Thursday, July 20, 2017

And now, a word from Corey Strong

First, a personal note:  I like Thurston Smith and believe he is a good man who has things to offer our community.  However, over the last few years I have also gotten to know Corey Strong very well and have an understanding of what he would bring to the office of Chair of the new Shelby County Democratic Party.  I support his candidacy.  Below is an essay of what he believes the Party and its supporters must do to reverse the local losses we have suffered in the last few years:

Life Lessons to turn Shelby County Blue
SCDP has a big convention coming up in two days that will catapult Democrats into our near future and has the potential of creating seismic shifts in the way our area is governed and the values that our community pursues.  I have been a part of this process as TNDP Executive Committeeman in District 33 as the Community Outreach Chair of the SCDP Re-Org AdHoc Committee and I heard a laundry list of feedback from Democrats throughout the county. They were varied in tone, variety, and detail. But I can summarize it into one sentence. Democrats are the majority in Shelby County but are too afraid and disorganized to show it at the polls.
Now, I place the reasons why Democrats don’t vote for Democrats into 3 categories that can best be described through life lessons I have learned from some of the best teachers and mentors I have had the privilege of knowing. First, you have to be Brilliant at the Basics. Then, you have to make sure you Ride the Right Horse. And, finally always Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing.
Brilliant at the Basics. I worked for a Captain on one of my warships in the Navy. This Captain took over a ship with all types of material problems and very low morale and he had to prepare the ship for an upcoming deployment. While everyone was concerned about high level combat systems training and complex battle problems, he understood if you don’t do the little things like fix things that are broken, you can never move to the bigger items.
The first reason Democrats don’t vote for Democrats in Shelby County is because the party has failed at the basics. The SCDP must talk to its base, use that conversation to define its values and platform, and put a basic plan in place to execute on that platform. Elections, and policy campaigns, rallies and fundraisers are all important. But if you don’t talk to your voters and communicate a platform and plan to address their issues, they won’t vote at elections, participate in campaigns, march at your rallies or give you money. The SCDP must be the home of democratic values over anything else.
Ride the Right Horse. I used to work with this older guy who was one of the most perceptive people I ever met. When he met a person, he could see to their core immediately and was rarely wrong about who they really were. He’d also avoid close contact with people who he felt weren’t genuine. We were talking one day and he told me that he learned this lesson on a farm. There was one horse he really liked because it was pretty and always came to him when it was feeding time. We he wanted to ride it, his uncle told him that this wasn’t his horse. As the story goes, the first time he rode the horse, the horse behaved for a while but eventually went wild and threw him off. He then heard that warning in his head and realized his uncle could see something in the horse be he couldn’t. Well, he made it his mission to learn to judge each horse well and carried that lesson over to his interactions with people. He’d say, “If you ride the wrong horse, eventually it’s going to let you down. Just pray when it does that it’s not hard and on your arse!”
The second reason we don’t vote for Democrats is because the SCDP has a bad habit of riding the wrong horse—read people— as candidates.  A candidate needs to be one people can believe in. That belief resides in people who have a strong professional record/reputation, demonstrated a spirit of service, haven’t lost multiple elections in the past, and pledge to support the values and platform of the party. We have frequently supported major candidates who have poor and sometimes no professional/civic reputation or who have lost election after election.  And when they get into office saying they will support our vague platform, they consistently work against that for their own personal gain with no accountability from the SCDP. Without a good horse, you cannot win a race. The SCDP must find strong candidates who support our democratic values.
Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing. I’m reminded of this lesson constantly from the best teacher/advisor I know—my Mother. I have the habit of getting distracted by any number of hobbies and adventures that may present themselves (One of those things I can’t put down is salsa dancing but it’s really fun and you should try it; but, I digress). I like to ask for advice from my parents and I’m blessed to have two rocks I can depend on. My dad will get in to the details with me at times because he is curious like me. But my mom’s refrain is as dependable and etched in my brain as a refrain in one of those red Baptist Church Hymnals. She’ll sing right on cue, “Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing.” Fun, cool, exciting, and adventurous all have their place but you have to stay true to the main thing that sustains you. She usually means my job but I think it could mean anything that defines you and who you want to be.
The third reason we don’t vote for Democrats is because the SCDP doesn’t stay focused on the main thing which is our values.  Elections and winning are fun and so are all the little things that come with that. But the purpose of all of it is to make sure our values are present in our community and its governance. We have had any number of LOCAL issues that SCDP should be a champion on a daily basis.  An economy too strongly based on low income jobs, government that doesn’t spread resources to communities in need, threats to our clean water and greenspaces, discrimination based on people’s background or lifestyle, opportunity for a good education, protection of and access to healthcare particularly for woman, and the list goes on. These are all issue that have dominated the new cycle locally  in one way or another and that the SCDP and “big D” elected officials have to be better champions of, or why did we elect you in the first place. We cannot stop being democrats after elections and we can never stop working to install our values in our community. The SCDP must champion its democratic values in and out of election season.
If the SCDP becomes the true home of democratic values, attracts good candidates to run on those values, and champions those values day in and out, we will not only win elections but see a truly blue Shelby County that is a clear reflection of our values. This is what Democrats have been telling me since the charter was pulled and if we listen to them, they will come back home to the party. 

