Re-evaluating Through the Transition

Two months ago I wrote about the changes that have been going on in my life this year. Needless to say, it’s been interesting so far, and signs point to more interesting developments over the coming months. My recent absence from this blog and the twitter are partially the result of a wacky work schedule and a concerted effort to start down the path of many of the changes I talked about in that August post.

Aside from working my ass off, I’ve also been preparing to sell my house. This is by necessity more than anything else. While my original plan was to continue working and traveling through my first part-time semester back in college, the outlook on the work front isn’t that promising, so I’ve been looking at other avenues.

This is how life goes, and while it’s frustrating and challenging, I feel very hopeful and positive about what has happened so far, and what will inevitably be coming down the pike.

Through all of this, I’ve had little time to devote to the reading necessary to write. Longtime readers of this blog know that while I write a lot of opinion pieces, I usually make a concerted effort to source my material with as many supporting links as possible. I feel this is necessary because opinions ARE like assholes, everyone has one, but opinions pieces backed up by sources don’t necessarily suffer the problems that plague the typical opinionated blog post. This may sound a little arrogant, but I like to back up my opinions because I feel it not only makes them stronger to you the reader, but it also allows me the time to better formulate and hopefully strengthen my argument.

The downside of this is that it takes a REALLY LONG TIME to write…well, anything. Between work and work on my house, I really haven’t had the time. To be honest, even though the work I’ve been doing on the house has largely been of the manual labor sort, there’s a lot of thought that goes into the process, as well as a lot of Advil. I hope that I can get back to writing at the beginning of November, but I’m not making any promises.

In the course of all of this, I’ve also been re-evaluating just what I want this blog to be. For me Vibinc has been about advocacy, policy and politics from a decidedly liberal perspective. I don’t see that changing anytime soon, though I am looking at ways to better focus my attentions and perspectives to things that effect not only the way we live here in Memphis and Tennessee, but also the way we perceive the political environment in our community. I’m not really sure how this will manifest itself, or where it will take me, but I think it’s an interesting path to pursue.

Even though I’m re-evaluating the blog, that doesn’t mean I don’t have some things to say about the election Thursday. I know I promised some people, including @ MphsBlckPolitcs to write about it in the run-up to the election, but for the reasons listed above I never quite made it past the incubation stage. So, consider this a Post-Mortem of the election if you will…

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If you didn’t see the complete and total landslide that was Thursday’s election coming, then you aren’t really paying that much attention to local politics. Back at the beginning of the campaign I said that someone (presumably Wharton) could win with only 30% of the vote considering the large field. Under normal circumstances this could have been the case, but the abbreviated nature of the campaign and the strength exhibited by the Wharton camp made that circumstance highly unlikely.

As Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery said election night, AC Wharton has been running since the 2007 Mayoral election, had more money than anyone, and a better organization. This is neither “interesting” nor “odd” nor any other descriptor that would cast doubt on the election results. AC’s campaign organization was ready, and no one else’s was. As a result, EVERYONE that got into the race after the retirement announcement of Mayor Herenton was stuck in a situation that made winning a virtually impossible task.

There were some surprises…

Myron Lowery’s strong showing, despite a late start and a small war chest showed that, given more time, he could have made a run at Wharton. I like much of what Lowery has done so far and hope that Wharton will take note of some of the changes that have taken place at City Hall over the past two months and maintain them through his administration. On the flip side, I’m glad that Lowery will be returning to the City Council. For all his faults, Lowery can be a calming voice on a body that can be quite contentious from time to time.

Carol Chumney’s third place finish should be a wake-up call for the former City Council member and State Legislator. Any rumors of her exit from future runs are not only premature, but also ignore her resolve. Carol wants to be a part of making Memphis better. Through her work in the state legislature and City Council this should be more than evident. However, Chumney suffers from a multi-faceted public perception problem. Part of this comes from what I called her ”cold and combative” posture at the first Mayoral debate. While Chumney did herself no favors in this first performance, media accounts, including my analysis of the first debate, perpetuated many of the long-held stereotypes of women seeking positions of power in the political realm.

As Mary Cashiola reported in the Memphis Flyer, “Women are twice as likely to be described emotionally in the media,” according to Erika Falk, author of Women for President: Media Bias in Eight Campaigns.

Folks, this has to stop. We need women and men of all races and socio-economic backgrounds to engage in the political process. The manner in which women, particularly strong, passionate women, are covered in the media is shameful, dismissive and downright ugly. As consumers of media, we deserve better. As candidates, women deserve to be treated with the same level of respect as their male counterparts. Snippets like this are simply dismissive and disrespectful. Not only is the quote used in the piece not bitter, it is a relevant critique of her political opponent that should have been researched rather than used as a blunt object to further a stereotype.

All that said, Chumney did commit some serious tactical errors that likely led to her weak showing at the polls. First and foremost, the early lack of any clear messaging from her campaign, despite a run less than two years before, allowed her opponents to get a jump on her in an area where she could have shown early strength. Considering her strong showing in the 2007 race, the meme of the campaign should have been “Chumney vs. Wharton”. By allowing so much time to pass before any clear message emerged, Chumney ceded a great deal of ground to Wharton early, and Lowery late. Campaigns are about momentum, and unfortunately for the Chumney campaign, this early lack of momentum made the difficult task of overcoming a well-funded candidate even more difficult.

Charles Carpenter was the fourth place finisher, and while he only received 5% of the vote, there is little doubt that he will use this as a springboard for a future run. Carpenter brought some interesting ideas to the campaign, and even though I disagree with him on many of his campaign positions, I hope he continues to engage in local politics. We need all kinds of voices in the mix, even ones I disagree with.

While the rest of the field accounted for less than 7.5% of the total vote, their impact on the race shouldn’t be ignored, particularly from Lawler and Whalum. Both had potent messaging operations, though Whalum seemed to show more late momentum than Lawler. In the end, all the messaging in the world can’t overcome a strong, well run, and well-funded campaign.

Running for any office requires a level of intentional preparation that cannot be thrown together in three months. With the next Mayoral election just two years away, anyone considering a run should start making preparations now. Memphis is best served by a strong and diverse field of candidates competing to lead us forward, not the dominant dynasties of the far and recent past. It is through this competition of ideas that we can grow as a community. Without competition, comes stagnation like what we saw in the final years of the Herenton Administration. Regardless of the intentions of any elected official, it is critical that we foster this kind of competition going forward, lest we fall back into the patterns of the past, and allow the future to slip by us.

2 thoughts

  1. Steve,

    I hope you continue to be involved in Memphis. Memphis is on life support when it comes to politics and politicians. I believe progress will come for Memphis and my neck of the woods ONE DAY. New blood and ideas is desperately needed in Shelby County. I am not a native and I can remember the looks I received when I start going to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen meetings. The looks were worst when I start challenging some of the decisions and effective in stopping some things that were not in the best interest of the community.

    Memphis is your home just like Millington is my home. I am the first to say Millington is a diamond in the rough and it is time for Shelby County to stop treating Millington like a red headed step child. It is not there yet, but Millington is trying to progress forward.

    We may not be native Memphians or Millington’s, but we damn sure have every right to be involved when decisions from the Mayor’s office have an impact on our lives. Keep doing what you do. Finally, I was appalled by Joe Brown’s outburst and it was an embarrassment.

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