Friday, August 06, 2010

A bittersweet night

Yes, my friend and Congressman Steve Cohen ended the political career of Willie Herenton tonight, to the surprise of few outside the Herenton camp.

And, my friend and Commissioner Steve Mulroy was re-elected to continue as the now-even-more-important 7th Democratic County Commissioner.

However, tonight was the canary in the coal mine for not only Shelby County Democrats, but Tennessee Democrats, for it was a horrible night outside those two races.  Ladies and gentlemen, if we can't turn out Democrats any better than that, Mike McWherter might as well fold his tent (and he needs to realize that he had better get his ass down here and fire folks up, or he will lose 2-1 to Bill Haslam).

There were a lot of factors, and, frankly, we can't blame this on the GOP-controlled election commission, as much as I would like to.  Factor #1 - As I have kept saying, with NO ONE listening, conflicted African-Americans who neither wanted to vote FOR Dr. Herenton or AGAINST him, chose to stay home, which killed the Democratic ticket.  In the state's most Democratic county, the GOP controls all but two county offices.  You think Chris Devaney's not doing cartwheels down West
End Avenue tonight?

The good folks at the SCDP, whom I know and like, simply could not turn out folks.

Let us hope that the notion that all the Democrats need to do in Big Shelby is turn out African-Americans to sweep County races is dead and buried FOREVER.  Folks, white Democrats were the key swing votes, and they didn't vote for Democrats in County elections, even white Democrats like Regina Newman.  Why?

Because A) nobody cares about Clerk elections, B) Joe Ford could never get past the fact that he had changed his mind, C) Randy Wade did his best, but not even Cohen could get him over the hump. D) Most white Democrats didn't know some of the people on the ballot, and the ones they knew they were not enthused with.

Remember, I am not your typical white Democrat because I am active and I knew all of the people on the ballot.  But if you never have the money to target white Democrats in the primary and get them to know and like you, you're screwed in August.  I have only been preaching about this for over a decade and NOBODY listens to me, they say, "but I'm a Democrat, that should be enough!"  WHAT PART OF IT IS NOT ENOUGH DO FOLKS NOT UNDERSTAND HERE?

But let's not lose sight of the fact that had Willie Herenton NOT run for Congress, then several things would not have happened.  1) African-American Democrats would not have had reason to be conflicted, and would have turned out in the numbers necessary to win.  2) Congressman Cohen could have turned some of his impressive supply of cash over to help the ticket, and more than just a ballot handed out at the polls.  3) Mike McWherter might not have been so reluctant to show up here and helped Democrats to get to know him and get them excited for the fall, which they most assuredly are NOT right now.

It is what it is though, and the question remains, where do Shelby County Democrats go from here?

First, my friend and Congressman must now do what Harold Ford Senior did do and Harold Ford Junior refused to do: take control of the county party and help rebuild it so that we groom candidates that know how to run countywide (i.e., raise money and campaign in white areas).  Steve Cohen tonight became the undisputed king of Shelby County Democratic politics tonight, and he must assume that responsibility, as the Fords are no longer viable outside Southwest Memphis and Willie Herenton and Sidney Chism are done, finished.

That leaves Steve Cohen, and he may not want to think about it now, but he may have no choice, because not only is Shelby County depending on him, so is the state.

The news coming from around the state was not good tonight for Democrats, as the young Marine Ben Leming lost his primary battle to Brett Carter, who is the definite underdog in TN-06 to Senator Diane Black of Gallatin.  The bright young progressive Jeff Yarbro trails Senator Doug Henry by TWO VOTES, with only the provisional ballots to be counted.

Mike McWherter, though he has narrowed the gap in cash-on-hand with Bill Haslam, has to get a HUGE turnout in Shelby and Davidson Counties this fall, and to do so he has to come down here and get to know people, which is what you do in a primary.  He avoided Big Shelby like the plague until yesterday, and this is not a good sign.

Folks, we also have the problem that Shelby County can do little about, which is regaining control of the State House of Representatives this fall.  Our districts are drawn such that it is nearly impossible in Big Shelby for a seat to change parties.

If the Democrats don't pick up a net of three seats, then the GOP controls redistricting, which means we lose two Democrats in the State House from here, and one Democratic Senator.  Also, it means that in all probability Steve Cohen and Jim Cooper will be the only Democratic Congressmen after the 2012 elections.

If the Shelby County Democratic party can't turn things around and quickly, we can't elect a Democratic Governor.  We won't be able to lend support to our brothers and sisters in rural West Tennessee, and we will be doomed for a generation.

This is why Steve Cohen did more than win an election tonight.  He assumed a mantle and a burden, but I suspect he realizes this.  Take a few days to savor this win, Congressman, because it is historic.  Just remember that with this win comes even more responsibility, and we're counting on you because we all believe in you.

I'm going to bed, good night.


Babbling Boomer said...

You have My sympathy. While we may never agree on everything political, I too am disappointed by the Democrat's performance. I did my usual split ticket routine, unfortunately my lone vote wasn't enough in general election races where I voted for a Democrat. If it makes you feel any better I wrote in Hubert Humphrey in the Democrat primary for governor.

callmeishmael said...

For your sake, glad Cohen beat Herenton. If I were a member of McWherter's campaign, I would visit the Pilot in Charleston, take a look at how it's kept (dirty, cramped, not user-friendly) and make a commercial about "If you like how Haslam keeps his convenience stores, then you'll love how he will govern Tennessee." Contrast that to economic good feelings when Ned was Governor, how his policies benefitted the whole state (roads for rural NW Tennessee, new buildings for the U of M, this or that in Middle and East TN, etc)and end with the statement of "What one McWherter did for Tennessee, another will do the same and even better..."
Seems, however, as if the National DP is gearing messages for the fall and working with Harry and Nancy to coordinate legislative activity. That, perhaps, might make you feel less frustrated.

Ben Vos said...

Herenton endorsed Lamar Alexander in 2008. And that's about all you need to know about what's wrong with Memphis.

Vvixen said...

Ha! Callmeishmael actually has kind of a good idea! I bet McWherter's camp can find a nasty-looking Pilot store somewhere!

Southern Beale said...

After you are done rebuilding your county party please help us rebuild the state party, which is basically a walking corpse. Zombie Dems create zombie candidates. Heck, just look at McWherter next to Haslam, put the two at a podium and have them talk: Haslam comes off as dynamic and energetic, McWherter looks like he wants to take a nap.

There needs to be a serious makeover and I don't think three months will do it.