Thu
Nov 6 2008
04:48 pm

In a recent Nashville Scene interview, TNDP Chair Gray Sasser takes a swipe at bloggers:

It’s easy so sit on the sidelines and throw stones or be an anonymous blogger out there and take potshots at people in the political game, but you have to admire a guy like Bob Tuke who will get out there and address issues and take on an uphill fight.

I can understand Mr. Sasser being a little testy, given some of the heat he's been taking from Tennessee progressive bloggers over the past couple of days. I've pretty much stayed out of it because he's got a tough job here in the belly of the Red State beast and I hate to kick somebody when they're down.

But this remark is instructive on some level.

First of all, a quick survey of the 34 active blogs on the TennViews blogroll, which represents the hand-picked best of Tennessee liberal/progressive bloggers, shows that 21 authors blog under their real names, including nearly all of the most widely read and highly regarded liberal blogs in the state. In addition, 28 provide contact info and all allow for comments, so party officials and others "in the political game" have adequate opportunity to respond to any perceived "potshots."

Second of all, every one of these bloggers invests time, energy, and money towards electing Democrats and asks nothing in return. Virtually none are compensated in any way other than the satisfaction of trying to make a difference. And some even put up with threats and other forms of intimidation for their troubles.

Most are also involved in "real world" activities such as fundraising, volunteering, phone banking, staffing party HQ offices, hosting house parties, promoting and showing up at rallies, putting out signs, working at the polls, and all the other work that has to be done to get Democrats elected.

So it isn't really fair to suggest that they "sit on the sidelines" or that they are somehow not included among "people in the political game." These are some of the most motivated and best informed voters in the state!

Just as an example, my wife and I spent thousands of dollars and took several business days off to go cover the Denver convention with the Tennessee delegation. It is my understanding that state party officials approved the list of finalists for the DNC to pick from, so my sincere thanks to Gray Sasser and the TNDP for that and for their hospitality during our time at the convention.

But, and I don't want to sound ungrateful because I know they were busy, we had a hard time getting info about delegates and meeting schedules and the like and in fact got better info from the DNC.

And I guess our coverage wasn't very good or all that interesting or something, because we received no feedback at all from the TNDP after the convention, and I don't recall even the courtesy of a link from their websites. (Thanks, by the way, to the Knox Dems for their links.) But that may be understandable, given that they had no online convention coverage at all. And speaking of their websites, they really need an overhaul.

I'm guessing that others are also puzzled by the lack of TNDP outreach to bloggers. I had difficulty even signing up for their e-mail newsletters and staying on the mailing list. I don't think I ever got on the distribution list for press releases despite more than one request. But maybe there just weren't that many newsletters or press releases. Either way, bloggers shouldn't even have to ask.

In contrast, I signed up for the TNGOP newsletter and received regular dispatches loaded with talking points. It was all bullshit, but it was crisp, on-message, well organized bullshit delivered with clockwork precision.

I had better luck with the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus. Communications Director Mark Brown was open and accessible and great about responding to inquiries and providing updates on the record and off. It was a completely different story, however, on the House side. Mark's counterpart in the House Democratic Caucus never responded to any emails that I can recall.

I realize they are separate organizations from the TNDP, but it would seem that part of the TNDP's job is to organize their communications efforts and make sure their message is getting out to every possible venue, especially the growing "new media" that is more likely to be receptive and provide favorable coverage. (I note that Kleinheider, who isn't exactly what you'd call the Democrats' friend, is always receiving five by five.)

Even in the real world, we're hearing stories (see Newscoma) about people trying to get help from the TNDP in local races and not seeing much. I sent Gray Sasser an email begging him to get in touch with the Blount Dem chair to see if there was anything the TNDP could do to help a judicial candidate getting hammered by the GOP slime machine over here. I never heard back, and asked Gray at the convention if he ever got my email. His said he didn't recall, but noted that "Blount County is tough for Democrats." No shit. So is Tennessee, in case anyone didn't notice Tuesday night. What are we going to do about it?

It's also puzzling why the party and our candidates seem to think blogs are kryptonite. I don't remember seeing any ads for state or local candidates on Tennessee blogs that offer them. And there's very little if any participation by "mainstream" candidates at sites such as KnoxViews and RoaneViews and BlountViews and TennViews with standing invitations. And I'm sure there would be plenty of others who would offer similar platforms if there were any interest from party officials and candidates. I guess they're afraid of being associated with such "radical" and "unrestrained" conversation.

