Kathryn Lopez

You know Lee Greenwood: He's the country-music star who hit patriotic pay dirt with his 1980s hit song "God Bless the U.S.A." Joe Miller, the Republican nominee for Senate in Alaska, looks much like Greenwood, to the point that he could easily be mistaken for the singer if he ever strolled through Nashville. And, listening to Miller speak, you hear echoes of Greenwood's famous tune. The tea party may not be looking for a single spokesman or leader, but in Joe Miller it has its personification: an outsider, a constitutionalist and someone who's thoroughly fed up with the political system's disrespect for the common man.

If I brought Greenwood up to Miller, he wouldn't wax nostalgic about the '80s, or assess the fine pleasures of a Hannity Freedom Concert. Miller would probably want to know why I spent three sentences talking about anything other than policy solutions. There's no shooting the breeze with Joe Miller. When he recently dropped by National Review's Capitol Hill office, the Alaskan was, in the words of my colleague Bob Costa, "cool as ice."

Miller's coolness is refreshing in such hot political times. A former U.S. Army officer who earned a Bronze Star in the first Gulf War, Miller gives the impression of great seriousness. He's a man on a mission.

"God's country isn't going to mean much if Washington, D.C., collapses," Miller says in response to a casual comment from a lower-49er about Alaska, the frontier land this Kansas boy chose to adopt as his home. "The fact of the matter is," Miller asserts, "the federal government, with the way that it's headed, is bringing the whole country down. I honestly believe that if we don't seize this opportunity to change the direction of D.C., that our country is not going to be the land of opportunity that it once was. The competitive nature, even at the individual level, is being depressed. ... Dependency from the federal level is all around us. The tax policies, the regulatory policies are designed to kill American business."

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.