Friday, July 14, 2017

Shelby County, where do we go from here?

Ah, remember those heady days prior to 2010, when the GOP thought they would never win a countywide election after 2010?  This was when Democrats (to them, all POC, they still can't comprehend the concept of a white Democrat) would outnumber Republicans forever and ever.

OOOPS.  The combination of Obama backlash among white Republicans (I know, that's redundant) and overconfidence and generally poor candidates for countywide office by Democrats sent us into the depths.  Then, research determined that there was even more to this than we thought:  Census numbers indicated that, after 20 years of white flight to Desoto, Tipton and Fayette counties had occurred, there was BLACK flight, primarily to Desoto County.  And, most of these folks were middle-class and working-class, the kind who never miss elections and vote Democratic.

The 2010 elections put the GOP, (prior to re-districting, I might add), in a hammerlock of control of the Tennessee General Assembly.  White rural voters who had elected the likes of Ned McWherter, Jimmy Naifeh and Roy Herron were now electing Andy Holt and others of that ilk, and all because the Democratic Party had nominated and elected a Black man for President of the United States.

Truth be told, folks had been moving that direction due to right-wing media outlets like Fox News, Newsmax and the Drudge Report followed by right-wing talkers like Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage (which are all you hear and see in rural areas now).  They played to people's fears and convinced these good and decent folks to vote for the very people who are now prepared to take everyone's healthcare away, especially the rural folks.

Frighteningly, as I noted before, those are the very folks we have to win back at a state level to regain control of the legislature and drag Tennessee into the 21st Century so they will let metro areas do what they need to do to survive, much less prosper.

Add to that the horrific Voter ID laws (accurately portrayed as the new Poll Tax) that kept POC from voting (because they would likely vote Democrats), all of these things have created a new world in which Democrats have to stay together to prosper and win.  Sadly, until Mary Mancini mercifully euthanized the then-Shelby County Democratic Party, little happened here other than legislators in districts drawn to protect them were re-elected.

A funny thing happened here last fall, though.  Even though we knew Hillary Clinton had no chance to win statewide, a coalition of people that included the Democratic Women of Shelby County, the Shelby County Young Democrats, and the Germantown Democratic Club got a terrific voter turnout that not only won the county for Clinton, they did something else:

They flipped a state House seat, District 96, and helped elect Dwayne Thompson, a Democratic stalwart if ever there was one.  In the middle of Democratic disaster in the South, we flipped a GOP seat.  We did that without a functioning County Party.

Well, now, that was something.

After the election, TNDP Chair Mary Mancini began meeting with people, individually and in groups, to discuss how to rebuild a local Party infrastructure here, one that would not be obsessed with minutia and focused on training and electing Democrats.  (Full disclosure: I met with her as well).

Earlier this year, she announced a group of Shelby Countians tasked with creating the structure whereby the new Party would be organized, including old trusted hands like David Cocke, a former Chair, and newer members like Carlissa Shaw.  Go here to see what they have created and register for the convention, to be held July 22 at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Midtown.

I have talked to some of the writers of the new setup, and was invited to review the by-laws beforehand.  The Executive Committee arrangement, with two members per County Commission district (a MUCH better setup than the old organizing by State House district, which no other county in the state used) plus the chosen representatives of five TNDP-recognized organization. seems a little small upon further review, if much better than the 75-80 members chosen after every Presidential election.

It is a two-tier setup, with a Grassroots Council that allots membership per Commission District based on the Democratic turnout.  These Councilors elect their Executive Committee members and the new Chair, but not much else; the EC meets monthly, as opposed to quarterly for the GC.  The GC in each Commission district is asked to organize their areas and create real organizations to turn out and elect Democrats and then hold their elected Democratic officials accountable.

I signed up for the Convention, but will not attempt to be elected to either tier of the Party.  Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.  I need to get out of the way for newer, younger people, such as the terrific Young Democrats and members of INDIVISIBLE, who, I am told are organizing intensely for this new Party.

Now, about that accountability.........

Yesterday, District 9 County Commissioner Justin Ford, who is thankfully term-limited from running for re-election for that seat in 2018, entered an Alford plea in court to charges that he struck his girlfriend in the parking lot of a downtown Church's Chicken earlier this year.  An Alford plea is a guilty plea that does NOT admit to wrongdoing, by the way.

Was he humbled in any way?  Nope. Quoting the article, he said this:
"No! No! I'm here to stay," Ford answered when asked if he would resign. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to run for another office."
Really???    Ford, who has been investigated also on charges that he did not live in District 9 but determined that he "probably" lived in the District, and who has cut deals with his Republican counterparts to get elected Chair of the Commission, is free to run for another office if he so chooses.

However, if it is for a partisan office, the new Executive Committee MUST NOT allow him the privilege of running for the Democratic nomination.  Should he win a Democratic nomination for countywide office, he will easily be defeated by any Republican with access to Google.  Seriously.

The new Committee needs to train and vet candidates for office, especially Countywide office.  We need more like Cheyenne Johnson and Ed Stanton, solid professionals respected by the entire Shelby County community.  Can we stop bad candidates from running?  If we can't, then we are just wasting our time even having a new Party.

If you have been thinking about whether to get involved, I say DO IT.  Be there, prepare to work hard, ask tons of questions and bring fresh eyes to this situation.  It's either get involved now or prepare to be run over by the Trump train.

The former is ALWAYS preferable to the latter.

Ok then, y'all, tell me what you think in the comments.

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