But guess what, Democrats. That's the conversation that's going on among voters, especially progressive voters sympathetic to your message. And if you're too worried about getting called out on your anti-gay, anti-choice, pro-gun bullshit, then maybe you need a new line of bullshit. Or you should at least be able to defend it to your liberal/progressive base. Besides, do you agree with everything said in the right-wing newspapers that cover your campaigns and run your ads?

Anyway, I know the TNDP has bigger fish to fry at the moment and this is just one tiny piece of the puzzle, so I'll stop whining now. But I'll just say this: The TNDP needs to get the message that the internet and blogs are here to stay, and bloggers are your friends and stand ready to help you.

The Obama campaign showed you how it's done. The DNC reached out in an unprecedented way during the convention. Right now would be a good time for the TNDP and local Dem shops to start reaching out, too, and figuring out how to work effectively with anyone willing to help. Whatever it is you're doing now ain't working. And Bill Hobbs is kicking your ass.

OK, then.

125
like
Joe P.'s picture

good call

very well said.

Bill Lyons's picture

Confusion over the term "blogger"

This may only partially apply here because Mr. Sasser almost certainly has some specific bloggers in mind so I apologize for possibly confusing the issue. However I find that when people start in on "anonymous bloggers" "the bloggers," etc. very often they have in mind not the folks doing the work of keeping a site going, posting valuable information, and providing a place for discussion (the blogger) but rather the folks who post very negative and nasty comments on blog sites and, unfortunately, in comments on stories on sites such as maintained by news organizations.

I often tell folks that I find reading and participating on some blogs (very much including this one) to be very helpful and informative. More often than not the response I get shows that a lot of people think that "bloggers" are those who comment on stories on media sites. A lot of these folks have never visited what we would consider a blog. In any case it is clear to me that very many in the general public don't really know what a "blogger" is as opposed to someone who puts comments on a web site.

Anyway, I have noticed that the word "blogger" has started to become a perjorative and I think some of that negativity reflects the above confusion.

R. Neal's picture

An excellent point, Dr.

An excellent point, Dr. Lyons.

I have noticed that, too, especially at the newspaper sites. In fact, I was just thinking over the past couple of weeks that we need a new term, because "blogger" has lost all meaning and has indeed become a perjorative as you note.

I like "new media" for blogs, but I ain't married to it.

Not sure what "blogger" would be. New media publisher? New media citizen jouralist? Too long.

Mello's picture

perhaps Mr Sasser could use a good dose of

Perhaps Mr Sasser could use a good dose of R. Neal's Blogging 101 course. I mean really, Sasser was standing there in that picnic shelter house last summer with you, the Mrs, me, a few blogging Commissioners and the Blount County Blog fan club.

bizgrrl's picture

The Obama campaign showed

The Obama campaign showed you how it's done. The DNC reached out in an unprecedented way during the convention. Right now would be a good time for the TNDP and local Dem shops to start reaching out, too,

Exactly!

LeftWingCracker's picture

bravo, sir

You nailed it, as usual.

katie allison granju's picture

People mistakenly use the

People mistakenly use the term "blog" to refer to any online communication that is not an e-mail, and "blogger" to refer to anyone who expresses an opinion online. I have often heard the comments section at the Sentinel referred to as a "blog."

Andy Axel's picture

Even in the real world,

Even in the real world, we're hearing stories (see Newscoma) about people trying to get help from the TNDP in local races and not seeing much. I sent Gray Sasser an email begging him to get in touch with the Blount Dem chair to see if there was anything the TNDP could do to help a judicial candidate getting hammered by the GOP slime machine over here. I never heard back, and asked Gray at the convention if he ever got my email. His said he didn't recall, but noted that "Blount County is tough for Democrats." No shit. So is Tennessee, in case anyone didn't notice Tuesday night. What are we going to do about it?

Leaving aside the question of "new media" for the moment, what the heck is the TN Dem establishment doing with "old media?" Very damned little.

Randy, remember when you said that you were sorta surprised that the East TN news anchor didn't know that Lamar! had an opponent?

Same deal applies here.

I'd hazard a guess that Tuke's press office was giving East TN a pass because it's "tough for Democrats." Then again, maybe it was all of TN and not just the East. Go look at Tuke's media site - mid-August is about when the press releases all but stopped. Incredibly lazy.

