By his own back-handed admonition in a debate Wednesday, incumbent U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann handed a license to 3rd Congressional District voters to yank him out of Washington, D.C., come the Aug. 7 state Republican primary.
"Everything the federal government touches, it messes up," Fleischmann said during the debate with GOP challenger Weston Wamp. "The problem is, this is a broken system."
With complete partisan gridlock in Congress, Fleischmann -- who in the debate took every opportunity to point fingers at the Obama administration, Democrats and even other Republicans who simply hint at negotiating with Democrats to find solutions -- is absolutely right. The system is currently broken and people like this four-year congressman who refuse to engage in what we sent them to Washington to do are the reason.
In August, voters -- both Republican and Democrat -- who are fed up with Washington dysfunction need to send Fleischmann home to be a lawyer again.
In a sometimes acrimonious debate, sponsored by the the Chattanooga Times Free Press and WTCI-TV, Wamp, 27, handily bested Fleischmann's finger-pointing and "broken" chorus.
"The country is not interested in worn-out partisan rhetoric any longer. ... People want common sense to make government work," said Wamp, son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, who held the 3rd District congressional seat for 16 years.
Fleischmann, who signed a tea party pledge not to raise taxes, said he told Obama "No, no, no" to more debt and that the country needs to "get the federal government out of our lives and out of our way."
And, no, he won't vote for Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker's proposed gas tax increase to fund roads and transportation, nor will he vote for immigration reform. Common Core in education is "big government." He would vote to defund EPA. And Sen. Lamar Alexander, (R-Tenn) "does deserve credit" for helping to restructure the Inland Waterways Trust Fund -- the funding mechanism for the stalled Chickamauga Lock project.
"But first it had to pass the House ... and I didn't have to go over and sing like a liberal to Nancy Pelosi to get that done," Fleischmann said.
Of course, the funding still isn't there for the Chickamauga Lock's completion, and Fleischmann hasn't said he would vote to allow a user-fee sought by barge companies to help finish work there. In the debate, he said he "is open" to discuss it. Wamp said he would support it.
At one point, during Fleischmann's anti-compromising rants, Wamp said: "I feel like I'm sitting across the table from an angry congressman."
That got a laugh, but Wamp's next comments about Congress members of all stripes rolling up their sleeves, talking, holding hands and finding solutions got the more important response: nods.
Wamp reminded Fleischmann that his apparent arch enemy, Barack Obama, won't be president in two years, and that there is "an opportunity for conservatives to favor the environment."
Fleischmann alluded to Wamp as his second "Democrat" opponent. (Mary Headrick, physician, is unopposed on the Democratic primary ballot.)
The incumbent made clear over and over again that he believes Republicans can't and shouldn't talk or negotiate with Democrats.
Wamp shook his head. "Where we (as conservatives) don't agree, is that Democrats have cooties, and we can't talk to them," he said.
Given Fleischmann's inability to understand how political discourse and compromise created and grew our democracy, he can serve no purpose in Congress. In fact, he already has served little purpose in Congress.
Democrats cannot miss this opportunity to help Republicans ensure that all of us have a congressman or congresswoman who truly believes in government and understands how to make it work for us again.
It is time for a crossover vote.
Let's send Chuck Fleischmann home in August.