A Response to Chris Shays


My living room has seen a great deal of political activity in the last 4 and half years.  The tea party has plotted and planned and vetted and organized from my couches and chairs.  Yes, vetted.  Politicians have made their way through my little condo, facing the firing line of tea party activists from every district and far flung corner of Connecticut.  A gathering of 40-50 of the most active and influential members of the conservative grassroots movements in Connecticut would always bring the politicians out to seek the support and approval of our so-called irrelevant and fringe group.  And our meeting on March 24, 2012 was no exception.  That was the day former 4th District Congressman Christopher Shays walked through my front door, seeking support of the tea party for his candidacy for Senator.

It was a tough and well-informed crowd.  From the Second Amendment advocates, to the financial hawks to the Family Institute of Connecticut Action, each person came prepared with questions about Congressman Shays’ voting record and stances on issues.  We put him through the ringer, with sharp questions and a deep well of background information.  It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say we knew more about his positions on issues over the years than he did.  Still, Shays handled the firing squad with dignity and aplomb, deftly answering our questions, eloquently escaping from tight spots, and gracious, most of the time, to his detractors.

I’m sure everyone in the room remembers a particularly heated exchange between an FIC Action representative and Congressman Shays where Shays literally got down on his knees, and with a resonantly shaking voice spoke in passionate opposition to a matter regarding social values.  Their two faces could not have been more than 6 inches apart by the end, so much so that I damn near intervened, contemplating using my position of power as hostess to stop the exchange before it came to blows.  I did not, and it did not, but it was a powerful moment, one where the moderate Shays showed he actually had some vim and vigor to him, and one in which he realized that we aren’t the uninformed dumb hicks that the media keeps telling people we are.

A mutual understanding was born.  It was at this moment we turned away from the past and toward the future.  Shays wanted our support, and frankly, we were looking for someone to support.  Every one of us was willing to compromise a bit on some things.  “I’ll take a half a loaf, as long as it’s a scrappy half a loaf” I told him directly.  We don’t want spineless, gutless, throw money at people and pander to the big government spenders.  The Second Amendment crowd wanted assurances he wouldn’t champion gun bills he knew nothing about (a request that was neither unreasonable nor a fear that was not based on past actions).  The social conservatives wanted social issues left to the states.  That was it.  We neither demanded nor expected lock-step allegiance to our particular causes.  Heck, the people in the room from the tea party movement had differing views on differing issues.  We did not then and never have demanded purity on every issue.  What we demanded then, and still do, is adherence to principle.  If we know where you are coming from, and you have principles, and you agree to actually stick to them, we’ve got the potential for a great relationship.  Shays assured us that while we may not agree on every issue, we agree on our fundamental principles.

The meeting ended with people accepting literature and bumper stickers and placing their emails on his contact list.  And as Shays was enjoying my mother’s curry pasta salad, he wrote on my living room wall.  Yes, my living room wall.  Anyone that has been to my house in the last four years has seen it, and left their mark.  Dozens upon dozens of patriotic sayings, goals and aspirations of our fledgling tea party movement, well wishes from supporters, and even words of encouragement from politicians, are all written on my living room wall.  As Shays was winding down our multi-hour meeting, with a fragile “meet me half-way” understanding in place, he picked up a sharpie, headed to the wall and wrote, “God Bless America and the Tea Party Movement. Christopher Shays 3/24/12.”

Doesn’t sound like we had much trouble seeing eye to eye on things, does it?  So the next time Shays pops his head up from his foxhole to criticize us grassroots activists, remember this: not only were we willing to compromise, we reached out to him, we extended the hand of friendship, and he took it.  What happened to Shays’ candidacy had nothing to do with our unwillingness to compromise, but rather his unwillingness to refuse to compromise.  The electorate has changed, you can’t be mealy mouthed and get past us anymore.  We demand people with principles that are unashamed to actually stick by them.

4 Responses to “A Response to Chris Shays”

  1. on 13 Nov 2013 at 9:46 amKathy Lauretano

    Excellent Editorial by Tanya. it matches my own assessment of Christopher Shays, having observed him in action since he first was elected to office, and on closer acquaintance during the 2012 campaign when I spoke with him at some fundraisers and observed his maneuverings. Unfortunately he appears to have lost his commitment to principle that was very evident in his first term. He has succumbed to expediency and where he perceives his self-interest to lie. Reminds me of Andrew Roraback. Mealy mouthed is a perfectly apt description. Why such people think we are obligated to repeatedly allow them to dupe us is beyond understanding. They are obligate instead to prove themselves now over the long haul in order to restore the trust they betrayed. We owe them nothing, they owe the people they have betrayed everything.

  2. on 13 Nov 2013 at 11:41 amMichael

    I’m not sure Mr. Shays was demolishing your organization, but you have to admit, the 30,000 foot view is pretty damning on the movement as a whole. You take the Tea Party out of the equation and the votes to defund Obamacare in the Senate are there. 55 becomes 49 with pickups in Missouri, Indiana, Delaware, Nevada (Reid gone) and Colorado.

  3. on 13 Nov 2013 at 6:36 pmSean M

    Once again, we have GOP loyalists blaming the voters for the party’s loses. The Republicans in 2012 could not win FL, MT, VA, and ND with their establishment candidates. The Tea Party movements demands three things: stop spending money we do not have, follow the Constitution, and fix the problems we have, instead of the unending playing politics and talking the talk but not walking the walk.

  4. on 14 Nov 2013 at 8:34 amJoe Visconti

    No one worked harder as a volunteer for Chris than me. Being far right of him on many issues I believed he was our best hope amongst the weak field. I dragged my billboard truck from here to eternity with his picture on it for months to drum up support destroying my brake lines, brakes and many mechanical parts on my truck, I was all in. Many of us on the right compromised like never before for him. For those that easily criticize us , the Tea Party, for being to stubborn I say go straight to hell, we showed we were tolerant. I signed my name to a saying on Tanya’s wall as Chris was signing his. I wrote ” Liberty or bust!”, I haven’t reneged on my statement , it kills me to see that Chris has reneged on his.

    Paid for by Visconti for Governor, Susan Lavelli Treasurer, Approved by Joe Visconti

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