Category Archives: Commentary

G.O.P. ‘Balance’ Just More Pain for Average Families

A crisis in our state’s capitol: Too many Republicans.

A crisis in our state’s capitol: Too many Republicans.

The Tennessee House Republican Caucus released this week a movie trailer-style campaign video to highlight their members’ vote to support a federal balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and every Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives support this measure. Mitt Romney campaigned on it in 2012.

When Republican politicians say “balanced budget,” they’re using coded special interest-speak for slashing investments in America so the rich can get more tax breaks.

A so-called “Balanced Budget” proposal sounds nice, but this reckless scheme would mean our government couldn’t take action during bad economic times.

For instance, if this idea had been in place before Bush’s Great Recession, 15 million more Americans would’ve been thrown out of work and our unemployment rate would have doubled.

It is already Congress’ job to pass a budget and make sure our nation is living within its means and making responsible choices.

The last thing we need is an amendment that gives Republican politicians an excuse to do nothing.

Our budget should be built on sound policy, not sound bites.


To me, a “balanced” budget makes adjustments to both expenditures and revenues. That means a balanced approach would trim spending AND ask the wealthy to do their fair share.

But even modest (and popular) proposals to eliminate tax expenditures receive a full defense from Republican politicians and their big corporate backers. A complete expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy? Nope. Unnecessary tax breaks for Big Oil? Forever. Tax breaks for U.S. companies that ship jobs overseas. You betcha.

In 2011, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said a balanced budget amendment without any tax increases “would necessitate deep cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.”

Not only are Tennessee Republicans proud to support a measure that would devastate the wealth and health of Tennessee families, this joke of a video production suggests that Tennessee Republican policy should be a model for replication.

After several years of GOP tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, this year, Tennessee has a more than $200 million budget shortfall.

And not one Republican is suggesting we return millionaire tax rates to their former levels.

For Tennessee Republicans, all the budget “balancing” will be at the expense of the working families and the poor.

If Republicans stopped putting millionaires and special interests ahead of everyday Americans, we could have a balanced budget.

Morning Coffee – Sharpen Your Pitchforks Edition

Yeah, I know. You probably thought the pitchfork sharpening season ended with the November 2nd elections. I don’t think you could have been more wrong. We live in a 24/7/365 pitchfork readiness environment now and that’s not going to change until people start feeling more certain about their economic futures.

The harsh reality is that, in times like this, people can get Balkanized, in ways that may or may not be in their best interests depending on a whole host of factors, but usually it has more to do with who they trust and listen to (and their take on an issue) than what the proposal actually is.

All of this is complicated in a media environment where the most succinct talking points are parroted endlessly. Retaining the Bush Era tax cuts for all but the wealthiest 1% of Americans is called a “Tax Hike”, and somehow that sticks even though 99% of the population would benefit from the lower rate established in 2003, and the additional revenue collected for those with the least want, would help decrease deficit spending…something that all quarters of the populace seem to endorse.

But once a group of people have made their mind up on an issue and fought passionately either for or against that issue, it’s often hard to remove the emotion from any discussion on the topic. For instance, healthcare reform. There are plenty of people, on the left and on the right, that have and continue to express their disappointment or even opposition to the reform passed earlier this year. The right wants it gone, the left doesn’t think it went far enough. Caught in the middle are people who believe the system is flawed, but don’t really know which way to go. One thing they do know is that the system that has ultimately left over 45,000,000 people without healthcare and led to the massive increases in cost of care, is unsustainable.

And that’s where we find ourselves today on the issue of consolidation. You don’t have to go very far to find someone that believes our current political situation here in Shelby County is broken. That is, in fact, one area where just about all sides agree. Where people disagree is on the details. This was made both clear and cloudy with the recent failure of the Metro Charter in the November 2 election. In effect, the majority of folks in Shelby County aren’t opposed to dancing (reform), they just don’t like the music the last DJ played. In fact, the opposition was strong enough that the County Commission passed a resolution opposing the plan.

