Fri
Oct 23 2009
01:35 pm
By: knoxrebel

A QUESTION OF LOYALTY

Is a Democrat who supports a Republican really a Democrat? I’m what some might call a Yellow Dog Democrat. By that, I mean that I am fiercely loyal to the Democratic Party. Of course, I realize as well that other Democrats – single issue Democrats or so-called Blue Dog Democrats – are sometimes less loyal to the Party. But in a county which is about 57% Republican to about 43% Democrat (insofar as actual voter allegiance is concerned), for Democrats to be successful, they have to receive the support of other Democrats. Recent history shows us that a Republican can get elected in 7 of 9 districts in Knox County without a receiving a single Democratic vote. Not so for Democrats, who – for the most part – must rely upon moderate, less loyal Republicans to get them over the top. So, while Democrats can afford not to be loyal to their Party every now and then, Knox County Democrats do not have that luxury.

After all, Knox County isn’t Cuyahoga County, Ohio or Cook County, Illinois, and Tennessee is not Massachusetts. Democrats in Knox County need to support other Democrats. The repercussions of failing to do so is evidenced by the 2003 City Mayor’s race. That year, a few Knox County officeholders who happened to be Democrats openly endorsed Republican Bill Haslam over Democrat Madeline Rogero in the non-partisan race for Knoxville mayor. The race turned out to be much closer than many had first believed and the consensus opinion (shared by me) was that those elected Democrats’ disloyalty may have cost Madeline the race.

So here we go again, still another Knox County Democrat officeholder – Amy Broyles – has decided to endorse a Republican over a qualified, viable Democrat. Here we are, on the verge of some very important races next May, August and November, just as a few Democrats are considering possible races, and now they see that even if they are nominated, our Party's elected officeholders may not even support them (and may even support their Republican opponents).

I don’t think it is unreasonable for Democrats – who selected our 5 County Commissioners in our Party’s primaries to represent us against Republican opponents to expect those Democrats to support Democratic candidates who face Republican opponents. This disloyalty promises to have a double effect. First, to those who support Amy, the endorsement will probably be the difference-maker. Therefore, the endorsement will undoubtedly cost the Democrat innumerable Democrat votes. Second, it demonstrates to other Democrats considering 2010 races that our Party is not united at all and that if you are a Democrat candidate you can’t even rely upon the support of your own Party’s elected officeholders.

If Amy’s reasoning for endorsing Holman is one of ideology, “bipartisanship” or personal, neither reason is credible. As far as ideology goes, there will always be direct conflicts between the needs of certain more liberal or progressive Democrats and conservative or moderate Democrats. How do they reconcile these? Hopefully, a compromise is achieved. But you don’t promote liberal, moderate or conservative Democrat ideals by supporting Republicans. It just doesn’t make sense, does it? What we need and what we should expect is nearly unfettered loyalty to the Democratic Party (the political home of the Progressive movement, for all practical purposes) by elected Democrats who were chosen by our Party in its primaries.

Randy Nichols’ sin in 2003 was not his disagreement with the ideology of Madeline Rogero. It was supporting a Republican over a very qualified Democrat. Much like Joe Lieberman's sin was not his disagreement with most other Progressives on the Iraq War and other foreign policy issues, but his attack on fellow Democrats and support of Republicans. That, more than anything, is what made his actions inexcusable.

Ideological purity doesn't win elections. Loyalty and unity do. As Democrats, we will never agree with each other on every position, and that's okay. But we must have each other’s back if we expect to push our Democrat agenda forward. I don't mean to say that we can’t disagree, but when push comes to shove, Democrats will only succeed here if we stand together. Besides, Party unity does not require ideological purity. It requires loyalty to the Party. We all have our own unique mix of issues which are preeminent to us. But for us to succeed, everyone who champions Democrat causes needs to be willing to compromise on an overarching agenda for the Democratic Party as a whole. We can’t conveniently abandon the Party or its candidates whenever we want and expect no repercussions to result.

Finally, the reason such an endorsement matters is that the endorsement comes from an elected Democrat who was nominated by Democrats through a Democratic Primary. Personal animosity toward another Democrat should never result in an endorsement of a Republican over that Democrat. It disrespects the Democrats who nominated the elected Democrat. And it is shameful. And to the extent the reasons are based on some ill-devised logic of “bipartisanship,” this is nonsense. If the Republican is elected, then perhaps “the spirit of bipartisanship” would be more persuasive, but why suffer bipartisanship if a qualified Democrat can be elected? You were, after all, nominated by Democrats, who scarcely had reason to believe you would abandon the Party . . . for spite or purely personal reasons.

Everyone of us is entitled to vote as we please, but this doesn’t mean that an elected Democrat should be permitted to go unquestioned when using their elected position as a means to support a Republican over a Democrat. If we are to make Knox County a place where a Democrat can win in any of our nine districts or county wide, we cannot do that if the Democrats we elect wind up turning their backs on qualified fellow Democrat candidates. It is up to us to change this . . . before it is too late.

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