Patronage and Privilege

Today I want to discuss two elements of society that are eating us away at the core; Patronage and Privelege.

By “Patronage” I mean “the power to control appointments to office or the right to privileges”. By “Privilege” I mean “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.”

In the US we have seen, quite recently, the manner in which these two intertwined cancers have divided us as a nation, multiplied our suffering, subtracted from our opportunity, and added a great deal of distrust in the institutions that make up our great nation.

Perhaps the most universal example is that of the former Administration. Using it’s power, largely unchecked by the other two branches, it allowed institutions to profit at the peril of the American people, riding a tide of unregulated bets that companies and individuals would fail, and somehow believing that said bets would in no way damage their long-term viability or the viability of the economy upon which their ultimate success depended. These and a whole host of other actions have led us down a path of economic and social destruction, not only in America, but in the global economy, that will take years for us to fully recover from.

In 2006 and 2008 We saw the beginning of an uprising. Republicans lost seats at a rate that dwarfed the 1994 “Contract on America” revolution they are so proud of. This was borne of a strengthening DNC and a populace that was sick of being screwed. The comedian Chris Rock joked after the 2008 election, “George Bush has messed everything up so bad a white man can’t even get elected President.” Perhaps not his exact words, but you get the idea.

What we have seen over the past two cycles nationally is the definition of an uprising. An electorate, whose needs have been sorely ignored, rose up to remove the elements of stagnation that have been hampering their ability to secure, or maintain, their collective definition of the American Dream.

But these things aren’t new. These cycles of unbridled selfishness have taken down empires, and humbled even the most self-assured individuals throughout human history. Sometimes the result is like the current economic crisis where the guilty fall on the sword of their arrogance. Sometimes, is the beginning of a new idea.

Once upon a time, there was a young upstart politician who challenged an unretired former Governor, and the current millionaire Governor. While the current and former Governors of this state fought with each other over whom had installed this young upstart, said upstart embarked on the most media savvy campaign in state history at the time, and ultimately defeated them both. Change Governor to Senator, and you would think I was talking about the current President, but I’m actually talking about Dale Bumpers.

Bumpers moved beyond the conventional wisdom and beat Orval Faubus in the primary, and Winthrop Rockafeller in the general because he saw a new way, a new technology, and rejected the politics of the past by igniting a populace once again with ideas. Bumpers turned out to be one of the most respected Senators from any southern state in his time, which was too short.

The birth of ideas and the recognition of injustice are the things that fuel and fire the uprising. They are also the very things that strike fear in the hearts of those who benefit from patronage and privilege.

Here in Tennessee, we are seeing the beginning of an uprising of our own. A resurgent TNGOP has gained a majority in the state legislature, however tenuous over the past several cycles. This surge in seats has no relation to the uprising. This has more to do with an incongruous state Democratic Party than any great organizing feature that the TNGOP has come up with.

For instance, the Senate would not have fallen to the Republicans in the last session had Kurita not voted for Ramsey. Understand, Kurita deserved what she eventually got, but her frustration with the entrenched elements of the party should be noted. A strong state Democratic Party would have never allowed something like this to happen. A strong state Democratic Party would have helped make opportunities for Kurita. In the absence of opportunity, she made her own.

On the flip side, the TNGOP’s arrogance that a one seat advantage would somehow wipe away any hurt feelings of a twice primaried Sophomore Representative, and their ultimate lack of creativity, led to the dashing of hopes to a man who would be, but never was Speaker. Williams will eventually suffer the same fate as Kurita.

The culprit in both cases, a long held sense on the part of individuals in both parties that Patronage and Privilege somehow in some way protected them from the unwashed masses that ultimately hold the key to their success.

The uprising isn’t party specific, it’s specifically a reaction to the privilege and patronage that follows an organization that has lost its way. Tennessee has the pleasure of being served by two such organizations, both political parties.

How this plays out depends on how the “Just Us” club reacts to the influx of the uprising. Right now they’re whining like a bunch of babies.

The people of Tennessee are tired of the crap and ready for action. It’s time for a new day in Tennessee. The people of Tennessee are ready for the kind of leadership that has ideas and will fight the injustice that is sustained by those who seek a leg up thanks to the benefits of status or class.

I’m sorry that your era of patronage may be over in the TNDP. I say may, because I don’t know for sure if it is, but you sure seem to. I suggest you heed the words of Ice Cube Check yourself before you wreck yourself. All this hollerin’ won’t be good for business…but I guess you’ve realized that you’re losing your patronage…and the privilege that has come with it. No wonder you’re so scared.

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