The question we have to ask ourselves is, are we REALLY against dancing (reform), or just against the playlist the last DJ played?

To that end, Commissioner Steve Mulroy has proposed a resolution. The resolution doesn’t seek to establish a new Charter Commission, or any other formal body exploring the subject of Consolidation. Rather, it seeks to simply clarify that the County Commission isn’t wholly and completely against the idea, even though it was against the LAST idea, just like a majority of the County electorate was against the LAST idea.

Here’s the meat of the resolution:

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Shelby County Board of Commissioners supports the concept of consolidation, and is open to the idea of revisiting
a Metro Charter process in an upcoming election cycle, provided that:
(a) The City Council and County Commission have greater input into the selection of
members of any appointed Metro Charter Commission;
(b) Greater efforts are made to achieve racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity
among any Charter Commission appointees;
(c) Appropriate efforts are made to avoid any undue influence of corporate interests
on the process; and
(d) The issue of school consolidation, if still applicable, should be given weight equal
to that of any other major issue in Charter Commission deliberations.

Nowhere in there does this resolution call for a new Metro Charter Commission despite reports to the contrary.

What I’d like to see is the pro, the con, and the undecided come together and talk about what they want local government to look like in the next 20 years. What future are we working towards, and what things can we do together. The rhetoric on this issue has gotten too hot. In order to come up with some kind of future that will ultimately benefit all of us, we have to look for ways to work together and build some bridges. Where that leads, who knows? but one thing is for sure, if we don’t put down our pitchforks and start working together to better our community, we’re going to lose more ground than any possible gains, and that is truly unsustainable.

See also:
Memphis Daily News
Commercial Appeal

On to the coffee…

Worst Re-election Strategy EVAH!

The SCOTN (Supreme Court of Tennessee) issued an order to halt the executions of 4 death row inmates over the recent lethal injection ruling.

Insight into the mind of an elitist Teabagger – Shorter version…Property owner = voting rights, recently foreclosed = disenfranchised.

The race for HD98 is on. Here are your candidates so far…

Shelby County School Board President David Pickler is officially crapping himself. It’s so bad that even Norris and Lollar backed down. While they’re backpedalling, we should still call their bluff to ensure they never try to hold us hostage again.

Have fun stormin’ the castle. I’ll see ya on the flip side.

The Aftermath of August

Was Your Vote Counted? Who Knows!

Election day is just a week away, and campaigns all over the state are ramping up their efforts to get voters to the polls. This isn’t unusual, in fact it happens every election cycle. What is unusual is that several campaigns have reported reluctance by some voters to participate in early voting here in Shelby County. It seems lack of confidence in the process after the problems experienced in August has caused many voters to not only question the process, but also fear that the security of their vote may be in jeopardy.

It’s been a difficult year for Tennesseans concerned about election transparency. The State Legislature both delayed and gutted the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act (see the votes House | Senate) in early February. Most people had forgotten about the gutting of TVCA by the Statewide Primary election in August, but problems reported around the state, most notably in Shelby County, brought the issue of election transparency back to the forefront of many voters minds.

As a result of the problems experienced in Shelby County, followed by what appeared to casual observers as persistent hedging and unnecessary barriers to oversight by the Shelby County Election Commission, the six Democratic countywide candidates on the ballot initiated a lawsuit…well, actually a couple. Eventually it landed in court before Chancery Judge Arnold Goldin.

On Friday, October 1st, Judge Goldin told the Election Commission to turn over evidence requested by the plaintiff. This resulted in a Monday afternoon document dump that included 8.3 million pages of digital documents. Just two days later Judge Goldin dismissed the case stating

“the plaintiffs’ proofs certainly pointed out imperfections in this election,” they were unable to prove they “rise to the level of fraud or illegality” such that results should be thrown out.
Goldin said trustee candidate Regina Morrison Newman and her eight fellow plaintiffs, all of them Democrats, had not met “the burden of proving (that) fraud and illegality so permeated the election to make it incurably uncertain.”

