(Feb. 18) A congressional candidates’ forum in Theodore, Alabama (near Mobile), last Saturday should serve as a reminder of just how Tea Party political groups still do admirable, tireless work as good citizens serving our republic.

Eleven years after the beginning of the Tea Party and 10 years beyond the point when it became trite (although still true) to complain about rampant media mistreatment of the movement, this still bears repeating: Most Tea Party groups represent the very essence of small-“r” republican constitutionalism.

The southern Alabama Tea Party group known as the Common Sense Campaign certainly does.

For election after election and year after year, for races ranging from the most local all the way up to federal, the organization has hosted forums for candidates, ballot propositions, and pending issues. They are designed not just for Common Sense’s own membership, but for the broader public. All participants are treated fairly. Refreshments are often offered, creating a homey atmosphere. Love of country is palpable. Civic duty is taken seriously.

It’s a tremendous public service.

Granted, sometimes the audiences make their preferences perfectly clear. To be on the wrong side of what might be described as the “polite fury” of Common Sense members can be uncomfortable. But the emphasis is on “polite.” The group proves that frank exchanges of views need not involve intimidation or disruption of speech. This is participatory, representative democracy in the early-American “town hall” tradition.

This particular forum took place in the fellowship hall of Theodore’s Magnolia Springs Baptist Church. It is a fairly common practice for church halls to be used for events such as these. It is very much in the tradition of churches serving as community centers — not endorsing any one brand of politics, but serving as meeting places and safe spaces for a common culture.

In this case, candidates Jerry Carl, Wes Lambert, and Chris Pringle were remarkably cordial to each other. (Long shot John Castorani was a no-show, and co-front-runner Bill Hightower was out with the flu, with wife Susan given the chance to make a quick pitch for her husband.)…

[The full piece is here.]


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