Finally, I think I have the right plan to address those concerns and ‘right the ship’ so to speak.  Please check out my bio here to learn a little more about me:  I look forward to meeting people Saturday at the convention and convincing you over the next few weeks that I am the right person to restore the SCDP. Feel free to contact me on my page or at if you have any questions for me. And no matter the outcome, I hope that the SCDP listens closely to what the people are saying because there no reason for anyone to afraid to say they are a Democrat.

Monday, July 17, 2017

An observation

I just went to the new SCDP website, and the first thing you see is a picture of Clinton and Obama waving to the crowd.

That is our PAST, not our future.  Shouldn't we be looking at where we are GOING, rather than where we have been?  YMMV.

By the way, if you helped the Sanders 2016 campaign and you still live in Shelby County, I REALLY want you to sign up and show up for this convention and help take over the Party.  Seriously.  We either need to change direction at every level or continue to face crushing defeats.

See you there.  :)

Friday, July 14, 2017

A deep bow to R. Neal and KnoxViews

As longtime readers of this fine publication are aware, I was inspired to start blogging many years ago by Randy Neal and his original blog, South Knox Bubba, which showed me that there were southern folks who believed in Democratic ideals outside Memphis..

So, it is with pride and respect that I thank him for mentioning this series at KnoxViews.  I would also like you to go over there because there are some terrific comments by local activist Tamara Shepherd on that post that are well worth your time, and very relevant to what I believe has to happen at every level for the Party to survive and thrive.

I look to be more active at this place from now on.

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.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Now, let's look at Tennessee

If you expect this piece to be filled with Mary Mancini-bashing, you will be sadly disappointed.

I appreciate that, after being initially concerned about taking such a step, she decided that it was the right thing to do to blow up the dysfunctional SCDP, for which I am eternally grateful.  She had no choice, and on July 22 of this year, the re-organization of the Party will commence.  There's even a picture showing me giving an unintentional side-eye.  :)

Mary has done her best to get out into the rural areas, where we need county parties to stand up and organize.  It's not her fault that we can't clone Meryl and Randall Rice, who are powerhouses in building the Hardeman County Democratic Party.

What we do need, however, is for the party to be less Nashville-centric.  We need people to stand up in their own counties and let Democrats know that they are not alone, despite the right-wing media that engulfs their counties.  We have to flip GOP seats in the state House and Senate before we can worry about anything else.

However, this also leads me to the Governor's race.  Before we look at our side, let's look at what is going on in the GOP primary race.

You have Randy Boyd of Knoxville seeking to be Haslam 2.0 (a rich white businessman from Knoxville ascendant), Bill Lee of Williamson County (a rich suburban businessman from Williamson County with a compelling personal story, but still the same old "run gubmint like a bidness" plan that can't work), Congresswoman Diane Black of Gallatin, she of Versailles On The Cumberland, who with her husband made millions off drug testing, House Speaker Beth Harwell, who couldn't keep her own caucus under control, much less the state House, and the person who scares me the most:

Mae Beavers.

You think I am kidding here?  Boyd takes Knox County, Lee and Harwell split Williamson and Davidson, Black takes Sumner and Rutherford, and Shelby is Shelby and is split 5 different ways.

What about those rural counties, though, the ones that have the hardcore Trumpites, that elect people like Andy Holt and Bill Sanderson to office?  They don't give a damn about those rich suburban counties, they want someone like THEM.  Someone who stops just short of speaking in tongues, who fears cities and people of color and anyone who doesn't look and worship just like they do. That, my friends, is Mae Beavers.