While Goldin may not acknowledge the uncertainty that many voters feel in the wake of the August election, early voting numbers do.

Through October 23rd 57509 people out of 602793 registered voters have cast votes in Shelby County. However, looking at the graphs below, something is more than a little skewed.

So where are all the African American voters? Lots of people are asking that question. Heck, I’d like to know too.

Local pundits seem to think this is just a “wave” election coming to its natural conclusion. While that may fit the national narrative there’s more to it than that. Sure, the unusually high number of voters in largely Republican and white areas indicates a kind of “wave”, but by any measure there aren’t enough of them in the county to turn the tide. So just what is going on?

Over the past few days I’ve received several reports of people canvassing neighborhoods stating that the voters they spoke with distrusted Early Voting. Their rationale, the problems with the August elections that many feel were far worse than reported by the Election Commission. If confusion and lack of transparency breed distrust, here in Shelby County we’ve got that and more.

It doesn’t matter if their suspicions are true or not. Perception becomes reality and for many voters, the jury is still out on what happened in August. Despite the protestations of the Election Commission, the perception out there is that the last election was stolen. Furthermore, despite the Election Commission’s efforts to explain and answer charges, they have released next to nothing, other than a tersely worded response to charges that can be found here. In effect, the Election Commission has said, “you can’t prove we did anything wrong but this”, which does nothing but stoke fears and enflame prejudices.

In preparation for this post I asked Elections Administrator Richard Holden two questions:

1. If he had seen a surge in poll worker applications since this article published.

2. What additional steps the Election Commission has put in place to ensure the problems experienced in August don’t happen again.

Holden indicated that they had not seen a surge of qualified poll workers since the 10/13 article. To the second question Holden said the problems faced in August had been addressed and there were several other locally and nationally organized protections in place and the Election Commission was working on videos of the process to ensure the public better understands how an election is conducted.

All this is well and good, but the reality is the Election Commission is fighting a perception war and losing badly. Their decision to put up roadblocks early on in the investigation made it look like they were defending the County against releasing what should be public information. Add that to long-held questions about the security of electronic voting machines and you have a recipe for disaster.

Even the report released last night by Bill Gibbons notes:

The findings here are not intended to give shelter to those responsible for elections in Shelby County. Without having completed a thorough investigation of the entire election system, it is impossible to offer an opinion regarding the competence with which the August election or other elections have been handled in Shelby County. Nonetheless, facts discovered during this limited criminal investigation do make it clear that more than one method of performing more thorough testing of voter data prior to an election day was available to the SCEC for the August election. It is obvious that although electronic systems may have substantial benefits, they also expose the SCEC to the risk of system-wide errors caused by a simple, momentary lapse. With this in mind, it is incumbent upon all responsible officials to make the extraordinary efforts demanded by the citizenry to avoid such lapses.

I think a lot of people are still waiting for those extraordinary efforts.

So now the question is, what happens if the polls are overrun with voters on election day? We already know that the Election Commission is struggling to find qualified poll workers, which seems odd considering the rate of unemployment in the county. But maybe this too is an example of the norm in many government structures in Tennessee, which seem to have a “come ‘an get it” attitude rather than simply making their structures more transparent, which is what it will take to regain the confidence lost in the Aftermath of August.

What happens next? I have no idea, but here’s to hoping that people don’t give up on the process and not show up. That won’t solve anything. The solution is to participate in the process and demand transparency when problems occur. The solution is for appointed officials in charge of our elections to act like they’re elected, and directly responsible to the people, because ultimately, they are. In the end we have to have faith even when our faith has been shaken, and resolve that if it happens again there will be hell to pay.

Anything less is surrender.

The Republicrat And The 8th District

Every once in awhile, do you find yourself wanting to say “I told you so” so badly that you grit your teeth until bloody pieces of tongue starts floating around your mouth.

