Anyway, it appears the local party’s internal strife between two or more divided factions – the hard left wing vs. the moderate/conservative wing – or the new guard vs. the old guard also exists at the state level. Garrison is the candidate of the liberal left (the new guard), purportedly seeking what some have essentially labeled a “third term” for outgoing chair Chip Forrester. In contrast, Herron is the champion of the moderates/conservatives (the old guard), who envision a recurrence of the good old days when Democrats actually controlled both houses and the governor’s office.
It occurs to me that what Democrats do not need at this point is simply more of the same. We just cannot afford it, especially after losing the governor’s office in 2010, after losing both houses of the General Assembly in 2010, losing 27 seats in the last two elections alone, after losing long-held Congressional seats to the GOP, after being hammered by the GOP nominee in presidential contests in both ‘08 and ‘12, and presented with no serious challengers on the horizon willing or able to confront Haslam, Alexander or Corker.
For all of this, perhaps selecting someone who has actually ran a race and been part of a Democratic majority would really be a good thing. Herron was a legislator for 26 years, always on the majority’s side. Herron is the only candidate who has spent serious time on Capitol Hill, having won five terms in the House and four in the Senate. Certainly, Herron knows the campaign process, the legislative process, and he knows Democrats, because he was an integral part of all of it for a very long time. Importantly, despite all of his years as a legislator, he recently discovered what it feels like to lose. And that’s not a bad thing. He knows how ineffective and irrelevant the TNDP is at this point in many areas across the state.
Garrison talks about how unimportant running a campaign is, about how he can build coalitions, and about how he can bring in a “fresh perspective.” But being the state party chair is like running a perpetual campaign. And if Garrison could “build coalitions,” why didn’t he do that as part of Forrester’s team as party treasurer? And a fresh perspective is what Forrester talked about in 2009. We don’t need a fresh perspective on how to lose, we’ve already discovered how to do that over the past four years.
Instead, we need someone: (1) who has won, (2) who has battled Republicans in the trenches, (3) who can appeal to disenchanted Democrats, former Democrats and rural Democrats, and finally, (4) who can tell prospective candidates, “I’ve ran a successful campaign, I’ve knocked on doors asking voters to support me, I’ve served in the legislature, I've defended my votes, I've fought the best the GOP has had to offer and I've won, and I know what I’m asking you to do because I’ve done it myself.”
One Knox County Executive Committee member already lined up to support Garrison suggests that he deserves her vote because “[Garrison] was here in good times and bad times.” Uh, well, Herron was not only here for a long time during the good times but he also lost an opportunity to go to Washington DC in the recent bad times. My guess is, Herron knows exactly what was “going right” in the good years and he saw very clearly what “went wrong” in the bad.
To be sure, Herron has been attacked for various positions he’s taken in the past, particularly concerning guns and abortion rights. He’s an NRA member, and a couple of his votes on gun-related bills rankle some. But many Tennessee Democrats, especially rural Democrats like Herron, are gun-toters. And if we decide as a party to write-off gun-enthusiasts or even card-carrying NRA members, then we’re doomed for electoral disaster. Democrats own guns. His religious beliefs also make him unapologetically anti-abortion, yet he voted repeatedly against any movements to insert anti-abortion language into the state Constitution. And while this may disturb many Democrats, it’s also the position taken by our own Vice President, Joe Biden.
What’s more, the chair of the Party isn’t responsible for establishing an official gun policy, or for that matter, to be dictating the Party’s platform about abortion rights or anything else. The chair is there to recruit candidates and to give Democratic candidates across the state the tools they need to win and to help elect Democrats to office. Frankly, our party has failed miserably in doing that over the past four years. And while Dave Garrison seems like a nice enough fellow, he promises more of the same failures endured by Democrats over those years, or, as one commentator aptly put it, “crushing, unparalleled, unmitigated failures.”
The next chair of Tennessee Democrats needs to figure out a way to lure moderates back into the Democratic fold. Until that happens, we'll always be the minority party, and we'll never win back either house, much less the governor's office or US Senate seats. Sure, it's a hard proposition for Tennessee liberals to compromise on certain issues near and dear to them, but we'll never be able to have any impact on those issues as long as we're Tennessee's political bottom-feeders.
In fact, perhaps Herron is the very voice Tennessee Democrats need right now to lure those disaffected Democrats back into the fold: like the gun-toters who have been lead by the GOP to believe there’s no place for them in the Democratic Party (our chair’s an avid hunter and NRA member), or like the folks who have been lead by the GOP to think the Democratic Party is the anti-God party (our chair wrote a book about God and politics, and like th
e rural Democrats such as those who repeatedly elected and re-elected Herron to office for 26 years. And I know him personally to be as hard a worker as anyone.
In the end, I’m probably as liberal as anyone posting on Knoxviews, likely moreso. But the party chair doesn’t have to be as liberal as you or I. What we need is a chair who’ll do what’s necessary to elect Democrats, not be guided by a personal or unrealistic idealogical agenda. Herron gets it. He’s the best choice, and I sure hope he gets his chance.
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