Morning Coffee – You Put Your Left Foot In Edition

That IS what it's all about

During our long break, I’ve had some time to think about what’s going on with all the dissatisfaction from voters out there.

For over a year we’ve been hearing about the Tea Party and whatnot, as if that’s the only political movement that’s energized in the nation. Certainly there’s some evidence out there that shows conservatives are energized this year. That’s not particularly unexpected. When one party takes the White House, the other party typically gets fired up to wrest control. 2002 was a notable exception, primarily because of 9/11, but by and large, the rule holds true.

But is all this supposed energy really widespread support, or a refutation of the status quo articulated through voter outrage? That’s a question that likely won’t really be answered until November.

Chris Clizza at the Washington Post reported last week that voters don’t really like either party. From my perspective, both parties, particularly in the federal government, have become agents of the status quo, which, by the way, hasn’t been too kind to average folks, rather than advocates for their constituents. It’s no wonder people feel disillusioned.

In this environment, the reality is that people want reform more than they want “same” regardless of what the much more vocal opponents of reform would have you believe.

A recent AP poll on healthcare bears this fact out. By a 2-1 margin more Americans think the landmark healthcare reform should have gone further. While this particular issue may not resonate with Tennessee voters, chances are we can apply the same kind of benchmarks for voter dissatisfaction with “same” here as nationally.

There are other issues feeding into this feeling of a need for reform. Unemployment is SUPER HIGH and not likely to decrease that much for several years. This means that people are suffering far more than they were even in 2008. The fact is, income disparity is at the highest rate it’s been since the Great Depression. Furthermore, those heralded “Bush Tax Cuts” that Republicans are running on, turn out to have sucked about $2.7 TRILLION from total income in the US. For some point of reference, $2.7 trillion is about 21% of the total federal debt and about half the debt that the Bush administration ran up in it’s eight years in office.

So what do voters REALLY want? In 2008, Obama ran on “Hope” and “Change”, but neither of these things are necessarily what voters were really asking for…”REFORM”. However, Obama can’t be blamed for the lack of comprehensive reform on many issues, nor can he be held accountable for a recalcitrant US Senate, which is where progress goes to die it seems.

The largest burden Obama bears is that he hasn’t used his bully pulpit effectively to provide direction and reframe the debate in a way that serves his mission of “Hope” and “Change” which can manifest itself as “reform”. Until he learns this lesson and uses his political power to at least try to reframe the debate he’ll continue to see downward pressure on his job performance.

The other side of this is the people who are currently running for re-election, those congress-critters. It’s not really fair to paint all 535 of them with a broad brush as agents for “same”, but there are enough of these “same agents” out there that a whole bunch of them are going to suffer defeat.

This is not a “Pro-Republican” year, but an anti-incumbent year. People want to see clear distinctions and effective solutions, and when they don’t they disengage. In both Federal and State elections, the lack of clear contrasts between the various parties and real solutions on key issues that impact voters (jobs, economic development, education) will ultimately hurt members of the party which is perceived to hold the power. In Federal elections this means that Democrats will suffer. In State elections it SHOULD mean that Republicans, who hold majorities in both the State House and Senate will suffer. Unfortunately, this may not be the case for several reasons.

First, Democrats held solid majorities in the House and Senate until quite recently. Most Tennessee voters are relatively disengaged from state politics as they don’t dominate the media the same way national politics do. Taking that into account, I would wager that if you conducted a “convenience store poll”, which is unscientific, but I think, a good indicator of how engaged regular folks are, few would know that Republicans hold the majority in Tennessee.

Second, a Democrat has held the highest position in the land for the past 8 years in Tennessee. This further feeds the perception that Democrats have been in power even though they haven’t necessarily had control of the legislative agenda over the past two years. This isn’t Phil Bredesen’s fault. He didn’t create the national problems that are impacting us stateside, however, because people see executive power as ultimate control, it feeds the perception that Democrats are the problem.

Third, and this is something I’ve been preaching for years now, from a practical perspective, voters perceive little difference between many state Democrats and Republicans. The absence of these clear distinctions, as I’ve stated before, puts negative pressure on Democratic candidates which translates into what we saw in the August elections here in Shelby County… an energized right and an absent left.

With just 36 days to go until election day, if Democrats don’t get it together and start drawing clear distinctions between themselves and their Republican counterparts and providing solutions they’re going to suffer dire consequences that will likely result in decades of life living in the shadows of political power. This isn’t about “Hope” or “Change”, it’s about “reform”. Democrats have to re-form the way they do business with their constituents and re-connect with them to re-gain their trust, ultimately showing them they are not the agents of “same”.

Same ain’t working for anyone right now. It’s past time we recognized that and acted on it. Old habits die hard, and barring some divine intervention, so will a lot of longtime legislative careers.

I, and many other people, have been preaching this since the after 2008 state legislative losses that gave Republicans the State House and solid majorities in the State Senate, but few have actually listened. I’m not sure why I’ve gone to all the trouble to put this out there again, but here it is. Same will give you a more devastating repeat of 2008.

While many current elected officials won’t be around in 20 years to feel the effects of this election, I (God willing) will. This isn’t about running to the left, or right or anything like that. In fact, I think we need to stop quantifying things in this manner. It’s about being trusted advocates for the people rather than trustees that assume to know what’s best. It’s about educating your voters instead of trying to justify your votes. It’s about flipping the relationship between representative and constituent around from the plantation mentality scenario that currently exists between many elected officials from both parties and their constituents.

Voters don’t need their current representatives as badly as those representatives need the voters. That’s reality. If something doesn’t give, a lot of people are going to find this out the hard way come November.

Ok, I think I’ve stepped in it good enough for a Monday morning. On to the Coffee!

I can’t wait to see someone try and sneak up on the “Stealth Tax”. Since when was closing a loophole a bad thing? Since the world went mad.

Bill Haslam’s pick for President in 2008 famously said, “Bomb, bomb, bomb…bomb, bomb, Iran.” Tom Humphrey reports on Haslam’s Iran Connection and other developments in the Tennessee Gubernatorial race.

With all the racket about the Murfreesboro Mosque, it’s good to see some sanity brought into the conversation. And right here in Memphis, no less.

The City Paper in Nashville looks at the race for State House District 60.

Southern Beale on privatizing libraries, and Andy Meek on Shelby County libraries that are privatized.

Who left West Tennessee out of the electric car?

Finally, the debate over Metro Government rages on in Shelby County. In this episode, black political power is the topic of the day.

Have a great day out there. Not sure if I’ll be able to do this daily, but I promise to try and get at least a couple a week until my schedule calms down.

3 comments for “Morning Coffee – You Put Your Left Foot In Edition

  1. Joan Carr
    September 27, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Good post, Steve! Glad to see you’re finding time to write again!

  2. Dave Cambron
    September 27, 2010 at 10:59 am

    welcome back

  3. October 14, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Hey Steve, I’m glad I know people who can write so they can articulate what I’ve been thinking. Good job.

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