Well, by golly, I’m going to do it right now just because I feel that we don’t talk about the Republicrat as much as we need to. And we don’t really analyze why they feel so weary of political parties. In many ways, it’s the Republicrat that is the target demographic of the huge spending in the Fightin’ 8th.

Last December, I wrote this:

No one wants to talk about money for campaign races during economic times like these. And with this one getting national attention, you can bet the  parties in Washington are observing carefully what what is being said around the state. I also believe, because of the 8th’s high visibility, that we are going to see Mainstream Media more involved in this race. Sometimes they get involved, other times they don’t. As of this morning and since Tuesday, there were more than 300 news stories on Google talking about Tanner. He is a co-creator of the Blue Dog Democrats. He has the NATO thing going on. This time, I think you are going to hear a lot of traditional press.

The bottom line in this early time in the game is that this race is going to take a great deal of funding, it’s going to get a lot of attention and those Republicrats that tended to vote for Tanner (and they did) are going to be weighing their vote more heavily because this area has suffered huge job losses in recent history which is much of what I’m hearing being discussed. Tanner is what they knew and although not everyone adored him, he was well liked creating almost a new brand of voters for those in the middle who weren’t tied to a party line all the time for the past 20 years.

Yeah, I self-linked. I know, bad form. (Notice I did it anyway.)

We find out today that GOP candidates in the fighting 8th have spent $5.2 million on this race and that doesn’t include the money Robert  Kirkland has also pumped in which is over a million dollars. Dude didn’t end up making a lot of money at Kirklands just because someone wanted a higher-end home decor store in malls across the South, he made it by being aggressive. Brother Kirkland is playing to win, but alas, that is another story for another day.

It got me thinking about the Republicrat.

I know a lot of people that don’t walk the party line and I think the primary reason is that they just don’t feel very engaged by either party. I’ve said many times that it was Tanner, to a large degree, that created the voting mentality of what I’ve called for years one of two things. The Republicrat or the Dixiecrat. And, I do believe the Republicrats in the 8th are a little bit different than you might think.

I lean left campers, but the reality is that the Republicrat exists. They may vote in November for one Republican in one campaign and then turn around and hit the guy/girl with the D in another. Your average Republicrat isn’t grandstanding for attention most of the time, they are just going to vote for whom they want to.

Both political sides this campaign year have shown that this the vote that they are desperately seeking is the Republicrat this year.  It’s a reality.

In the Fightin’ 8th, I do think the GOP candidates have gone a bit over the edge.  In the 9th race, you see race being an indicator and guiding force. In the 8th is a little different although it is still “us and them” mentality where party lines are less important then the issue of jobs. A great deal of voters have felt marginalized.  What the GOP candidates have done in their fight for the nomination is disenfranchise voters more by fighting in a schoolyard brawl of rich guys.

And for Democrat Roy Herron, it’s also a challenge with the Republicrat but we will get to that after the primary.  GOP coffers may be depleted to a large degree and Herron is going to be fresh.

Both Herron and the winner tomorrow are going to have to do one thing and one thing effectively: Engage the Republicrat. For the right, it’s one challenge and for Herron it’s another which is not completely disenfranchising those on the left.

And we are going to see a lot more money poured into this race come November. The 8th is border counties that sometimes don’t even have a Tennessee television station on their satellite dish, so this may only get more contentious before it gets better as candidates try to figure out how to get their message out.

Image Credit

Strange Signs

Campaign Signs for Steve Cohen (D), Mark Luttrell (R), and Bill Oldham (R) in the same yard

There are a lot of things I don’t understand, and this picture is one of them.

How does someone support the most liberal member of the Tennessee delegation to Congress, and two Republicans who are anything but liberals?

I won’t rush to judgement. For all I know these folks are personal friends of all three candidates. But Cohen + Luttrell + Oldham just doesn’t compute in my mind.

