Thursday, February 23, 2012

Once upon a time, such things didn't matter...

John DeBerry has represented District 90 since the late 1980s as a reliable vote for Democrats on economic issues, and until the 2010 elections, that's really all that mattered.

In the old days when Jimmy Naifeh was Speaker of the House (I miss his presence in that chair now more than ever), right-wing wedge issue bills like Don't Say Gay were crushed in committee or even sub-committee.  These bills never saw the light of day, so it never mattered that, on social issues, John, being a minister of a conservative church, would have supported these bills.

(Full disclosure: I have known John for several years and think highly of him, I just don't agree with him on these issues.)

Well, of course, with the 2010 elections came sweeping change, and none of it for the good.  Even the supposedly "moderate" Speaker Beth Harwell looked away as the craziest of bills got through and even passed, such as the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

Also, the biggest change of all was the redistricting, of which the GOP had control for the first time in 140 years, and they used it to their advantage, just as we had when the Democrats were in control.  In the old days, even if the bills had gotten through and John had voted for them, he had few white liberals in his district and it would not have been major to his district.  Well, at least there would not have been an organized effort.

However, John now represents Hein Park, part of Cooper-Young, Central Gardens, Vollintine-Evergreen, Annesdale-Snowden and Chickasaw Gardens in addition to his old neighborhood, in addition to parts of Frayser.  Putting Frayser aside for the moment, those are neighborhoods of white liberals and moderates, most of whom are affluent, and many of them are part of the GLBT community of Memphis.

To say that they were steamed (as I was, frankly) that John supported Don't Say Gay is an understatement.  Jonathan Cole, head of the Tennessee Equality Project, acted as a resident of District 90 when he sent out a letter (and posted it to Facebook) calling for a Democratic opponent to John DeBerry.  He also called for these folks, if possible, to raise at least $1000 each for such an opponent.

First, that's how democracy works (if we can keep the GOP from KILLING it) in this country.  While it pains me that I won't be supporting John, this is necessary.  Since the GOP took control, the Democrats HAVE to be seen as the supporter of human rights and the middle-class and working poor; the GOP is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the 1%.  Human rights means GLBT rights and it means women's rights as well.  Did I mention that Cole found that John had also voted to support the defunding of Planned Parenthood?

Of course, there will be many in the Democratic community saying this is a wild-goose chase as the district is overwhelmingly African-American.  Not so fast, my friend, as Lee Corso would say.  Yes, the district is only about 36% white, but these are high-information voters who rarely miss an election.

The truth is that African-Americans rarely turn out in high numbers for August primaries; since they are held in conjunction with County GENERAL elections, this puts Democrats at a DIS-advantage in County races, but I digress.  I don't know if it's that the community doesn't like to pick between Democrats, but this fact suddenly puts the re-nomination of DeBerry in major difficulty; the Democrat who is nominated will win the general in November.

At this time, we don't know who will step up, but it will be very interesting to see who runs against John, of whom I can only say, this isn't personal, this is just business.

The PEOPLE'S business, that is.


Mr Turnbow said...

I've been kind of surprised he's made it this long in the legislature given his church and his close ties to Freed Hardeman. He's a good man...thats something you can't say about some libs and so called conservatives he's served with over the yrs.

Steve Steffens said...

You know, Dan, I agree with you, I LIKE John, he is honest and sincere but voting as he did just won't fly in the district he has now. The irony would be if Jeanne Richardson, who they wanted OUT through redistricting, took that seat from John.

Jonathan Cole said...

Like Steve, I respect John DeBerry. He is an honest broker. I've never observed conflict between his words and deeds. He's made promises to me and his LGBT constituency that he has kept in the past. When he sponsored an anti-gay adoption bill in the House, he promised for several years to hold the bill in the committee which he chaired. He kept his promise. But when bills do come to a vote, his votes against equality are an offense to women and LGBT people and their families. That cannot stand.

Anonymous said...

I warned Democrats about letting activist homosexuals lead the party parade so much. You didn't listen.