Judson Phillips Commentary: Mark West Has a Right to Disagree With His Fellow Tea Party Activists

by Judson Phillips


Earlier this week, Mark West of the Chattanooga Tea Party shocked a lot of people in Tennessee when he came out and endorsed Diane Black to be the next governor of Tennessee.

Mark’s endorsement of the four-term Congressman flies in the face of the perception that the Tea Party is solidly behind former State Senator Mae Beavers. (Writer’s note: Neither I nor my group, Tea Party Nation, have yet to endorse a candidate in the governor’s race).

Many Tea Party activists and groups are solidly behind Mae Beavers, but as Mark West just proved, that support is not unanimous.

Tennessee activists on social media erupted after word of Mark’s endorsement spread. Many people who are active in the conservative and Tea Party movement in Tennessee were openly critical of him. Others, more disturbingly, opined that the Tea Party did not support Diane Black and Mark essentially had no right to disagree with the majority.

That latter sentiment is extremely disturbing. The Tea Party movement is a movement that is centered on the concepts of freedom and liberty. One of the most fundamental aspects of liberty is the right to make up your own mind.

If the Tea Party movement does not allow for the possibility that people may make decisions that the majority disagree with, then the movement is nothing more than the flipside of the collectivist left.

Liberty means the individual right to decide. Freedom means the ideas that we each hold and offer compete with each other. This is the free market of ideas and a political candidacy is nothing more than an extension of this free market of ideas.

In the free market of ideas, good ideas thrive and bad ideas die. In the political free market, good candidates do well; bad candidates do not.

Liberty means the right of intellectual freedom and the right to freedom of decision. Or as I sometimes tell people who disagree with me, “Liberty means you have the right to be wrong.”

Mae Beavers has some compelling reasons for her candidacy. But we do her, her campaign and this state no great service is we deny the right of people to challenge her and her candidacy. The same thing can be said for Diane Black.

Mark West has not given a detailed explanation of his support for Diane Black’s candidacy. No doubt, in the next few weeks he will. He has every right to express his opinion and state the reasons why he thinks Diane Black should be the next governor. Those who disagree with him have every right and even a duty to challenge his positions and reasons.

One way or another, the best ideas, answers and ultimately the best candidate will emerge.

Unfortunately, there are some in this movement who want to silence someone who does not hold the established position of the movement. Liberals silence those who disagree with them. Conservatives do not.

Freedom and liberty hang in the balance in this nation. They are well served with a healthy debate and some good people who sometimes take contrarian positions.

Mark West’s decision to endorse Diane Black may or may not be a good decision. But he deserves a lot of credit and support for making it.



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8 Thoughts to “Judson Phillips Commentary: Mark West Has a Right to Disagree With His Fellow Tea Party Activists”

  1. Karen Bracken

    Yes Mr. West has the right to disagree with his fellow activists but we have the same right and that is what exercised. We didn’t go to the press to get people to attack his opposition. We express our opinions on social media and Mr. West felt compelled to have others defend him using the media. I felt that once I expressed my opinion that would be it and it would have been had he not felt compelled to get others to defend his position. He can do what he wants but there are many fellow activists that completely disagree with his endorsement. So I guess what you are saying is that Mr. West’s decisions are more important or somehow more credible than the opinions of others?? That is how it appears.

  2. Steve L.

    I always welcome a different perspective from folks I respect. Did Mark West list out his reasons for endorsing Black vs. Mae Beavers? As a private citizen he does not owe me any explanation, of course. Given his close affiliation with the TFA I would like to understand why he would chose Black. Establishment Republicans have hurt this countries souls more than any Democrat, IMHO. Corker, Alexander, Flake, & McCain have betrayed us time and again with devastating effect. I am very sensitive to folks like Black who may be pretending to be a Conservative just to stab us in the back. I support Mae Beavers for Governor.

  3. Everyone indeed has the right to be wrong , as long as they have made the decision based on all the facts. Yet when an endorsement is made sans a critical bit of information that will have a very big impact on others opinions and decisions. it creates the response Mark received. It is like when Ralph Bristol a ” conservative radio personality endorses the Gas Tax movement ” to true conservative raising taxes when we have a surplus is not conservative. Mark has endorsing an elitist ego maniac willing to break the law to beat an opponent Lou Ann Zelnick it will get the appropriate response . i agree and respect Mark on most everything. but this one is dead wrong ..

    1. Karen Bracken

      Funny Mae Beavers called Mr. West early in her campaign and wanted to meet with him. To date she was never invited to join in a discussion with Mr. West. I know Ms. Beavers record speaks for itself but so does Diane Blacks but Ms. Black was given the courtesy of a meeting/discussion with Mr. West (at least I assume she did based on Mr. West’s comments) Ms. Beavers was not.

  4. steve osborn


    reading some of your posts on TFA harshly criticizing Diane, I’m pleased to read this article. Civil discourse is what the grass roots activist should engage in, and you’ve explained it well.

  5. Kevin Desmond

    I don’t disagree that people have a right to their own opinion. That is what you saw in the comments section of the Mark West article. People were letting it be known that they disagreed with Mark on his decision to support Diane Black. Mark was given a lot of press and his involvement in the Tea Party movement was certainly mentioned prominently. The statewide Alliance of tea party and liberty groups does not endorse candidates as we feel all have a right to their own opinion. Having said that however, the vast majority of active conservatives with ties to our Alliance favor Mae Beavers in the race as was made clear in the comment section. I would also share the opinion that Mae has even more support among active conservatives than Donald Trump had. Mark West was and probably still is strongly opposed to Trump. The majority of Tennesseans simply disagreed with him based upon the results of that election. People are simply commenting that they disagree with him once again for various reasons. No one is trying to mute Mark West.

  6. 83ragtop50

    I am not sure that Mr. West deserves a lot of credit and support for his decision. He simply needs us to respect his choice as we should expect him to respect ours. I am supporting Mae Beavers because I believe she is more aligned with conservative values than Diane Black is.

  7. Dave Vance

    So now criticizing equals silencing? Who said he had no right to make the decision? Is Mark a snowflake you feel compelled to defend?