What’s interesting is, I’ve been seeing it all over Memphis the past several weeks. Minivans, cars, trucks and yards with mixed signals. I’m not sure what to make of it.

There are a lot of possibilities. I’m sure the general populace is less partisan than I am, and as you move down the ticket to more local races, partisanship seems to have less impact than it does on a national level.

The truth is, partisanship has a lot more to do with what gets done locally than we know. Luttrell’s problems with labor groups falls in line nicely with Republican’s general disdain for workers organizing.

One of the most telling things about someone’s ability to manage is how the relationship with their subordinates works. The fact that every labor organization that is involved in law enforcement has endorsed Wade is telling. If you wouldn’t vote for your boss, then chances are your boss ain’t doing something right. I have to wonder what would come of organized workers in the County government if Luttrell is elected Mayor.

Labor issues aside, it’s clear that partisanship isn’t the prime motivator for folks that support Cohen, Luttrell, and Oldham, so what is?

Some might be wary of another Ford in office. While that may explain the support of Luttrell, it doesn’t explain the support of Oldham, so that rationale doesn’t hold water.

I’m sure if you asked former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, he would say race, and that would seem to be the one thing these three candidates have in common. While I don’t want this to be the case, a lot of what I’ve seen over the past several months supports that theory, and that’s disturbing.

There’s been a bunch of brou-ha-ha over Mayor Herenton’s “race based” campaign for the 9th district, but I’ll give him credit for one thing, at least he’s not trying to hide it. Herenton’s no holds barred rhetoric makes his position clear, he thinks that only an African American is suited to represent a largely African American district. But what about the flip side of the coin? Are there white people who believe that only white people can adequately represent them? Sure there are, and regardless of whether they state it as plainly or clearly as Mayor Herenton, they’re engaging in the same kind of race baiting that the former Mayor has used as the foundation of his campaign.

The question we should be asking ourselves in every election is who best represents our views and will move government in the direction we want it to go, not who looks most like us. While I won’t go so far as to claim that this particular instance of campaign sign strangeness is racism, the number of times I’ve seen this scenario and the places I’ve seen it points to race as a possible motivating factor in who people support.

Maybe it really does come down to people’s perceptions of merit. Maybe a lot of people are really turned off by Ford “changing his mind”. That still doesn’t explain the Sheriff’s race.

Maybe Herenton is right, and race is the primary motivator in Shelby County. I hope he’s wrong, but some of the signs point to that conclusion, and it bothers me…a lot.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

The Evidence via @tompowell3

As I noted in yesterday’s Happy Hour, former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton had a presser yesterday. I was only able to listen to a little of it because I was working, but what I heard was interesting, and not entirely untrue.

I can’t vouch for the complete accuracy of Herenton’s numbers. The Voter Participating List that I have doesn’t include race. If you had the time, you could cross reference that list with voter registrations and find. However, based on what I’ve seen, I have no reason to doubt the truth of this graph.

Where Herenton has a point is in highlighting the differences of voting characteristics between the 9th District race and the Shelby County race. Much of the reporting has focused on the surge of white and Republican voters. However, this is not borne out in looking at the 9th district. In fact, the very voters that the media is touting as swaying the election don’t live in the 9th at all, they live in the 7th or the 8th.

The fact is, 53% of the vote in the 9th district race comes from areas that have been traditional Herenton strongholds, and have predominantly African American voter registration. What’s most interesting is that in those areas that have dominated the voting, registrations run about a 3:1 African American to White ratio.

Since the only science in Herenton’s “internal” poll is who is voting, it should come as no surprise, based on this data, that Herenton feels he’ll win by a 3:1 margin.

What is not known is how people are voting. This is, as Donald Rumsfeld would say, a “known unknown”, or we know we can’t know this.

Herenton believes he knows not only who, but how these folks have voted and that’s where the problem lies with his analysis. No one but the voters know.

