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.
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