Tuesday, April 26, 2016

It's time to drop the BIG ONE on the SCDP



Let's face it, we have all been in denial for a while now. The Shelby County Democratic Party has been dying for several years right under our noses, and all of us, INCLUDING ME, have been whistling through the graveyard while pretending that it actually meant something.

 Don't think so? Really? When is the last time a Presidential Campaign sent money to Memphis for a national campaign? 1996, that's when, the last re-election campaign of Bill Clinton and Al Gore. It was also the last year Harold Ford SENIOR was in office (to distinguish himself from his succeeding offspring, who looked just liked him but voted NOTHING like him). That was the last year something that could reasonably be called the Ford Machine existed; most of those who helped Senior from 1974 in his historic campaign for election have gone to meet their maker or retired from politics

The political kids Senior raised tried to keep it going, but found themselves out-organized by different groups such as those led by Sidney Chism or Desi Franklin. The last of the old-time chairs was the late, lamented Rep. Kathryn Bowers, whose term came to a premature end due to the TENNESSEE WALTZ Scandal. She knew not only how to raise money, but to increase turnout, which she did without any DNC money for the 2004 elections.

This, of course, was also the beginning of the end for Democratic dominance in Nashville, which accelerated when Senator Rosalind Kurita, having just been shafted by the DCCC in her race against Harold Ford JUNIOR in 2006 (Kiss My Ass Chuck Schumer), got her revenge by flipping her vote for Lieutenant Governor from the aging John Wilder to the pro-business, pro-Randian Ron Ramsey of Blountville.  The downward spiral reached its nadir with the 2010 elections, when white people who had always voted Democratic because THOSE DAMNED YANKEES THAT KILT MY GREAT GREAT GRANDPAPPY were astonished that the Party of Lincoln was now the Party of Jefferson Davis and that Democrats had gone and elected one of them (BLEEP)S as President.

In addition. the attempts by the local party to elect people to countywide offices that had no business running, accelerated the decline.  Chairs came and went, and only Rita Clark (3 terms as Assessor), her hand-picked successor Cheyenne Johnson, General Sessions Court Clerk Ed Stanton (who might not be re-elected, not because of job issues, but because of a TN-08 GOP primary that will jack up turnout) and AC Wharton, whose two elections as County Mayor were marked by high white GOP support, were elected to County offices as Democrats.

The good ole boys who had filled the offices before, and did not really feel like these offices should be partisan, felt like they had to file for re-election as Republicans.  Why? Because, they felt that they could not win a Democratic Primary against opponents and a Democratic electorate that was populated by a majority of people of color.

Because they had run their offices quietly without hints of trouble and because they were competent, they won re-election easily.  With Democratic candidates make promises and statements that had nothing to do with the offices themselves (or showing any real KNOWLEDGE of how those offices worked, with the notable exception of Wanda Halbert), Democrats were routed at the polls.

And the Democrats who were supporting these candidates never figured it out.  They believed that if you claimed to be a Democrat, you OWED these candidates a vote, because the opponents were REPUBLICANS.  While for legislative offices and policy making offices like Mayor or Sheriff, that may have made sense, for Court Clerk positions, where the real issues involved competence, that was flat out crazy.

You see, for these folks, it was about getting OUR people in those offices so they could fire THEIR people and hire OUR people.  Not about competence or any trivial matter like that, but about jobs and patronage.

Y'all, this is NOT Cook County and we do not roll like that. Not since Crump.  And, frankly, it's not ever going to be like that again.

This is the major part of the problem, what separates this party into camps, is that we have no clue what we stand for.  You have the old-guard white liberals that fought against the County primary idea in the 80s, and the people who came into power with Mayor Herenton in the 90s who want to hire their folks over the old folks.

Now, it's time for the first tough truth-telling:  THIS is the point where we began to lose white folks, and I have talked about this a decade ago, and no one would listen to me.

