Wednesday, June 29, 2016

It's time to drop the BIG ONE on the SCDP (UPDATED)

UPDATE - June 29: As the events of the last few days have indicated, This post is now more needed than ever. Even if it means Bryan Carson walks away scot-free (and I refuse to assign his actions to deviousness when simple, ok, complex, ineptitude will do), the SCDP needs to go.


 Anyone who thinks that this party as currently constituted can provide ANY assistance whatsoever to any Democratic candidates is deluding themselves beyond reasonable measure. Their focus, no matter WHICH side we are talking about, is NOT about doing the things that elect candidates: raising money, registering voters, training candidates and volunteers in the campaigning arts and sciences, you know, THOSE THINGS THAT HELP PEOPLE WIN. 

I am more done with them than a two-hour steak, even if I admit that Del Gill initially had the correct idea: Drop the amount below $25,000, go get a judgment against Carson in General Sessions, and be done with it. No, the SCDP couldn't even do that right. There are people working to try and make it work, but, you know what? I do not believe it's workable. As for the rest of my argument, I made it down below.


 Don't MAKE me replace the Randy Newman video with a video of the end of OLD YELLER. Put it out of its (AND OUR) misery


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