Romney and Obama. Therefore, many Johnson voters couldn't, in good conscience, vote for either Romney or Obama. As a result, Johnson's presence on the ballot will increase turnout and encourage many Americans to become more engaged in politics.
Second, to say that a vote for Johnson is a vote for Obama is disrespectful to people who believe that by voting for Johnson, they're voting for the best candidate. It undermines their contribution to our nation's political system. Nothing could be more un-American that criticizing someone's willingness to participate at the ballot box, despite the fact that they may hold a minority view.
Third, Romney will win Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina - the four states in the Times Free Press' circulation area — easily. Only North Carolina won't be a landslide. In such a circumstance, voting for a third party candidate is not a waste — it's likely the most effective way to make your vote matter.
If Johnson receives a healthy number of votes, it'll be an indication to the major parties that they should consider incorporating Johnson's free market, limited government, pro-liberty stances into their platforms.
Finally, no editorial on this page can realistically be construed as an endorsement for President Obama. By my count, since July 1, the Free Press page has published 57 editorials and commentary articles critical of Obama. We've published three critical of Romney. Obviously, as lackluster as Romney is, he's superior to Obama. He's just not nearly as good as Gary Johnson.