Say, and why not, you are in the middle of a county-wide campaign, and you are attempting to ask a friend or neighbor to vote for a Democratic candidate for one of the County offices.  You get into the spiel before you are stopped and told this:  "Look, I vote Democratic in the legislative and executive races, but I have a spouse/child/sibling/parent/friend who works in that office, and if the Democrat is elected, they lose their job, and they really need it.  I just can't go there with you."

What on earth can you say to that?

Let's look at another major problem we have:   Because of the way legislative districts are drawn, there are rarely competitive races in the general elections any more.  Look at this year.  Outside of District 96, what seat has the possibility of changing hands in November?  NONE.

The races are all in the primaries, which hurts because Democrats do not turn out in the primaries, thinking that the only races that matter are in November.  Because our Countywide races are in August, we start out at a disadvantage.  Not only that, but our incumbent legislators, who are trying to turn out THEIR voters but NOT those of their primary opponent, aren't really much help.  Frankly, they don't turnout their folks in November any more, because they have already been re-elected at that point.

So, what does all this have to do with the SCDP?  With no real strong figure in charge, the Executive Committee is filled with the people who are looking to make money off the party on one side, and the old guard who want to elect Democrats, but are outvoted and overrun by those who obsess over procedural matters.  Why else have we as a Party done NOTHING to stop sample ballot peddlers who use our Democratic name to fool voters???  They are leeches who add no value to what we are supposed to do.

Because we have no power in Nashville, and no power in the county Building (where there are a couple of Democratic Commissioners willing to sell out the party at a moment's notice), and because we can't seem to manage our money properly, who in their right mind would give the SCDP one red cent?

This, of course, was capped a couple of weeks ago with the resignation of SCDP Chair Randa Spears, who left due to an increased workload at her day job.  Ryan Poe wrote about it at the CA yesterday, if you missed the story.

Yes, in seven of those years (1997-2003 and 2014), I sat on the ExecCom and I have to take partial responsibility for what has occurred.  The fact remains, with no money coming in or any real reason for there to be any money coming in, the local party, in the county with the largest Democratic voting bloc in the state, finds itself completely irrelevant.

This is why I respectfully request that the Tennessee Democratic Party and its terrific Chair, Mary Mancini, put this body out of its (and OUR) misery and pull its charter.  We really have to destroy the Party in order to save it.  Get a group of good Democratic lawyers, along with with solid Democrats, young and old, who have campaign experience, to re-write the bylaws in order to drive the leeches out of the party, and to have an Executtive Committee that has the same damned number every time, for the sake of stability's sake.

And let's give them time to do it.  For heaven's sakes, the Party nominee for president will carry Shelby and four other counties regardless if there is a SCDP structure in place.  Same with the legislators, same with the Congresspeople.

Every second we wait is a second that we fail to have a real Democratic Party structure in the largest Democratic Party in the south outside Atlanta (Florida never counts), and we cannot truly hope to re-establish Democratic strength in Tennessee until this happens.

Mary, it's time.


Your ardent fan and supporter,

Steve Steffens

Thursday, April 07, 2016

TAMI FOR TENNESSEE

I have known John Deberry, my current State Representative for District 90, for many years.  He is a nice man, a minister when he is not in the Legislature.  I supported him for Senate District 29 in a special election several years ago, which he lost to Ophelia Ford.

He had a reputation as a social conservative then and still does.  A lot of bills he supported then were quashed when Democrats controlled the legislature, and for good reason.  On fiscal issues, he voted with the Democrats, as he should have.

Then, 2010 happened, redistricting happened, and in the GOP rush to eliminate as many white Democrats as possible, they threw Deberry in with Jeanne Richardson, wiping out her old District 89 in the process.  Something else happened as well: pro-"education reform" advocates began to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on Deberry's behalf.  That, combined with the removal of most of Richardson's support from the new district, ensured that Deberry would be elected with ease, and he was.

Since then, he has voted with the GOP more often than not, hardly reflecting the values of his district, which is a damn shame.  It is time for a change, and we have a way to make that change.

