Bredesen’s Bone to Pick

Apparently, there was some action on the race for the TNDP while I was in a full-scale internet blackout late last week.

Over at Post Politics, we saw our Governor exhibit his traditional “no position taken” position in endorsing Charles Robert Bone. Another post, quoting a Democratic insider with a very lively comments thread, and a litany of other posts about and around the subject.

At this point, I’m not ready to come out swinging for anyone. Forrester is saying the right things, but without a solid action plan, I’m still not sold. Mr. Bone, on the other hand, sufferers from the support of our Governor, whose Democratic credentials become more questionable every time he opens his mouth. Further, Mr. Bone hasn’t released ANYTHING to my knowledge detailing anything he intends to do at the TNDP, so that isn’t very reassuring.

One comment from this post really stands out in my mind

Frankly, I don’t think any of you people have a clue. Campaigns and caucuses run elections, not freaking parties. I have friends that are Democratic political operatives in North Carolina. They told me that the campaigns in that state are completely separate from the state party because the state party is run by a bunch of worthless crazies.

First, the commenter is generally correct, state parties cannot “work” every campaign. It’s just impossible. The state party can help tie campaigns together, or provide an overarching framework for campaigns to piggy back on. Secondly, I’m not sure what he means by “crazies”, but if “crazies” means minimizing your role to somehow create success, well, that sounds like crazy to me. Has the TNDP been run by crazies all this time? Maybe. And didn’t North Carolina get a new Democratic Senator and go for Obama? Well maybe a state party being run by crazies isn’t so bad after all!

I don’t think anyone is calling for the TNDP to work like the Politburo, expelling, or otherwise disciplining those who veer from its vision. I do think most Tennessee Democrats would like a party that seems outwardly engaged, something that was not evident in the last election cycle. Selecting an insider for the chair of the TNDP would seem to be a contrary position to that circumstance.

The reality is that no one will get the chair of the TNDP without being an insider. Insiders run politics at all levels. Even newcomers have to have some inside support to be successful. So the question for the TNDP may be, “What kind of insider do we want?” In order to answer that question, it may be helpful to determine what kind of insider we don’t want.

I don’t want a whiner who spends the bulk of their time blaming the top of the ticket, or tossing around straw men to somehow strengthen their diminishing position, I want a fighter. I don’t want a person that relies solely on their inside ties to run the party, I want someone with a broad vision willing to include people from all walks of life in innovative ways. I don’t want someone who views the role of the TNDP as that of a fiscal parasite, leeching off the national party for existence, I want someone who will make the party strong and sustainable.

Of the two announced candidates, I don’t know if either are the right choice for the party, but I do know that the party is not in a strong enough position to provide the support necessary to bring a Democratic majority back to the state ledge.

Another comment that I thought was interesting came from Nate de Salvo

By the logic you people throw around, Howard Dean and the DNC won the presidency, not Barack Obama. And I guess the RNC and whoever their chairman is lost.

How ignorant is that?

I would submit that the RNC, NRCC, and NRSC DID lose over the past two cycles. They had a President that was relatively popular until he proved himself utterly incompetent to the rest of the nation (most Democrats were painfully aware of this long before) in 2005. The result was losing the majority of the Congress, as well as the White House. That seems like a failure on a party level to me.

I would also argue that, while Howard Dean may not deserve all the credit for the gains that Democrats have made nationally, he does deserve some credit for setting up a system that works to involve as many people as possible in the process. Dean’s 50 state strategy laid the groundwork for Obama’s fundraising and organizing bonanza. I credit Dean for opening our eyes to a new potential that doesn’t deny the effectiveness of old campaign methods, but incorporates new ways of communicating into them.

Ultimately, that’s the same type of role the TNDP should work toward; laying the groundwork for campaigns to be successful.

Finally, I want to talk about our Governor. I don’t blame him for the losses in 2008 any more than I credit him for anything in 2006. He’s the Governor. I understand the impact top of ticket races can have on down ticket contests, but unlike the Governor, I don’t blame the top of the ticket for the problems at the bottom of the ticket. Every race is unique, with unique opportunities and challenges. Still, as the head of state, and the highest elected Democratic politician in the state, he has a leadership role. Being an effective leader requires a lot of skills, accountability is one of them. Blaming the top of the ticket for problems down the ballot is childish. Each contest stands on its own, and the individual campaigns, including the coordinating campaigns of the Democratic Party and Caucus apparatus should be nimble enough to provide support in this challenging year for the state.

Perhaps the top of the ticket created additional challenges for down ballot contests, but we knew who the Democratic Presidential nominee was going to be by state primary day here in Tennessee, and some of the challenges that had to be overcome. That left plenty of time for the individual candidates, and the Democratic leadership to adjust their strategy. Blaming Obama for the losses in the state is like blaming Toyota for the broken car you never maintained. Had the powers that be spent as much time building the party as they have taken credit or passed blame, depending on the situation, the party would be in a position to weather these storms.

Unfortunately, the Governor chose to focus on “sage advise” to the President-elect, like visiting a Waffle House, or Wal-Mart. In doing so, Bredesen “accidentally” reinforced right wing talking points that Obama was somehow an elitist. Now, I’m no strategy guru, but it seems like if someone is calling you an “elitist” the last thing you want is your “friends” saying anything that might reinforce that message, particularly if that “friend” is freelancing a message on a level that’s just way out of this world.

Maybe the Governor should have followed his own advise with State candidates, showing up at Wal-Marts and Waffle Houses in hotly contested areas instead of providing material for Bill Hobbs. Just a thought.

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