Long before headlines said the Tea Party was dead in 2016, the media was saying it was asleep in 2015, and others went along the lines of saying it was beaten to death like a murdered horse in 2012 after the defeat of moderate Mitt Romney against Barack Obama. The era of traditional conservatism, as in free markets, federalism, responsible spending, and a respect for individualism had all but gone out the window. It seems as if the decree from establishment forces at the Capitol Hill Club and K street stated that in order to win, we had to resurrect the corpse of the disembodied Rockefeller Republican era in order to at least keep pace with a growingly progressive nation.

Many Republicans saw the establishment decree as the divine word, Shak Hill though must not have gotten that message.

A Conservative Outsider Is Born

In 2014, the conservative outsider went toe to toe with political insider Ed Gillespie for the Republican US Senate nomination in the Virginia primaries, and almost won. The biggest opposition to Shak? “He was too conservative for his own good” one Virginia GOP operative told me. The Republican Party of Virginia wanted to satisfy the contractors building up Tyson’s Corner and Arlington in northern Virginia and larger businesses in the south end that had enough lobbying pull to silence the farmers and rural voters who didn’t have the financial edge to influence state representatives. Shak Hill, as many Republicans worried, would actually follow through with his promises, unlike Ed Gillespie who, as if it were some open secret, would be willing to “make a deal.”

For many, Shak Hill represented the brand of Republican that closely mirrored the average American individual who aimed to be the peak definition of a true citizen in the Robert Heinlein sense. Growing up in a working-class family, Shak lived the life of many struggling Americans that far too many urban communities feel Republicans have never understood. As a child and a teenager, Shak developed his rugged individualist ethic by busing tables, washing dishes, and other odd jobs in order to attend a private high school (whose tuition he paid himself) in order to better his chances of a more prosperous life after graduation.

Shak captured that success and attended the US Air Force Academy, commissioning as an officer and becoming a combat-tested pilot in Desert Storm. His life of service continued far after the military as he helped his community in numerous volunteer capacities, but that attitude didn’t stop at the front door, but in his own home. Shak and his wife in 1997 became foster parents, raising 46 children within thirteen years. It is one thing to see a man’s virtue in the public space, it is another thing when that virtue is still practiced in his own home.

A True Principled Liberty Candidate

Shak doesn’t play conservative, he’s never gone on the radio to preach one message and then in a moment of action preach another. What is the point of electing a Republican if that Republican isn’t even an individual in pursuance of liberty for their constituency? If you want to get in the mud a bit, yes, I’m saying current Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock isn’t simply a bad Republican, she’s a terrible representative of conservative principles, and her lack of leadership in terms of her capitulation regarding congress’s sexual slush fund is bad enough.

Shak represents the forgotten man, the struggling college graduates looking for jobs in northern Virginia, the working class families in the southern part of the state, but even broader, the current state of the conservative movement that is crying for ethical, sincere leadership. Shak Hill was conservative when conservatism wasn’t popular, and he’s stayed in the game of public life because leaders don’t back down when the tides are against them.

If you don’t know Shak Hill, you’re going to know him well very soon as the man might be going to Washington D.C. sooner than you think.

Remso W. Martinez is an independent journalist and host of the Remso Republic Podcast. You can support Remso on Patreon and visit his website www.remsorepublic.com.