But to tease out your point a little more - the longer we have people shrugging their shoulders and saying, "Well, it's just too tough," the longer these prophecies will have a stranglehold on our politics. And the longer it will take to un-f*** the situation in which we've found ourselves today.

Sad to say, but this House-cleaning is perhaps the wakeup call that some of our indolent leadership needs in order to start, um, leading again. (I know a lot of people will disagree with me here, but Kurita was way ahead of her time on this one. If people had been paying attention two years ago, rather than getting in a lather about uppity women making a stir, they might have done something more substantive and imaginative than focusing on getting her ousted. How much more good would it have done to spend that month on building up and shoring up the base, rather than focusing on a stupid show trial? Did anyone notice that Kurita was making her vote from the, ahem, minority???)

____________________________

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R. Neal's picture

Not to rub it in, but here's

Not to rub it in, but here's the Bill Hobbs and Robin Smith TNGOP newsletter I just received (without the fancy graphics):

The timeline of history has a Republican stamp on it, as of November 4, 2008. This historical moment is completely due to the tremendous work of you, the grassroots supporter, the faithful in the field, and dear precious friends of this party.

Both chambers of the legislature, for the first time since 1869, are now lead by Republican majorities. The leadership of Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and his team in the Senate and Jason Mumpower with his team in the House have provided a core for the vision of this historical accomplishment.

The net gain reported has been 4 in the state house and 3 in the state senate for a 50-49 count in the TN House and 19-14 in the TN Senate. There were a lot of legislative victories, a total of 14 non-incumbent wins, that generated the new majority.

The Tennessee Republican Party launched "Taking the Hill" as its commitment in August 2007 as I was elected Chairman of this great state party. "Taking the Hill" is the charge heard for months regarding our political efforts to take the "hill" in D.C. and Tennessee. With great candidates, great volunteers, great staff and great contributors, we Took the Hill on November 4, 2008!

John McCain & Sarah Palin won in Tennessee with 57% of the vote.

Senator Lamar Alexander was re-elected with 65% of the vote.

All four of our Republican Congressional seats were strongly held by our Republicans: Jimmy Duncan, Zach Wamp, Marsha Blackburn, and Dr. Phil Roe.

Here's the list of Tennessee Republican winners and new faces in new places:

Wins in the House defeating Democrats:
Tony Shipley - TnHD 2 (against incumbent)
Terri Lynn Weaver - TnHD40
Joe Carr - TnHD 48
Joshua Evans - TnHD 66 (against incumbent)
Vance Dennis - TnHD 71

Wins in House to hold GOP retirees:
Chad Faulkner - TnHD 36
Ryan Haynes - TnHD 14
Bob Ramsey - TnHD 20
Curtis Halford - TnHD 79
Barrett Rich - TnHD 94

Wins in Senate defeating Democrats-independent:
Mike Faulk - TnSD 4 (against incumbent)
Doug Overbey - TnSD 8
Ken Yager - TnSD 12
Dolores Gresham - TnSD 26

Principles and our People...our great Tennessee Republican Party!

Thanks to all!

Are y'all going to take that?

gime_shltr's picture

Instructions on how to...

In contrast, I signed up for the TNGOP newsletter and received regular dispatches loaded with talking points. It was all bullshit, but it was crisp, on-message, well organized bullshit delivered with clockwork precision.

What else do you need to know?

1) Find some young Democrats in the marketing field (try local colleges and universities).

2) Put them to work.

3) Set the timer and forget about it.

How hard can it be? Ever read conservative blogs by college age students? That's where it all starts for them.

Sharon Cobb's picture

Ingrates

Like many Tennessee bloggers, I gave Tennessee candidates free advertising. Not only didn't I get a "thank you" card, (except from Cohen) but we all got a kick in the butt from Sasser and I am very disappointed in him for "using" us when he felt it was to his advantage, but ultimately dismissing us.

Chris Fortner's picture

Sasser lashes out at bloggers

One thing is for sure, bloggers are here to stay.

TheLynnsterZone's picture

Best thing I've read all week - and sad but true

Great post, sir. And it should be a sad day for anyone to be told Bill Hobbs is kicking their ass, but in this case it's certainly the truth.

Actually, if it were a streetfight, Hobbs & Robin Smith put together would have already put Sasser in the hospital on life support.

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