So, HB 600 passed the State House last night. So, here’s what we know: Republicans don’t believe cities have the same right to self-govern they think states have. Republicans (and some motherfucker Democrats) believe you should be able to be fired from your job for being gay or transgender. But at least most of the Democrats stood fast.
The Republicans own this. So, they’re going to have to explain to voters why they feel like they can override local decisions and they’re going to have to explain to international businesses why, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, their gay and lesbian and transgender employees would be safe and welcome here. And when they can’t do that, they’re going to have to go back to the voters and explain where the jobs are.
But this vote tells us some important things about the deep problems the Democrats in this state have. I saw all over Twitter last night this bullshit about how rural Democrats had to vote this way. Really? Rural Democrats don’t believe local governments should be able to make their own decisions? But the other thing I realized is that we, as a party, are doing to rural Democrats what Tennessee politicos are doing to rural Tennesseans in general–we let them have their culture war victories because they’re going to lose the economic war.
Rural Tennessee is going to empty out. The manufacturing jobs are gone. The types of farming you have to do to make money now, we don’t have good enough soil to do it and you don’t need many people to do it. And the factory-farming of livestock doesn’t employ as many people as more labor-intensive ways.
We could try to help small farmers take advantage of the locavore movement, but that would require letting go of boundaries like “urban” and “rural” and pretending like the two don’t have anything to do with each other. And I’m not yet seeing a lot of evidence for this catching on widely in state. We have a lot of “local” farms in Kentucky (in fairness, “local” farms are usually considered farms within a 200-mile radius of the urban center they’re feeding). And, even if everyone rural switched to farming, it’s hard to know if it would employ as many people as have been previously employed.
Plus, we’ve just waged war on teachers, which is a steady, family-supporting income for a lot of rural folks. People who used to or would have taught may find moving to town and looking for work where they’re not despised by the people they’re serving might be a better use of their time.
So, rural Tennessee goes conservative and then it goes empty. And we’re still all “Oh, no one call the rural Democrats out on their bullshit behavior!”
But, look again at who voted against this. There are a lot of rural Democrats who did the right thing. And some not-so-rural Democrats who did us wrong.
So, what are we actually talking about when we use the mask “rural Democrats” in this case?
What do the Democrats who voted for HB 600 have in common besides almost, kind of, fitting under the umbrella of “rural”? I’ll give you a hint–they all have wives.
Do I think women would be less likely to be assholes? Frankly, no. I mean, look at Mary Pruitt who couldn’t be bothered to vote on this at all.
But we have so few female Democratic politicians that “rural” has become short-hand for “socially conservative straight guys.” And, under the guise of talking about what “rural Democrats” will tolerate, we’re actually talking openly about what socially conservative straight male politicians are willing–or not willing–to do for constituencies that are different than them.
We use “rural Democrats” as a term to give them cover, but it’s not really about where they live at all. We say “rural Democrat” because if we said “There’s only so much Democrats can get done because there’s a core group of socially conservative straight guys who feel like they’re protecting what they’ve got from everyone else,” we’d have to look the huge gender problem the party has square in the face.
And look at the nice psychological trick it plays on the people getting screwed over. Oh, sure, we’re getting screwed over, but it’s by those dumb, redneck, ignorant hicks. We might be fucked, but we can look down our noses at the dumb fucks hurting us.
But when you look straight at who’s doing the dicking? Socially conservative straight guys? The same motherfuckers that are always in power?
You’re not being asked to understand how the Democrats’ hands are tied sometimes by the hicks. You’re being told to continue to acquiesce to the same damn people we always have to fight each other for second place behind.
Sadly, it’s time we understand that. And when we look around and say “Where are all the women Democratic politicians? There’s not one openly gay politician at the state level? Why don’t we through more resources behind black candidates not from Memphis or Nashville?”, we need to get it through our heads that it’s not just because of voters. It’s because the Party still lets socially conservative straight guys call the shots and then lie to us about who’s doing the shot-calling.
We may not be a state where we’re ever going to get a plurality of the opposite of that. But god damn it, it’s time we start demanding and supporting socially liberal straight guys, or socially conservative gay women, or whatever other mix. Or fuck, at this point, I’d even settle for us ceasing to treat the socially conservative straight guy politicians like they don’t have to play the same game as everyone else, because they’re so special.
Don’t get me wrong. Most Democrats did the right thing last night. But the Democrats who did the wrong thing tell us a lot about the shape of our problems as a party.