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Mutiny on the Bow: Will the Progressives Actually Take Over the Tennessee Democratic Party?

February 8, 2009

Some mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore type exuberance is part of the brute force shown by what the kids like to call the Netroots. It helped Obama raise about seventy gazillion dollars during the Democratic primary. It sent Joe Lieberman into the waiting arms of the GOP (where he belongs, really, independent Democrat? What?). Now, that feeling has trickled down like supply side economics into the Tennessee left, reeling after a near calamitous take over of the state General Assembly after the last election cycle.

First, former Gore aide and Tucker Carlson stylist (ha) Chip Forrester is now in place as the chair of the party. Though his past associations don’t scream progressive, he is mouthing the right words and boasting having David Axelrod on speed dial. Now, TN bloggers are flexing some financial muscle by holding a succesful online fund raising drive.

The old heads, apparently, remain skeptical. When Forrester won, the establishment’s pick, Charles Bone and his crew were conspicuous in their silence. Then the establishment’s support on the Net set alight on various blogs decrying doom for the party now that the rabble rousers are in charge.

I understand their skepticism. Netrooters probably sound a lot like the activists who used to come into campaign offices making all sorts of demands that had no chance of working in the real world of TN politics. They never came in with checks or a list of names and addresses, just a nebulous “we,” which for all we knew could have meant that person and their extended family. They had no power so the powerful failed to tremble in their presence.

Now with the new attention to online fundraising, this has set the ‘roots apart from the old school activists. They come with an axe to grind yes but also the potential to raise money. This alone probably has many in the TN establishment in wait and see mode. The first shot across the bow doesn’t look all that impressive when pulled apart. The first day fundraising totals revealed $1,000 (woah!) but relatively few donors (hmm), which suggests a few motivated people with a few dollars lying about who wanted to prove a point. Yes, they reached a modest $3,000 goal when there’s no candidate out there, just some folks with computers. But what’s this going to look like in 2010?

Now, caveats abound. Yes, the ‘roots pushed Lieberman out on his butt during the primary, only to find his power restored by a Netroots hero (our President). Yes, it was shameful that we lost the House, but a wiley play by an old fashioned political master saved us from complete disaster. Power still lies in the hands of the establishment.

Hopefully Forrester will have a plan and will get started now on building up a war chest and volunteer lists. Hopefully he will encourage people to work on races other than the sexy statewide contests, and hopefully the big talkers out there, those complaining about the way the House races turned out will be willing to help out those Dems in conservative districts who are “Republican lite.”

I also hope that we will wait until after November 2010 to start bitching amongst ourselves (in public, no less). Chip, I’ll give you a hint from my experience; start engaging the players now and make everyone feel important. I guarantee you will have less sniping in the fall 2010. And try a double Windsor once in awhile, okay?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2009 1:14 pm

    I wouldn’t call this a “mutiny.” Mutiny would suggest we’re trying to completely throw off the leadership and take over the party for ourselves. That’s not what we’re doing, we just want a seat at the table. But I’ve never understood why we should have to wait for the orders to come from on high to start organizing and raising money. Is your problem with what we did that we’re too liberal, that we didn’t raise enough money, or that we did it without any input or control from the leadership?

    No one has any illusions that this is the only strategy, or even a long-term strategy. I know that $4,000 isn’t a lot of money, and 101 donors aren’t a lot of donors. But this is what can be done without a candidate and with less than 24 hours of planning. It’s $4,000 more than what the TNDP had on Wednesday morning. It’s a start. It had to start somewhere. And no one else up on high was starting it, so we did it ourselves.

    And for the record, I’ll support any Democrat, no matter how conservative, if they have reasons for being a Democrat other than being “slightly less extreme” than the Republican opponent. Be pro-gun, be pro-life, but give me something more than that. Is that distinction between a conservative Democrat and Republican-lite so difficult to understand?

    • February 9, 2009 1:04 am

      Given that the party office holders and titular heads, present and former, mostly supported one candidate, and the candidate they did not support won, I would say that’s a takeover. As the Bad Brains would say, a big takeover, yeah, yeah yeah yeah.

      And I can point out a caveat about the fundraising drive without wholly damning the exercise. I didn’t have a “problem” with it. Doesn’t take much analysis to see it was about proving a point to the skeptics, but maybe the point proved is that there is a cadre of committed individuals who want to show and prove rather than talk.

      And to a leftist like me, a former Democratic Socialist member, no, “you” are not too liberal.

      The last thing “we” need to get into is a “more liberal than thou” battle. It’s a photo negative of what’s going on with the GOP right now. So as I didn’t like it when candidates I favored were called “too liberal” I think calling other Dems cute names like Republican lite are equally as destructive.

  2. southernbeale permalink
    February 8, 2009 5:49 pm

    As of yesterday we ended up with $4,000 dollars and over 100 donors which may not sound impressive but considering the effort was basically pulled out of thin air and there is no “campaign” per se, I’d say it was pretty cool.


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