Activist Tami Sawyer filed today for House District 90, and I am proud to announce my support for her.  Educator, veteran, entrepreneur, she does it all, serving on boards of civic organizations like the local branch of Planned Parenthood,  and working with other organizations such as The Links and  Hattiloo Theatre.

I believe Tami Sawyer more accurately reflects the values of the entire district, and I wholeheartedly support her for this race.  I hope that you will as well.

For more information, please visit her website at http://www.tamifortennessee.com/.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Big Dog comes to Whitehaven High on VERY short notice

For those who may not have heard, the greatest Democratic orator since Franklin Roosevelt (and I MEAN that) and the 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, is coming to town to speak at my alma mater, Whitehaven High School, this evening.

Whitehaven, people, which, as my friend and brother Del Gill will tell you is the center of the Democratic universe in Shelby County.  It is the center of what remains of middle-class African-American life in Memphis.

To my brothers and sisters of the Democratic faith who are supporting Hillary: Go and enjoy and revel, because hearing The Big Dog preach the Democratic gospel is one of the great joys of life.

To my brothers and sisters who are, as I am, supporters of Bernie Sanders, let's think about this for a moment.  The DAY after taking a whipping in New Hampshire, the Clinton campaign decides to send Bill Clinton to WHITEHAVEN, on the SECOND day of early voting, BEFORE THE SATELLITES HAVE EVEN OPENED.  Where Hillary should be worshipped as a goddess, where she should theoretically have no problems in the March 1 election, am I right?

Think about that for a moment, but not TOO long.  That TELLS you they are vulnerable and we as Sanders supporters have to SEIZE this moment and take every advantage of it.  WE CAN WIN SHELBY COUNTY.  If it were out of play, 42 would not be speaking tonight at Whitehaven High School.

It's up to us.  Gotta go to work, enjoy the day, people!


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Senator Harris makes the correct call

Jackson Baker has broken news that we all should rejoice at hearing:  State Senator Lee Harris (D-29, Senate Democratic Leader), has decided NOT to challenge Congressman Steve Cohen in the August Democratic primary.

He had yet to issue an official statement, but it IS the right decision.  I do think that, further down the road, if the Congressman decides he has had enough, Harris would be the out and out favorite to succeed him in the 9th District.

Right now, though, we need him in Nashville fighting Ron Ramsey and the Koch Brothers, so thank you, Senator, for a wise decision, and keep up the good fight on Capitol Hill!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Has the whole world turned to crap? Or, Glenn Frey is dead and I don't feel so good myself*

*With apologies to the late, lamented Lewis Grizzard

After a week that has seen the deaths of the Genius of All Arts David Bowie and the intensely gifted actor Alan Rickman, comes word this afternoon of the passing of Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey at the way-too-young age of 67.    Frey, the McCartney to Don Henley's Lennon, co-wrote and sang on many of the 70s' greatest hits, and had a not-too-shabby solo career, with hits like YOU BELONG TO THE CITY.    The man lived a full life, and I thank him for all he gave the world.


Speaking of the world, there seems to be a real battle for the direction and soul of the Democratic Party these days, one side led by the Woman Who Would Be President and the Guy Who Just Got in The Party but, who, in reality, has been fighting for the REAL Democratic Values for the last 30 years,

I am voting for Bernie Sanders because he is doing his damnedest to bring the party back to the values of its greatest leader, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.   For his troubles, Sanders is drawing larger crowds than his opponent, Secretary Clinton, and seems to be making inroads as new polls come out each day in the various states.

Secretary Clinton has the backing of the Party establishment, such as she did eight years ago, when it all collapsed on her because, frankly, she may well be a solid President but she is a terrible candidate.  No, seriously.  Simply put, the people who are showing up to Sanders rallies are there because they actually feel like voting FOR someone that they believe stands for them and WITH them.

They left the Party because of the neoliberal views of the Secretary and her husband, that charming rascal, the Big Dog himself, everyone's second favorite 42 after Jackie Robinson.  Truth is, of course, 42's treaties like NAFTA and GATT helped major corporations shift jobs overseas, gutting the American middle-class.  He says it's a mistake; NOW he tells us.