But wait, you say.  Won't all the "decent Republicans", the ones you see at cocktail parties, surely they wouldn't vote for someone like Mae, they are too genteel, they will cross over to vote for a Democrat.

And that is why Hillary Clinton won Pennsylvania and the Presidency, right?  Oh, wait...

The fact is that ole Mae, while making the most insane pronouncements ever, will cut spending to the bone and preserve tax cuts and do what she is told by the Koch brothers like every other GOP candidate, while intentionally hurting everyone who is not part of the GOP base.  She is nothing but a little Trump.

This, of course, brings me back to the Democratic race.  Already in with both feet is former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who wants to be Phil Bredesen 2.0, who is touting what he did for Nashville, as if creating the Brooklyn of the South and pricing everyone that makes less than six figures a year out of their housing market would be welcomed in rural counties.  He is already having fundraisers here, and is trying to crowd out any other candidates.

I have not met him, he might be a nice guy and all that, but let me tell you this: I may not know much about rural areas, but I will bet you that if you are running for statewide office as a Democrat, the worst place you can be from is Memphis, and the next worst place is Nashville.  Folks in the rural counties go to Nashville to see relatives in Vanderbilt Hospital, to CMA Fest or a Titans game, and then gets the hell out.

No one in Dyer County gives two hoots in hell about what Karl Dean has done for Nashville; they want to know what you can do for Newbern.  Same for Hamblen or any of the other rural counties in Tennessee.  Sure, everyone in Nashville wants him to win so they can try to get a job in state government.  Good for you, but he is not likely to beat any GOP candidate.

If you are a Tennessee Democrat, as I still try to be, there is one potential hope on the horizon, and he needs to get in the game TODAY, if possible:

House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh.    He represents Lauderdale, Crockett and Haywood Counties in State House District 82.  He is a banker and attorney from Ripley, and understands rural issues better than anyone I know.  He also understands Democratic issues, gut economic and educational issues better than anyone I know, and is great at talking to rural folks because he IS one.  He can talk to anyone, and we desperately need someone like Craig if we are going to have ANY hope of regaining the Governor's chair.   He has yet to announce, but he needs to get in soon and VERY soon.   Our state's chances depend on it.

RUN FITZ RUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok, I just realized that I had forgotten to talk about a couple of things that are both national and state, since they involve the Senate race and the Congressional race.  To this point, James Mackler is the only announced Democratic candidate against Bob Corker for Corker's Senate seat.  From that linked website, you would have no idea that Mackler is seeking the Democratic nomination or that Bob Corker is a Republican.

Although no one else at this time appears to be seeking the Democratic nomination, this remains a primary season.  To whomever is running this man's campaign, I ask you this:  If this is a Democratic primary and you are asking me, a Democratic voter, to vote for this man in a primary, I ask you this:

I am sure he is a good guy and would be an improvement over Little Bob, but why are you taking my vote for granted?  This is so typical of Washington consultancy that latches onto Democratic Senate and House candidates, who don't want the candidates to espouse issues that would anger the potential wealthy donors.  Mr. Mackler, I will not be taken for granted.  Take some positions that would help Democratic voters and shout them!

Such as: 1) Promise to fight for funding to complete Interstate 69 through West Tennessee.  This would be an immeasurable help for businesses and would lead to more jobs for people in that area.  2) Support funding for rural broadband and fight AT&T and Comcast, who want to restrict broadband except at unaffordable prices.  3)  Stand up and tell people you will protect their Social Security and Medicare and CALL OUT Little Bob for being afraid to say he wants to steal their health insurance.

Sir, you are a veteran and you understand what combat is, firsthand.  THIS is combat and we have to defeat the enemy, and make no mistake about it, Bob Corker is our enemy. FIGHT HIM HARD, give us reasons to support you other than you aren't Bob Corker.  Otherwise, you will have wasted our time and our money while your DC Consultants laugh all the way to the bank.

And one last item.  Based on the repeated asks for money, it looks like Mariah Phillips, a Democratic candidate for TN-04 against Scott "Abortions are EVIL for you but SWELL for my ex-girlfriends" DesJarlais, appears to be following the same namby-pamby path.  Either kick him in the teeth (figuratively, of course), or don't even bother.

All right, that's enough for today.

Tomorrow, Shelby County.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

On the issues with the Democratic the national level

Hopefully, this is the first of a 3-part series on the party, at the national, state and local levels, and I have different feelings about each one.