If we rely on Herenton’s analysis, then Cohen could be in trouble. With all the emphasis on the County race and the generally dismissive tone in the media coverage of Herenton’s lackluster campaign, it’s easy to see that some Cohen voters may feel comfortable not making it out to the polls. This, however, would be a huge mistake.

As I said before, we only know who has voted, and the prior history of how the areas from which they hail have voted in the past. Knowing this should motivate Cohen supporters to the polls on Thursday. Further, looking at the Republican surge in East Shelby that has resulted in turnout that is 10% greater than registrations should also be a motivator to serve as a counterbalance in the County races.

There are lies, damn lies, and statistics. Statistics can be weighted to tell you anything the writer wants you to see. But the God’s honest truth is that in both the 9th District race and the County Races there are more questions than answers for the Democratic slate and Congressman Cohen.

If you want Democratic leadership in Shelby County Government, and want to return Congressman Cohen to DC, I suggest you vote. The “known unknowns” won’t be revealed until its too late.

See Also:
Herenton Presents Own Data, Suggesting Lopsided Victory for Himself
Herenton sees race deciding Dist. 9 race
District Nine – Again

It’s Not Just Happening Here, Folks

Sean Braisted reports that the number of Davidson County voters pulling GOP primary ballots are almost as many as those pulling Democratic ballots:

With the first day in from the start of expanded early voting polling sites, it looks as if Republicans have all but eliminated the early voting lead held by Democrats in the first week of early voting.

Over 4,000 people voted yesterday alone, bringing the total from 2,529 to 6,625. Of those, 3,305 chose a Democratic ballot compared to 3,279 getting voting in the Republican primary. If those trends continue, it is likely that more people will have voted in a GOP primary in early voting than they have in the Democratic primary.

Well, the only hot Democratic race there is the one between Senator Douglas Henry and attorney Jeff Yarbro, and that affects a small part of the county. There is another race between Rep. Mary Pruitt and newcomer Steven Turner, but it’s not as fierce and there may be overlap between those districts.

One suspects that the majority of Democrats are crossing over to vote in the GOP Primary for Governor, as Mike McWherter is unopposed in the Democratic Primary.

There are two possible reasons for this, in my opinion.  First, it could be that Democrats are crossing over to vote for whomever they believe is the weakest possible opponent for McWherter, which would mean a boost for Zach Wamp or Ron Ramsey.

However, the second option is a scary one: it could be that they have determined that McWherter cannot win in November, and they are crossing over to vote for Bill Haslam, so as to prevent the more rabid aspects of the GOP from taking over the state.

I am hoping that it is the former; only time will tell.

Rural Voters Are Tired Of The Political Spin

Downtown Martin

Finally, a story comes from the  Tennessean about how rural voters are sick and tired of hearing candidates talk about jobs but not have a concrete plan.

The economy — creating jobs and lowering unemployment — is by far the most important issue in this year’s elections, voters across the state say. But in town squares and truck stops, restaurants and fields, many Tennesseans remain uncertain what the next governor and state legislature can do to solve the economic challenges that have bedeviled the state’s rural communities for more than two decades.

Chas Sisk is citing things in this story that I have been talking about for a long time. Rural communities are working hard to bring jobs back that have  left to head overseas.  Finding a job in the current environment (and my point of reference is west Tennessee) is nearly impossible unless you have an “in” with someone who can make a difference and those folks are hard to find these days. Over the past two weeks alone I have heard several people that say they are going to have to move because “there just isn’t anything here” from two separate counties. Another house in our community has gone on the market due to the father to three boys losing his job last summer. He has gone to school to learn a new trade but the jobs just aren’t here.

