Standing Down…For Now #TNDP

Yesterday I published a letter to the House and Senate Democratic Caucuses asking them to reconsider their push to alter the makeup of the Executive Committee of the Tennessee Democratic Party.

I got several emails and calls from Executive Committee members and Democratic legislators. We all affirmed that we want our party to be as strong as it can be, and that we have to work harder and smarter to make that happen.

The list of people I communicated with was hardly exhaustive, even though I included my contact information in my email to all of them. Still, it was nice to hear from folks, get their perspective, and share mine.

Everyone I spoke to acknowledged that we have to do things differently. What that different entails is the devil in the details.

Last night I got word that the bill has been taken off notice. It will not be pursued this calendar year.

I didn’t have anything to do with this. My words, and advocacy, eloquent or not didn’t have an impact. This bill was taken off notice before I published what I wrote.

This may be seen by some as a victory for the Executive Committee. Truth be told, its a stay of execution at best. It should be treated as such.

Reality Bites

The legislature has the power to make a unilateral change to the structure of the Executive Committee if it so chooses as set forth in Tennessee law:

Title 2 Elections
Chapter 13 Political Parties and Primaries
Part 1 Political Party Organization

Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-13-103 (2012)

2-13-103. State executive committee — Election — Composition — Terms.

(a) Members of the state executive committee for each party are elected at the regular August primary election immediately before the election of the governor.

(b) In each party’s primary its voters in each senatorial district shall elect one (1) man and one (1) woman as members of the state executive committee for terms of four (4) years beginning on September 15 following their election.

(c) Persons elected shall qualify by taking the oath of office and filing it with the coordinator of elections.

HISTORY: Acts 1972, ch. 740, § 1; T.C.A., § 2-1304.

Folks need to keep this in mind before they celebrate any victory. This isn’t over. I can guarantee it.

Moving Forward

There are those, both inside and around the party, that prefer to have the dirty laundry of the party dealt with in private.

I’m not one of those.

I believe that talking about things openly and honestly is the only way we can make a real future.

I believe we need to understand the expectations and responsibilities of both groups…and the challenges we face….to adequately assess the issues we face. And based on a quick accounting of the facts, we face a heavy uphill climb.

That’s the only way we can gain ground. Think of it as a 12 step program with two steps. Recognize…Do.

We’ve Never Had a Strong Party

Most people don’t vote for a party. They vote for individuals.

While Democrats enjoyed 140 years of success, that success wasn’t necessarily the result of a strong party…but strong people and tradition.

We’ve been blessed with strong leaders. Leaders that understood leaders aren’t born, but built.

Over time, and through the changes of that time, we forgot that. We stopped building leaders and doubled down on back-benchers (both in the Legislature and the Executive Committee). In the process, we lost sight of the fundamentals that leadership requires.

That’s why we are where we are. We stopped building. It will take strong leadership with a real long-term plan to reverse course.

Most of all, it will take a commitment to the fundamentals of running a party from all the stakeholders. It will require doing things differently. It will require trust.

None of those things happen overnight.

Harsh Reality

The harsh reality is we’ve had a rift in the party for some time. That rift has only grown over the past few years…borne of losses, expectations, and unfulfilled promises…some real and some imagined.

The harsh reality is we can’t do things the way we have done them. The world has changed, and we’ve let it leave us behind to a large degree. This is only further complicated by the reality that the only seats we hold in the state legislature and Congress, are the ones we were allowed to keep…for the most part.

The harsh reality is there is little faith in the current administration of the party. That may or may not be fair. I can’t make a judgement. What I can say is the party has now, and has always had three distinct constituencies: The Executive Committee, the elected officials, and rank and file Democrats. All would do well to recognize that reality, include people, and grow.

Those three groups would also do well to serve as checks and balances for each other. The voters reign supreme in this equation, if they choose to. The losses we’ve experienced are due in large part to a lack of recognition on that front.

We also have to make our case to voters. Legislators have, for a very long time had an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude. That may work in liberal Midtown Memphis, or Whitehaven…which is 97% Democratic, but it doesn’t work in most other places. That’s why we only have the seats we were left with.

We should be thankful for those seats. They could have been taken from us in Redistricting with some more creative line drawing.

I was able to do it, with very little effort.

Harsh Reality Part 2

It took 30 years of rhetoric and junk policy at the Federal level to turn Tennessee red. People like to point to the Income tax debate…or the candidacy of a black Presidential candidate.

That’s all crap. “Fend for yourself Federalism” is more to blame than anything else. And we have Democrats that are still for that. This is part of the problem.

Harold Ford Jr. is black, and he carried 48.6% of the state.

The Income Tax is a non-issue. The voters have spoken.

The truth is the electorate was tired of getting their asses kicked for working harder. They’re frustrated that their circumstances, despite their work, aren’t working out. They’re sick of people gaming the system and getting away with it while they suffer.

And if this guy, who’s supposed to be on their side isn’t getting it done, maybe he’s not on their side.

It is that simple.

From 2002 to 2007 we had a “jobless recovery” followed by a massive recession. The unemployment rate in 2002 was 5.3%. It peaked in 2009 at 10.5%. Now it stands at 7.7%.

Voters are frustrated at the lack of a real response, so they voted another way…or didn’t vote…and we lost as a result.

The lesson: When people are doing better, or believe they have a chance, we do better. When we authentically care about the lives of our brethren, and show that care in our humanity, we win.

Somehow, somewhere, we forgot that.

We need to remember that regular folks who work every day and don’t get what they deserve for their work are our key constituency. Not folks at cocktail parties or hanging with big wigs at Morton’s.

There is Hope

There is hope, but it requires work.

Real work, and a workable plan that is supported by all those interested.

Real work from everyone throughout the chain.

That real work and real plan has to be supported with real investment. Looking at the most recent disclosure tells me there’s not much investment going on. Of course, people don’t invest in vaporware.

As for the plan…that’s not up to me. But I know what’s real and what’s bullshit.

So does everyone that’s got a brain in their head.

The question we need to ask ourselves is how hard and smart are we willing to work to win?

The old way isn’t working. The new way has been dismissed as a fad without even being tried.

Are we willing to change the way we do business to win? Or are we ready to concede now, before the first shot is fired?

I don’t know how to concede.

That’s all the hope you’ll get from me…resolve.

I hope to God you’ve got that same resolve…but if you don’t, don’t expect me to wait for you to find it. I don’t have time to wait. Neither does the party.

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