It's a painful thing to watch someone you care about waste away.
When the rest of the Nation is jubilant and dancing in the streets, the Tennessee Democratic Party is mired in depression of their own making. They got their asses handed to them Tuesday. With a very popular sitting governor, Democrats managed to lose control of the state Senate and the State House with a census year looming which will allow Republicans, now that they are in control, to redistrict our state in much the same way Tom Delay did Texas, gerrymandering the Democratic Party into a deep hole. In the entire nation, only Tennessee went backwards on Tuesday in such an impressive manner. The reasons are simple and obvious, but I don't see any signs that awareness has yet struck the TNDP.
Successful for so long, the Tennessee Democratic Party catered to its big donors and blew off the actual people in this state. You know...the folks they are supposed to be fighting for. The, um, voters. You know locals were ready and willing to work their asses off, but the only message they got was "send us some money".
Ask yourself what the TN Dem message was in this last election? They ran away from the central theme of the Obama campaign which was simply, "George W. Bush and all the Republicans that helped him screw up this Nation are bad for us and it is now up to Democrats to fix it." With the national campaign calling for everyone's help to fix healthcare, fix the economy, rescue the environment, and deal with the devastating Iraq War, what we heard at the local level was, "I'm against Gay Marriage"...Pitiful!
Now, in the aftermath, Democratic officials are blaming everything and everyone except their own inability to craft a message and effectively execute. In my own state senate district, the message from both campaigns was the tired and dessicated, "god, gays, and guns." Both of them were anti-choice, pro-gun, blah, blah, blah. For crying out loud, we had a very competent and energetic woman running on the D side, and all we could do was mimic worn out and disappointing R talking points?
TN Dems have no message...No plan...No game. It's a sort of every man for himself. Worse, they have no effective local organizations in most of the state. Why is that? Everybody else in the whole freakin' country has furiously built local organizations but not in Tennessee, where the mission seemed to be preserve the hierarchy...good old boys first. The moral of the Rosalind Kurita story, a State Democratic Senator who voted against the incumbent senate leader giving the chair to Republicans, was completely lost on state Dems. When a Democratic Senator sees the Republicans as the lesser of two evils, do you think it might be time to look in the mirror for some self assessment? Nope...they simply ran Kurita out of the party. All for trying to preserve the good old boys who lost anyway.
In the absence of a functioning local Democratic party, progressives have turned to their own hands and minds to do something about it. MoveOn.org has been vilified by Republicans and even dissed by Democrats who felt threatened by an effective movement rising up from the voters when their national party was failing them, but it is a far more effective local organizing tool than anything the local Dems have at the moment.
Howard Dean was widely ridiculed for his 50 State Strategy, but he plowed the ground and enabled several strong grassroots organizations to start the rebuilding process in a ton of red states. In Jesse Helms' North Carolina, incumbent Senator Elizabeth Dole was tossed out by a Democratic Woman and Barack Obama won the state's electoral votes. North Carolina, People! This was done by local people and organizations working with an effective national campaign that "get's it".
What about Tennessee? My local state senator went public demanding that Democratic Governor Bredesen not meet with the head of the Democratic National Committee (Howard /dean) who was offering expertise in building localized effectiveness. Later Senator Kilby went public against having Barack Obama visit East Tennessee. Well...his senate seat has now been handed to the Republicans, and one of the reasons cited by Republicans is that John McCain made a last minute visit...to East Tennessee. Say what you will about the paucity of the Republican message, it got delivered.
Well it's "morning in America" and TN Dems are just sick about what they let happen. If they continue to wallow in a depressive state, they ain't seen nothing yet...Just wait 'til 2010, when the governor's race is up. There are easy lessons to learn, and ready tools available that have been proven in a state right next door. But it's like the Tennessee Democratic Party is a man starving because he's too depressed to stand up and walk just across the room to a table set with a banquet...
And blaming everybody but himself.
Other Views of the nuts and bolts required for salvation.