I have been loathe to say much, because if the Secretary is the Democratic nominee, I will have no choice but to vote for her, as I cannot imagine what horrors a Donald Trump or Ted Cruz would impose on this nation with a full GOP Congress.   However, the other Sanders voters may well just say screw it and stay home, taking down not only the Secretary, but all the down-ballot Democrats, of which we don't have that many left at the moment.

It's still a long way from the March 1 Presidential Primary, and I have these words for supporters of Secretary Clinton: BACK OFF.  This is a PRIMARY, and I have the right to support whom I damn please.  I REFUSE to stop fighting for Bernie Sanders unless it's mathematically impossible for him to win.   I have been a Democrat since I learned to walk, but the Party needs to start moving in MY direction, not vice versa.


Closer to home, I note that Mayor Jim Strickland has decided to indefinitely place on hold the rollout for the body cameras for Memphis police officers.  I understand completely why he did this; he is still getting settled and needs a little time to compare what he is being told by District Attorney General Amy Weirich and what he is being told by the community, who thought they would have been implemented by now.

It is obvious by now that little or nothing was done under the prior Wharton Administration to actually IMPLEMENT the cameras or work out how they would be implemented, like finding answers to questions about access and archiving.  He has left Mayor Strickland a flaming bag of dog poo on the doorstep; however, Jim Strickland is an operations guy, not a sales guy, and he WILL get this figured out.  Hell, that's why we VOTED for him!


Ok, I'm done for tonight, flame away on the various platforms!

Friday, January 15, 2016

What Bernie Sanders stands for...

Is what the Democratic Party USED to stand for.  Sometime, in the 1980s, neoliberalism insidiously worked itself into our structures and moved us away from who we are and whom we are supposed to be.

I support Bernie Sanders for President because he understands where we HAVE to go to save the United States of America.  Evolution and incrementalism is too slow.


Saturday, January 02, 2016

It's a New Day, Yes It IS

AAAAAAAAWWWWWWW, DON'T BE SOUR



  Yesterday saw the swearing in of a new mayor in the city of Memphis. The first major change in the city's leadership since 1992.  Jim Strickland took the oath of office along with new Court Clerk Kay "Mic Grabber" Robilio and 13 city council women (of which there are far too few) and men.

 Jim's speech was 15 minutes outlining his stances on what we can do to work with the city to make it better. He attacked crime and blight, two tentpoles of his campaign.

 I was a little disappointed that education and workforce development were addressed only briefly. I have been assured that these are to come though. As bad as crime is in this city that I love, we must educate our young people so that they stay and continue to progress this city. We cannot continue to have them flee the city and county for better jobs. We need to continue to work to bring those jobs here.

 I said during the campaign that while I disagreed with Jim's stance on crime (a view shared by white liberals and younger African-Americans), it played well with older, more conservative whites and African-Americans and was the driving force behind his election. I hope that he can be successful and we do not have a school to prison pipeline. I want to see more public-private partnerships to help this. This is something that the private sector and public sector alone cannot do. They must work together to fix this.

 I have seen attacks on Mayor Strickland for getting rid of the two employees of the Music Commission. His getting rid of it should be no surprise. He did not want it in the first place. While I think that we need a group that pushes Memphis music, it must be a group that looks to our future and not to our past.

  Too often in this city that I love, we look to the past and not to the future. We run campaigns the same basic way we have for 30 years. We look to artists from 30-50 years ago. We do not look to the present or to the future. We cannibalize or deny opportunities for people to grow and become the future in order to maintain our present.

Jim has started the process of moving us into the future by cutting some dead weight and beginning the process of moving us into the future. The animal services director firing, the music commission erasure, and others are steps that show that we are breaking with the past to turn this city around and make it an example for the region.

  Let's give him time to begin to turn this city around. This city has a lot of problems. Let's see if he can fix them, or begin to, because honestly, the way we were doing things was not working. Change is scary, but often necessary.