Post Politics: Democrats' lost cause worth fighting

Sunday, March 7, 2010 at 11:45pm
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State Sen. Jim Kyle

The next governor of Tennessee is in all likelihood going to be a Republican. You know this, I know this and state Sen. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, knows this.

“It is clear to me that while our campaign had the assets to be competitive in the primary, the legislative fundraising restriction, the economy and my duties as Senate leader have severely hampered my ability to generate resources which would have been vital to our success in the general election.”

Those were Kyle’s words as he gracefully bowed out of the race for Tennessee governor just over six months into the race.

Doubtlessly a months-long blackout can hurt the campaign coffers, and carrying Gov. Phil Bredesen’s legislative portfolio is no small task. But Kyle knew these things going in.

What changed?

Back in July, U.S. Reps. John Tanner and Bart Gordon were still running for re-election, and President Obama’s favorability was in the in the 60s nationally. Now, according to a new Middle Tennessee State University poll, a slight majority of Tennesseans disapprove of the job Obama is doing. That jumps to 61 percent among independents.

If the economy came around, and the Republican three-way primary tore the party apart, maybe there was a chance, one could rationalize, that a strong progressive populist candidate for governor could do a little damage. It doesn’t look that way presently.

Just writing off the governor’s race would be tempting for the Democrats. With the state’s politics — and the nation’s, to some extent — going in the same conservative direction, the urge to bunker down and try to save what is salvageable has to be strong.

Some may even counsel Democrats to surrender to the reality and vote for the GOP’s Bill Haslam in the primary to reinforce the comparatively conciliatory Baker faction and prevent a more radical nominee like Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey or U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp.

The beauty of the Tennessee system is that citizens can vote in primaries irrespective of their own party affiliaton. Defeatism, on the other hand, bothers me.

There are many things to be won and lost in a campaign besides the election. The Tennessee Democratic Party has been through a lot lately. The party has lost control of the legislature and experienced a bitter election for party chairman. A vibrant primary and general-election gubernatorial campaign would show the state that the party isn’t dead yet.

While 2010 isn’t likely to be a Democratic year, it could be a year to show people what Tennessee Democrats are about. People are hurting out there. There are people who are experiencing real economic pain and uneasiness. Republicans have learned to harness that anger but they don’t own it. They are only renting.

The cultural battles can be saved for another day. What this state needs is a plan to bring jobs back and keep government services working. The weak-sauce solutions Republicans have offered are vague at best, irresponsible at worst. Wamp thinks we can grow ourselves out of our problems, and Haslam wants the government to buy stuff cheaper. That’s all good, but it seems like it would be a strong populist and progressive message to focus on keeping the ship of state steady and the middle class afloat. That might just resonate with a few folks these days.

Can such a message win the day? No, and Jim Kyle was right on that. He couldn’t win the general election, and there may not be a Democrat in Tennessee who could. But again, just because you are outmatched doesn’t mean you shouldn’t step on the battlefield.

Tennessee, longer than most Southern states, has been a two-party state. We like our opposition actual, not nominal. The Republican candidate for governor may win handily, but how he wins and what kind of resistance he meets can affect the policies that are shaped later. If a Republican meets little or token resistance in a campaign, he’s less likely to respect the resistance that arrives down the road.

Actions like those of Kyle don’t set the party up for when the pendulum swings back their way. Democrats don’t have to stand tall in 2010, but they need to stand up — or Tennessee may become a one-party state before its time.

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11 Comments on this post:

By: pswindle on 3/8/10 at 9:58

The GOP has gotten so dirty in their politics it's hard for a honest person to be elected.

By: govskeptic on 3/8/10 at 10:10

The Populist the author dreams about have governed this state for many yrs. What
did they bring to the voters they depend on? I submit nothing to most! They did
protect every business interest that was threaten with competition. They did
protect the teachers union and the members of that union from never having to
be accountable for anything as the system slid further and further. They did take
care of the attorneys so that every little thing becomes a legal issue with great
expense to those least able to afford it. They just like the Republicans made sure
this was a great state for the wealthy to live in and not have those silly state taxes
absorb too much of their cash or wealth. Each party has a few special interest they
serve, but the vast majority of Tennesseans are served by neither!

By: yogiman on 3/8/10 at 12:18

pswindle, how can you tell what kind of a person that politician is on either side of that fence?

Politics is much like marriage; you really don't know who they are until after the wedding (vote). Then you learn the hard way. That's why lawyers are making so much money on divorces(re-elections).

I just hope we get a good person for all offices. Yeah, I'm still waiting.

By: pswindle on 3/8/10 at 4:06

The republicans will win in TN as long as the churches are in control. The churches will always win, as long as the people let the churches brainwash them. I am a christian, but a thinking one.

By: yogiman on 3/8/10 at 7:52

pswindle, the main issue is; what are you thinking about? I'm an independent raised in TN. Why will the repubs take it this year? Are they that much different from the demos?

Our politicians today remind me of a course in criminology several years ago.
They said approximately 2 to 3 percent of the general population were criminally inclined. With what we now have, I believe approximately 97 to 98 percent of our so called congress fits into that 2 to 3 percent category.

But, credit where credit is due; Oba-ma woke the nation. I have never seen as many people involved in arguments about our nation in my 58 years of voting. And I ain't never missed one. I hope I make it through the next one so I can throw my good vote to the right people.

By: Anna3 on 3/9/10 at 7:49

pswindle, don't blame this meltdown on the Republican Party! The Dems had TOTAL CONTROL of both houses of Congress and totally wrecked this train. he only hope for saving face in this setting is to FORCE healthcasre down the throats of America...which will destroy the Deoms party for 25 years. The destruction caused in the midst of all of this can be layed at the feet od Rohm Emmanuel and Barak Hussein OBama...Mmm...Mmm...Mmm.

By: pswindle on 3/9/10 at 9:59

Bush is the one that started this train wreck.

By: fishfry on 3/9/10 at 10:36

pswindle: The churches are in control? What church are you talking about? Our church has yet to say anything about politics and we think for ourselves. We sure don't think America is headed in the right direction. Bush started this? Which one? I think it not. It had to have started long before either Bush to have us in such a predicament.

By: 48a30 on 3/23/10 at 7:09

I've lived in the south for 5 years now. It's a great place to live. I've met many southern Democrats. I know that Democrat roots run deep in the south, but when are you people going to realize that the Democrat party has been hijacked by socialists and communists. There is no such thing as a moderate elected Democrat anymore. They are Democrats first and Americans second. Every facet of the socialist/communist Democrat movement in this state and this country, needs to be totally removed and sent to the pits of hell where it belongs. Obama, Pelosi and Reid will be there waiting for their flock.

By: 48a30 on 3/23/10 at 7:17

pswindle. Your argument runs so hollow that you've resorted to the tactics of a 7 year old.....Well he started it. Great basis for your argument. I bet you were the champion of your second grade playground debate team.

By: MaureenMARTIN32 on 7/6/11 at 8:50

Make your life time more easy take the credit loans and everything you want.