The more I learn about state politics, especially among the state Democrats, the more I realize that I don’t know anything about state politics when it comes to the Democrats.
I do want to reiterate, though, that it seems like there’s this understanding of the situation that pits the folks who think that the Democrats in power now are part of the problem versus the people who think that you can’t move forward without the Democrats in power, and that this understanding is wrong. That’s not a “versus” situation.
It is true that elected officials have their share of the blame for the current situation. Need I point out every drunken lobbeyist indictment scandal embarrassment? If you cannot get through your heads that most people who are not cued into the ins and outs of politics in this state see the Democrats as corrupt, then we are going to continue to have problems. And we will continue to alienate voters who want to believe that they’re voting for “good” people.
Need I point out that our governor encouraged Obama to stay away and told Obama he should visit Wal-mart? I’m sorry but I still cringe every time I think about it–one rich man trying to tell another rich man how to keep it real? Yuck. And with that, we’re alienating voters who want Tennessee to have a presense on the national stage other than as the butt of the nation’s jokes about stupid Southerners.
We cannot win by being Repubicans-lite, because voters who want Republicans in office will just vote for Republicans.
On the flip side of that, though, we cannot alienate the party leadership as if they are all a bunch of corrupt jackasses or condescending fools. There are good people doing good work and they should be looked to as the core and the voice of the party.
But part of that means that being a Democrat needs to mean something. It means, or should mean, that you don’t hire a guy who gives substantial money to Republicans to raise money for Democrats.
Can the TNDP be salvaged? I don’t know. If I had to give advice right now, I would give two pieces of advice.
1. Unless you have on staff the liberal equivalent of Bill Hobbs, someone who enjoys slinging mud and doesn’t mind getting dirty and who can be Regent of the Press Release (which means a press release every day or twice a day sometimes, not once a week or month or whatever), then stop trying to take on Republicans the same way Republicans take on Democrats. Until the TNDP gets its shit together, stop sending me press releases with any “-nounce” words in it except “announce.” You should not be denouncing, renouncing, pronouncing anything at all until you have your own house in order and your vision for what the state of Tennessee could be under Democratic leadership. Stop wasting your time addressing your critics until you have something substanative to offer instead.
“You suck,” “Yeah, well you suck, too” does nothing. “You suck,” “This month the Tennessee State Democrats did such and such” is the better response.
If you have to engage your opposition, do it from the perspective of finding them slightly ridiculous.
2. Decide what it means to be a Democrat. And in a way that is different and, hopefully, better than being a Republican. And then stand for it. Every day, all the time, even when it’s unpopular.
3. Run someone in every race.
4. Someone needs to stand up and lead. We have a party of people who want to sit around and say “I told you that wasn’t going to work.” But who are the people who are actually trying things and having success? Put those people in charge.
5. Women, children, gay people, single parents, people who have lost their jobs, people who have jobs but can’t support their families, students, poor people, rural folks, people who are sick or poisoned because of the actions of large companies they have no power against, etc.–we need a strong Democratic party. We are your constituents and we are the people who should be voting for you. When you look in the mirror and ask yourself, “What am I doing to help my constituents be able to make their own ways in the world?” what is the answer? Are you hording power for yourself and your buddies or are you doing what you can to empower the people of Tennessee?