Republicans so far: Mayor Bill Haslam, US Rep. Zach Wamp, Former Senator Bill Frist, Former State Senator Jim Bryson, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, US Rep. Marsha Blackburn, and who else?
Democrats so far: US Rep. Lincoln Davis, Former US Rep Harold Ford Jr, Former House Majority Leader Kim McMillan, and who else?
I know the old Will Rodgers line, "I belong to no organized political party...I'm a Democrat," but this is ridiculous.
I am an almost total fan of current TN Governor Phil Bredesen. He's done a good job of running our state in lousy circumstances under the worst Federal government in ages, and with a national economy that looks more and more like it did in the robber baron era eliminated the middle class in this country. He's made the tough calls and pissed me off with some of them.
Folks got mad at his Tenncare reforms but I never saw anybody offer an alternative plan that could remain solvent. I did get mad, and I'm still mad and will stay mad until it is corrected, at the confiscation of the Real Estate transfer fees that all of us pay when we buy property.
This fee was enacted to purchase parks and green space land for Tennessee, and could have easily purchased the cream of the Bowater and Huber lands that have now gone to developers and turned them into public lands for everyone to use. Instead our fees were confiscated and used to preserve tax loopholes for corporations. This was a crappy thing to do, and Tennessee won't be better off in twenty years because of it. This is the number one thing I will work to change in the next budget cycle. We did get a lot of land bought and added to Frozen Head and Bredesen did correct the enormous misapplication of state funds that created the Sundquist forests but gave away the timber and mineral rights. Bredesen also promised to prevent mountaintop removal coal mining for the rest of his term. Good, but not good enough. We need a future in this state, one that sees farther out then two years.
So, Bredesen has done a decent job of running a lousy state government. He inherited the lousy state government, so I don't fault him for that. What I do fault the Governor in part, and the Tennessee Democratic Party as a whole, is for doing so little to change this state's lousy state government.
Where's the vision? Where's the plan for the future? What do we want this state to look like in five, ten, or twenty years? What path do we take to get there? What is the first step?
I think the first thing you do is decide what you want your state to look like in 20 years and then you plot the path to get there.
As things stand right now, we are headed toward one giant tacky suburban sprawl, punctuated with decaying industrial elephant carcasses. Our current method of attracting businesses, tax breaks and an under educated labor pool, cannot be sustained. Tax breaks to industries can't continue to be funded on the backs of the middle class if there is no middle class. We fund higher education with gambling proceeds and lower education with taxes on homes in 2008 that have already declined to 2005 values. It is the goal of every Republican, by the way, to get rich enough to pull their children out of public schools, place them in expensive private schools, and get a tax break for doing it... Yeah, THAT works in the long run.
So we know we don't like where we are, but we haven't talked much about where we want to be. Once we know that we can decide how to get there. So here's step one: Let's concentrate on making Tennessee a nice place to live and raise a family. That makes good schools the number one issue. We need intelligent decisions from intelligent people on our school boards and we need our County law makers to back them, instead of second guessing them and cutting school funds at every turn. In my own Tennessee County we have a nice new jail going up, tax breaks for our new industrial park in which parcels have been sold off under market value to speculators, and of the couple of hundred workers presently employed Roane County's industrial park, somewhere around twenty are from Roane County. That was smart.
This pattern is repeated all over our state. decisions are made AFTER problems escalate to the point they can no longer be ignored. That has to change. We need a vision, and we need a plan. We also need an organization that is competent to win public support for the vision and to get the legislation passed that gives this whole state a future. This is where politics comes into the picture.
A true vision does not involve just making sure that my friends get rich, or that the world is made safer for corporations. The vision of almost every corporate entity is to make money in the current financial quarter and make more money in the next one. Human beings don't fit into that picture, except for a very few of them at the top of the food chain, and if the end of the world is twenty years out, it is highly unlikely to figure into any decision ever made at a corporate meeting. Corporations fit the description of the antichrist as well as any monster ever conceived. The political party that primarily serves corporations and rich people is the Republican Party, which has killer marketing but no vision...or certainly not one that would involve making the word a better place to live twenty years down the road.
So we are left with the Democratic Party as our only hope, and this is where Bredesen comes in. The one Democrat that has the political power to create an organization that could enact a vision for our future is Phil Bredesen. In the two years he has left, I love to see him put together a political party that builds from the street level, from the country road level, an organization and a vision that will make Tennessee the place where we will want to raise our children five, ten, or twenty years from now. Tennessee must become a Blue state for that to happen and I don't see it on the ground right now. We aren't doing what has to be done.
Other states are doing it. The greatness of Howard Dean and Democracy for America is the 50 State strategy. Progressives all over this country are hungry for candidates they can support and organizations they can work within toward a shared vision built, not on fear and greed, but on Public education, Public parks, affordable healthcare, security, and the ideal of wanting a good life for your neighbors...A good life for those that work in the factory, not just a good life for those who own the factory. We want a rational approach to building or rebuilding an America that is decent.
At the start of this rant I posted a list of some of the names of possible candidates for Tennessee's next Governor. As a state, we need a shared vision and a leader who will pound it into us and make it happend. Phil Bredesen has set the table, but hasn't so far built the organization capable of delivering an admirable future. He's run the ball out of the end zone and into positive territory without a whole lot of blocking from his team, and that has to change. Is there a name on that list that can pick up the ball and make the next first down?