“But We Have to Be This Way in Order to Win”

I’ve been thinking more and more about this idea that a.) Obama lost Tennessee because Tennesseans are unrepentant racists (Though, let us note that at least the “Obama lost Tennessee because Tennesseans are unrepentant racist” argument at least gets us beyond the TNDP v. the Governor and his buddies fight which is “Obama lost Tennessee because Jennifer Buck Wallace ran such a shitty campaign for him here” v. “Obama lost Tennessee because the Governor condescendingly told him to get to Walmart and to not bother to come here.” Which, thought it sucks because it blames the voters, at least is an outward motion better than the circle-jerk that is the Democratic in-fighting.) and b.) some Tennessee Democrats have to act like Republicans or they can’t get voted into office because their constituency is so conservative.

Both of these ideas carry an overlapping theme–that Tennesseans are white and conservative.  That the Tennesseans that matter, anyway, are white and conservative.  The ones that count, the ones whose votes you court.

That, right there, is an attitude we’ve got to let go of, as Democrats.

Winning in politics is never about what most of your constituents are like–it’s about who can motivate the most voters to the polls.  It might be nice if it were different, but that’s the truth.  Can you get more people to the polls that your opponent?

Sure, you can continue to go after the “real Tennesseans,” but when you’re only thinking of “real Tennesseans” as white and conservative, you’re going after the exact same demographic that the Republicans in this state are genius at reaching already.

8 thoughts on ““But We Have to Be This Way in Order to Win”

  1. There’s that.

    And doesn’t it seem lately that the wedge strategy has been to drive even the most motivated, most interested, most energetic, most reform-minded folks out of the process?

    And, at times, you can’t blame them for giving up.

    (“Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.” –M. Stipe)

    I grow exceedingly tired of hearing that not only am I wrong for voicing my opinions (as if being pro-choice and pro-universal insurance makes me “fringe”), but that somehow I, and people of like mind, am responsible for the loss of heart-and-mindshare. That somehow that holding and expressing your liberal beliefs is a stab in the back (or, in elitst historical coinage, dolchstoß) to the oh-so-well-meaning elected Democrats who consistently betray those interests with their votes and policies.

    Hm. Who’s stabbing whom?

  2. Well put, folks.

    I think that many in the so-called ‘intelligentsia’ amongst TN Democrats don’t get the really obvious effect of all this right-wing pandering: the fact that folks who *are* ideologically the most likely to support Democrats get tired of eating anti-choice, anti-gay, pro-gun, anti-civil-rights, pro-death penalty positions and legislation from their “Democratic” representatives for breakfast.

    You simply can’t have things both ways. You put forward nothing but Republican ideals, and you’re ultimately going to lose your base. Which is what’s happened now…it surprised me that anyone was actually shocked when Forrester hired a real, live Republican earlier this year. What did they think was going to happen? Frankly, I don’t think Bredesen is the worst governor ever to walk the halls of the Capitol, but calling him a Democrat is kind of a stretch at times given that he’s propped up Republicans in the press, appeared at political photo ops with them, and taken home bundles of cash from them in bushel baskets.

    On this last point – at some point folks are going to take marching orders from those who pay their bills. Obviously we can’t regulate who gives money, but I’d like to see some spotlights shone on just who *is* donating this money and what their interests are.

  3. If you haven’t already seen Nate Silver’s presentation at TED, you need to. He shows in graphic detail how racial segregation drives divisions, and how many Tennesseans and other southerners voted along racial lines. Part of the problem, it seems to me, is that the Obama campaign really failed in fundamental ways to reach out beyond the Knoxville/Nashville/Memphis/Chattanooga strongholds. But the other part of the problem (often ignored because we all focused so much on Obama) is that Bredesen didn’t do nearly enough work to mobilize the grassroots in Tennessee and to use his obvious popularity in the state to help down-ticket races. Bredesen’s weakness in “coattails” is a fundamental difference between himself and someone like Lamar Alexander or Howard Baker.

  4. Both of these ideas carry an overlapping theme–that Tennesseans are white and conservative.

    Oh, that reminds me of the discussion that was going on just as I left on vacation, about Rep. Watson talking about Hipaniels or españoles or whatever it was. And how he couldn’t stand for the state of TN to regret slavery because “Both sides – Caucasian, Españols, African-American” had owned slaves — as if all those folks weren’t Tennesseans, somehow. That only the “Caucasians” were included (and thereby indicted) if the whole state issued an apology. And I didn’t have time to comment at the time, but WTF?

  5. Y’all appear to forget that many Tennesseans (who are NOT racist) preferred Hillary over Barack (look at her 14 point win over him in the Feb. 2008 primary) and when the DNC R&B committee shot themselves in the foot by stealing votes from Hillary and giving them to Barack, along with Barack’s “purchase” of those SuperDelegate votes plus the shenanigans that took place in Denver, a lot of working class Tennessee women and men just stayed home in November. Jennifer Buck Wallace and her volunteers had nothing to do with that. They worked as hard as they could with what they were left with, i.e. a huge chunk of the base disengaged and a Governor and half the elected Congressmen and many of the state reps & senators and even county chairs who were AWOL, not to mention TNDP’s waste of almost $300K to void a state senate primary election paid for by the taxpayers…it was all a ‘perfect storm.’

    If ‘we only had a brain’, i.e., real leadership, TNDP could come back. With an Exec. Comm. who refuses to lead and many old foggies standing in the doorway keeping new blood from entering…it may take some real seismic shift like losing in 2010 and the resultant re-districting to ever turn this around.

  6. Please don’t even start up with that bullshit about Florida and Michigan. If that’s what kept you home in November, fine, but don’t even pretend like that’s got anything to do with why Tennessee didn’t turn out for Obama.

  7. it’s about who can motivate the most voters to the polls. It might be nice if it were different, but that’s the truth.

    Kind of the truth, but sometimes I think plenty of folks go to the polls in spite of the fact no candidate motivates them. Many habitually do it and vote for the one they hate the least.

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