Let's get a few things out of the way, shall we?  Yes, I voted for Hillary Clinton in the general despite the fact that she had no chance of winning Tennessee.  Do I think Bernie Sanders would have had a better chance of winning the state in the general?  No.  He had problems reaching the base in Tennessee, and Clinton's decades-long connections with the state party's movers and shakers gave him no chance.  He still had my primary vote because I agreed with him on what was most important for the country, and that is what primaries are for, people.

Next, neither Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders will ever be elected President of the United States, nor should either of them run again.  We need younger candidates (at ALL levels, frankly) to carry their messages.  To be blunt, we need a combination of their messages; he is correct on economics and she is correct on social issues, and we cannot win without BOTH.

Yes, I wish Bernie would become a full Democrat, because you cannot reform ANYTHING from the outside, and the DNC, the DCCC and the DSCC desperately need reform.  The DC consultants, who make their money from ad buys, have provided nothing but losing advice to candidates for the last decade, or since President Obama made the grievous error of dismantling the foundation Howard Dean had made and replacing it with Obama for America.  This has crippled the Democratic Party throughout the country, especially state parties.  While  Tom Perez had a great record as Labor Secretary and has stood for great things then and before then, no one expected him to clean out the cesspool that is the DNC.  And, sadly, he really has not.

To those of you who want the Sanders people to go away, you had better be careful what you wish for.  If they leave and form a 3rd party, it will ensure decades of GOP rule.  We CANNOT regain control of the House, Senate, and state legislatures without bringing them into the fold.  And we can't bring them into the fold if we do not listen to what they have to say and then IMPLEMENT it.  The millennials are not going to just simply do what they are told.  Considering how Democrats have worked too closely with the GOP to ignore anti-trust legislation and allowed consolidation of corporations, which has reduced job availability for them, millennials have no reason to just accept what is being peddled to them.

In short, Democrats have failed to provide them with a reason to vote. BUT TRUMP IS EVIL!!!!!!

Yes, and what have you offered to counter that evil, except for vague, wonkish plans with no clear goals that look like something conceived by Rube Goldberg?  Not much.  What Sanders did, and what Democrats HAVE to do, is provide clear-cut plans that will REVERSE the four-decade-long upward redistribution of wealth, little of which was based on "merit".

In short, to use an old conservative line, if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

In short, we have to de-concentrate wealth and power to the extent possible, to restore a sense of fairness in our land, to show that no human or corporation is above the law. to show that no matter your gender, color, sexual identity or national origin, you have the same opportunities as the next person.  PERIOD.

To do that, no matter how much we may want to, we cannot write off rural America, especially considering how the GOP has gerrymandered our Congress and our state legislatures.  Some of those folks will never come back, because they want it to be 1953 again, and not in a GOOD way.  We can never allow that to happen.

However, if we can't figure out how and why people voted for Barack Obama twice and then voted for Donald Trump, we are all screwed.  Misogyny?  Maybe for the people who left during the Reagan years, but the Obama-Trump people?  I am not sure about that at all.

A good plan would include the following items;

Single-payer healthcare for every citizen of the United States.  Get the insurance companies out of the healthcare business and allow Medicare to negotiate prices with all providers and Big Pharma.  If doctors don't like it, let them UNIONIZE.

Outlaw private corrections facilities EVERYWHERE.  Private companies like CoreCivic (you knew them as CCA, which is why they changed their name), need bodies to keep their facilities filled and checks coming from state legislatures.  As part of a plan to completely re-think and re-do our system of correction, this must happen.

A complete overhaul of our income tax system with new laws that incentivize actual competition and investment, and disincentivize cash-hoarding and concentration.  If done properly, this might well help speed the process of breaking up corporations that are too large to regulate or manage.

Here is something which no Democrat ever discusses, and I cannot imagine why: REPEAL THE TAFT-HARTLEY ACT.  This, in effect, would overturn every state's right-to-work-for-less laws, and allow unions to be able to organize at every level.  Democrats have done very little for working people since the 90s, this would be a step in the right direction.

But what if that leads to robots?  Well, then we can talk about a Universal Basic Income.

Now, the DC consultant structure that prevents Democrats from sounding like REAL FDR Democrats (since the hedge-funders that pay their salaries through donations will hate all of this) will scream bloody murder.  SCREW THEM, let them go market soap, we should have no place for them in our party.

Follow this plan, and we may have a chance.  Keep doing what we have been doing, and it will be time to emigrate to Canada or Europe.

Stay tuned for round 2, the TNDP, later.    See you then.