On Tuesday evening, Sarah Palin’s thoughts turned to Texas’ 30th Congressional District. “It’s an honor to support Stephen Broden,” she posted to her Facebook page at 6:45 p.m., referring to the little-known challenger to U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas. “As a Commonsense Constitutional Conservative, he is committed to getting our country back to the founding principles of limited government and fiscal responsibility."
For many Texans, Palin’s post may have marked the first time they ever heard of Broden, a man who describes himself as someone “deeply interested and concerned about the direction of our nation.” A founder and senior pastor of Fair Park Bible Fellowship and president of the affiliated outreach organization Fair Park Friendship Center, he has been active in politics and social issues, particularly the pro-life movement, since the early 1980s.
When he announced his candidacy in 2009, Broden threw himself into an uphill, seemingly unwinnable battle against Johnson, an 18-year incumbent who had won her last two elections by more than 80 percent. The polling gurus at The New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog forecast a 100 percent chance of Democratic victory. But Johnson hit some turbulence on her glide path to re-election when The Dallas Morning News reported that she funneled Congressional Black Caucus scholarship money to her relatives and those of a top aide while denying other applicants. Not long after the scandal broke, Palin privately let Broden know she’d be sending a blast of support to her fans.
Though she has a winning record overall — she went 18 for 29 in the primaries — Palin’s endorsement hardly guarantees a victory. But some of those wins, such as Gov. Rick Perry’s renomination as the Republican candidate for governor of Texas, were essentially locked up without her influence.
That’s certainly not the case for the Republican in CD-30. While it may not propel Broden to certain or even likely victory (the Times hasn't revised its prediction), Palin’s nod of approval and the ensuing media attention can’t hurt. He already boasts strong ties to the Tea Party, frequently speaking at rallies around the country and serving as an occasional guest on FOX News programs like Glenn Beck.
Broden spoke with the Tribune on Wednesday about Palin, the Tea Party, the rise of what he calls "tyranny" in the U.S. government and why he shouldn’t be counted out just yet. An edited transcript and audio selections follow.
TT: You’ve been in the news this week for getting the endorsement of Sarah Palin. Have you met her? Have you talked to her?
Audio highlights: Stephen Broden
Broden: Oh, yes. Our paths have crossed on a number of occasions. I speak all over the country to Tea Party and 9-12 groups and grassroots groups, and so does she. We’ve been at the same venues a number of times, and so we know each other and know of each other, and she knew that I was running. I know Todd, her husband. I’m excited to receive her endorsement.
TT: Why do you think she decided to weigh in at this time?
Broden: She has been endorsing candidates all over the country, and most are conservative, fiscally responsible candidates who believe in a limited government, believe in returning to the founding principles that made this nation great, in supporting our Judeo-Christian ethics that undergird those principles and in bringing honesty back into government at a level that will produce the kind of confidence that the culture needs at this time. She obviously looked at my campaign and saw that those messages were prominent. The fact that there was a scandal connected with Eddie Bernice Johnson caused my campaign to [elicit] even more interest in the district and outside the district. Those two things probably contributed to her making a decision to support [me].
TT: You got into the race before the scholarship scandal ever broke. Why did you decide to run?
Broden: I’ve been involved in social issues for many, many years. [I've been] sort of watching our culture, watching our society, and how we’re moving away from some of the founding principles that made this nation great and how we have been, as a nation, embracing an ideology that seems to be contradictory to everything that the Founding Fathers framed in the Declaration and in the Constitution of this great land. I feel the need to get up and get involved. Edmund Burke says, "All that is required of evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." I think it’s important for all Americans to be involved in the political process.
TT: You’re in a heavily Democratic district. How do you get your pitch to sell there, and what do you think of your chances?
Broden: I think that we have a tremendous opportunity to succeed at this time. I think most Americans are uncomfortable with what’s going on with the economy right now. Whenever there is an economic slowdown in our country, in the African-American community it’s usually a major catastrophe, with high levels of unemployment. The economy is not working at all in the 30th district. We need to have more businesses moving into the district, creating more jobs, so that we can put our people to work. And over the last 18 years, we can demonstratively point out to the constituents of the 30th district that the current leadership has been derelict in its responsibility to attract new businesses, to create new jobs, to have the kind of educational system that prepares our kids to work in the 21st century economy. The system or leadership that we have currently is broken. We need to fix it.