The issue comes to that a once thriving manufacturing boom for this area honestly ended it’s run more than 40 years ago. Within the last 10 years, needle and thread companies, shoe factories and countless others have closed their doors. The economic situation was set on manufacturing and goods production and there wasn’t much left after those opportunities were gone. No major industries has replaced those that are now abandoned buildings and other than agriculture, which still thrives although we have seen several drought years, the dependency on manufacturing has left an impossible hole that has not been filled. Community leaders have fought diligently to bring industry back, but small business in many areas is what is left and those jobs are not as solid as they once were. Big industry leaves but it impacts small companies.

In a poll published yesterday in the Commercial Appeal, the answer was clear on where voters stood on the issues:

The Mason-Dixon Tennessee Poll, conducted for the Tennessee Newspaper Network & WBIR-TV of Knoxville, asked 625 registered voters across Tennessee the opened-ended question, “What do you feel is the single most important state issue facing Tennessee today?”

The answers:

Economy/jobs: 54%

Government spending/taxes/state budget: 22%

Health care: 8%

Immigration: 6%

Education: 5%

Roads/bridges/transportation: 1%

Environment/growth and sprawl: 1%

Social issues/family values/abortion/gay rights: 1%

Other issues/not sure: 2%

I have heard repeated (and thought it myself, quite frankly) that rural voters are tired of being put into a box, stereotyped by Washington and Nashville to a large degree as well, on what they need when many of these people have never made it off I-40.

Candidates across the state are wanting the rural vote. The issue comes down to that rural voters are not engaged right now with the political spin in the least and those votes are going to be hard-earned in this economy.

Rural voters could care less right now because they are too busy trying to find jobs.

Have Democrats Lost Their Confidence?

I’m speaking generically of course but I can’t help but think that may be the case. When a blogger posts an edited version of speech given by Shirley Sherrod and the White House reacts by firing her without even looking for context and more information, it shows a weakness in the chain.

We see several things happening here. First of all, blogger has altered video and posts it. Fox News runs with it as they are wont to do without fact-checking it in the least after the video goes viral. So, campers, if you don’t think your blog is being read, think again. We can go back to that political bloggers have a responsibility and long-term, we will see where this goes because it will have an impact one way or another. Sherrod says she may sue Andrew Bretbart as well.

The White House reacts. Pres. Barack Obama gave impassioned speeches during his campaign regarding race relations. It would be disingenuous to say things have changed. They have not and with the Sherrod controversy where a woman’s words were twisted, used to perpetuate a fabricated reverse racism for political gain, we see what we knew was true anyway. Her firing proved that there is still much to do when it comes to not only civil rights, but to media accountability and to strong leadership that doesn’t back down and at least has their facts straight.

With user-generated media that, there is no doubt that we live in a different time now that we did even 10 years ago. Rumors, news and even fabricated hit jobs travel quickly.

Yet there is more to this story than meets the eye.

The situation also got me to thinking about democrats in our state as well. We saw Rep. John Tanner take a leadership role this week and calling out members of the GOP for playing partisan politics with some rather impressive controlled rage, and a good speechwriter hit some great nuances for the retiring congressman. There was confidence there but he will be gone soon. Gov. Phil Bredesen commuted Gail Owens’ death sentence to life-in-prison last week and scolded members of the GOP for taking a few days in the state of the Grand Canyon. Bredesen is also headed out the door.

The question remains, where is the confidence in those who aren’t looking to get out of Congress and the Governor’s Mansion?

Yet we don’t see democrats calling out their colleagues on the Arizona law, where GOP members are going to hand deliver a letter of support to that state’s leadership later this month. Is our tax money paying for this trip? (Hey paid media, get on this and find out.) Is our state really getting involved in this? And why aren’t prominent democrats standing up? Why isn’t our house and senate leadership saying no to this or at least sending our statements on why we SHOULD NOT support any sort of legislation that promotes racial profiling?

White folks don’t get racially profiled, my friends.

Where is the confidence to set the ship straight? In looking at campaigns for Jeff Yarbro and Ben Leming, we see a confidence and we all see a level of excitement in those races. Incumbent democrats should study what those two men are doing right now. Voters in those districts seem very engaged and involved whether they are for, or against, those candidates.

Democrats should, in my opinion, find that confidence where they take a stand on what is just and not follow the status quo because the status quo isn’t moving us forward.

In all reality, it’s holding us back.

Related: The Slow Blogging Movement?

The Fightin’ 8th GOP Slugfest

There are some pretty high stakes happening in the 8th District right now with the retirement of long-time congressman, John Tanner, who has served 11-terms in Washington. I wrote yesterday about the insane amount of mailers that certain areas were getting. In Obion County, mailers come daily. In perusing them, Ron Kirkland and George Flinn are on the attack moreso than Stephen Fincher it appears. Kirkland’s mailers are extremely pointed attacking Flinn not actually living in the district and Fincher’s huge farm subsidies. (One mailer even cites an blog post from May 28th from Post Politics.)

Flinn’s mailers have a different theme, citing his career as a doctor in one in his white jacket with his name embroidered on the top left corner and another has him sitting behind a microphone at one of his radio stations. A third mailer from Flinn’s campaign took me a moment to find his name. There’s a caution sign with Pres. Barack Obama’s logo from his presidential campaign and a stick figure falling with the words Whoops on it. Of course there are unflattering photos of Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama in the center and I believe that’s the one where he calls Kirkland and Fincher liberals.

Let me repeat, he calls them liberals. I laughed out loud at that one but as I said, it took me a second to figure out who had sent that one.

I asked around and the mailers aren’t really coming hot and heavy into Weakley County. I can only speculate that is because Roy Herron is from here.

The challenges for all four candidates is not as simple as it would be in a race in a more urban area such as the Cohen/Herenton battle in the 9th where advertising markets are more certain. Many people here in the 8th are on satellite systems for their television habits. Some of their news comes from Memphis, other packages has news coming out of Nashville. In the upper corner of northwest Tennessee, much of the news comes from Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky. The race has the distinction of having a television market that is somewhat like a puzzle piece. Needless to say, a great deal of advertising monies for all the candidates is going to have to be spread around and this might be one of the reasons the mailers from the GOP candidates are aggressively hitting households.

The mailers have not gone unnoticed. A letter to the editor in today’s Jackson Sun slams Kirkland for some of the information in the mailers. A friend of my family, who has been getting the mailers from all the candidates daily and saving them for me to look at, said she just tosses them aside and doesn’t really look at them at all. “More stuff I have to throw away,” she said last night.  An AP story regarding all three candidates circulated yesterday that tackled some of the issues regarding Fincher, Flinn and Kirkland’s contentious race. I disagree with the AP story to a large degree on this statement.

Flinn, a Shelby County commissioner who owns dozens of radio and television stations, has been the least likely to go on the attack so far.

Politico reported five days ago Flinn’s negative campaign spin.

One mailer from Flinn includes a computer-generated composite photo of Fincher and Kirkland on a ship with President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and says they are “sailing with the wrong crew,” while another says that the two are “playing ball for the wrong team.”

The one thing to remember is, and I repeat from earlier, the unusual television markets that border counties and districts such as the 8th has. To get a candidates message across is playing a game of chess. Mailers have worked effectively in the past but we also live in a new age of communication. Broadband access isn’t a given in certain areas of the 8th, televised local news may not come out of Tennessee specifically and using the mailbox as a megaphone seems to be one way the GOP is trying to get to undecided voters.

There isn’t as much buzz in this area about the campaign as you would think there would be. Fincher doesn’t appear, to me at least, to be hitting as hard as the other two in the mailers. With just a little over two weeks until the primary and with early voting underway, the reality is that the GOP candidates are working very hard to get attention.

And bad attention is better than no attention at all, I guess, in the world of politics.

One thing I would remind the candidates is that negative campaigning can backfire as well. When folks in these areas, who are facing unemployment or have had to take lesser paying jobs, see rich guys throwing mud at each other it might turn them off.