TT: Are your chances better today with the Palin endorsement than they were two days ago?
Broden: I think her endorsement only enhances what was already tremendous momentum that was shifting our way in the district because of the scandal. Most people feel there was a betrayal of trust. We’ve had a number of people calling into our campaign headquarters here, volunteering, making contributions, who express absolute disgust with the fact that an elected official who should be holding the needs and interests of the district as her priority moved those needs, those interests, to the back of the line and put her family and her staff’s family in front of kids who were deserving of those scholarships. It is a disgusting act, and many in the district are absolutely outraged.
TT: The New York Times is still predicting a 100 percent chance of victory for Democrats. Why are they wrong?
Broden: They’re using an old paradigm to analyze the 30th district. They’re looking at a history that doesn’t include the current attitudes, the current atmosphere, the current disdain and disgust that is out there — the current situation with respect to the economy, with respect to unemployment and with respect to this scandal. There are many, many people who are calling our office every day and saying they’re on board with us. [The Times] can’t measure that. They’re using old instruments to measure the 30th district. Well, those instruments don’t work.
TT: What does the Tea Party mean to you, and what is its relationship to the Republican Party?
Broden: I’m excited about the Tea Party. You know, the Tea Party is an acronym: Taxed Enough Already. They came into existence because they recognized that our government was out of control fiscally, spending more money and taxing us beyond measure, and they came into existence in order to control or to bring a stop to this out-of-control spending. I’m excited that there’s a group of Americans who finally put their foot down and say, “Enough is enough.” I think their principles are consistent with the founding principles of limited government, of fiscal responsibility. That’s something that is good for America, good for our country. The Republican Party is a party of limited government and fiscal responsibility, so there’s a natural nexus, a natural connection between those two entities. I don’t think one governs the other at this point.
TT: Critics have tended to paint the Tea Party as primarily an Anglo movement. Have you found that to be the case?
Broden: No, I have not found that to be the case. Whenever you go to a Tea Party function, you can always find many different ethnic groups that are a part of it: black, Hispanic, Asian and white. And most people say, "Oh, well, the majority are white." I simply respond by saying that the majority is white because America is majority white. If you look at the percentages, you would probably say that African-Americans represent about 8 to 10 percent of the population in America. And if you go to these events, you would probably see about 10 percent African-Americans. If it’s 500,000 people, like it was in Washington, D.C., 10 percent of that would be about 50,000. And if they’re not all standing together, 50,000 doesn’t look like very much in 500,000, does it?
TT: Does the Republican Party have a problem with its messaging to minorities?
Broden: You’re absolutely right on that. The messaging is the issue — the failure of the Republican Party to answer the branding of the other side. The Democratic Party has branded the Republican Party as fat cats and insensitive to the needs of poor people, and that’s not the case. And the Democrats brand themselves as the friend to the little guy. Unfortunately that message resonates with minority communities. That’s Hispanics, blacks and Asians, and even the Jewish community. They see themselves as small and the Democratic Party as their hero, as opposed to listening to the messages of the Republican Party: fiscal responsibility, limited government, liberty, individual responsibility — that you can do it, you can make it on your own. That’s a message that my mother taught me. I believe that’s a message that will resonate with most people, but the Republican Party is not good at casting it.
TT: You’ve referred to some of the policies of the current administration as "tyrannical." Say you get to Washington. Will that prevent bipartisan efforts — if that’s something you’re interested in?
Broden: Absolutely I’m looking for a bipartisan effort. I think we have a mutual interest in making sure that our country moves forward together. And tyranny is something that our Founding Fathers didn’t have any problem identifying. Tyranny, as it is defined by the Founding Fathers, is the overreach of government in controlling and influencing our lives beyond the scope of the Constitution. When the government is expanding into controlling and dictating to us what we should buy and what we should not buy, where we can go and where we cannot go, that is tyranny. It is tyrannical. And we as elected officials, sworn to uphold the Constitution, must call it what it is.