Well, the election results are in, and, as has often been the case in Tennessee, it wasn’t easy being Green. The best percentage of the vote received was the race run by Green fellow traveler Jon Davidson, who garnered 20% of the vote in State House District 52 against well known liberal Democrat Rob Briley—yeah, the family they named the parkway for. Talk about being part of the establishment…. Twenty percent! Over twenty-two hundred votes, nearly as many as statewide candidates Howard Switzer pulled in the governor’s race (2600) or Chris Lugo in the Senate race (2500). Well, at least the Dems can’t call us spoilers. Harold Ford lost it more or less fair and square, probably snowed under by the boobs who turned out to make their religion’s idea of marriage a part of the Tennessee Constitution. All these people so scared of homosexuality…you know, there have been tests done that show that the people who are most homophobic are the ones who are repressing the fact that they have those feelings…as the misadventures of Tom Foley and Ted Haggard have recently demonstrated. The queer tidal wave that all those people are afraid of is—them. The vote in Tennesee demonstrates that we are surrounded by a seething sea of repressed homosexuals! Well, as one of my teachers sarcastically commented, “If you can’t control yourself, control someone else!”
But, I digress….in U.S. House races, Katie Culver and Robert Smith also received better percentages than our statewide candidates, Katie with 1800 votes and Robert with 1,000—if Howard and Chris had done as well as either of them, they would have won about 18,000 votes, still not enough to change the election or even get our party name on the ballot, but I think it would have left them feeling more satisfied. I’m surprised they didn’t do better, especially Howard, since it was obvious Phil Bredesen was going to win in a walk. Howard campaigned intensively among those who have been dumped by Bredesen’s Tenncare purge. He should have done better.
Commenting on the election, Switzer said, “I think the main thing is we don’t have an extensive enough network to get the word out about our candidates. … We have to become more vocal advocates for who (we are) and what we want, pass the word and expand our networks. But, with (electronic voting machines) who knows what the vote tally really was? Our votes are counted in secret in an electronic box we are supposed to have unwavering faith in. “
The biggest kinda-Green vote getter in the state was Ginny Welsch, who won about 3600 votes in Nashville, where conservative Democrat Jim Cooper had no problem retaining his seat. Ginny explored running as an out-and-out Green but backed away when she discovered how much antipathy the label can ignite among ignorant, reactive Democrats, who are, after all, a major voting bloc that any serious candidate somehow needs to cultivate.
I talked with Jon Davidson, who was disappointed in his showing—a friend of his in the state legislature told him that just having his name on the ballot in an otherwise uncontested race should get him about a third of the votes. Jon tested this by spending “only about $100” and not doing any campaigning beyond putting up a website and getting a 45-minute interview from the Tennessean—which, alas, only appeared on their website. Neither Senate candidate Chris Lugo nor gubernatorial candidate Howard Switzer got even that much of a nod from Nashville’s newspaper of record.
Jon noted that his district, according to who votes in the primaries, is about 90% Democratic—he thinks a lot of people just voted the straight Democratic ticket—but he found it gratifying that, in the neighborhood he used to live in, he got 40% of the vote. “And I got 38% of the absentee vote,” he added–”but I don’t know if that was from my friends in the touring music community or from pissed-off Republican soldiers in Iraq.” Jon also noted that turnout in his district was no higher than it had been for the 2002 midterm elections, in spite of all the publicity about how crucial this election was going to be. Nationwide, the turnout was a disappointing 40%.
Some of the best news for Tennesseans was Steve Cohen’s easy win over Harold Ford’s cousin and a Republican for the U.S. House seat from Memphis. Steve has long been the most sensible person in the Tennessee Senate, and he will be sorely missed there, but I look forward to his influence at the national level.
Someone he won’t be seeing in Washington is Richard Pombo, head of the House Environmental Resources Committee, a California representative who went down to defeat. Pombo’s name had become synonymous with putting human greed ahead of the welfare of the planet. He has been replaced by wind turbine entrepreneur Jerry McNerney. Thank you, California.
Tammy Duckworth lost to a Republican. In case you don’t remember, the National Democratic Party literally moved her in from out of state to compete in a race where Christine Cegalis, a fairly radical anti-war candidate was already in place, because they didn’t think Ms. Cegalis could win. Maybe she wouldn’t have won, but neither did Ms. Duckworth. Did Rahm Emmanuel and the Democratic Campaign Committee learn anything from that? Somehow I doubt it.
And I’m not that upset about Harold Ford losing here in Tennessee. Unlike Ford, Bob Corker is honest enough to admit he’s a Republican. We didn’t need to advance the career of a so-called Democrat who wanted to privatize Social Security, who supported anti-environmentalists like Richard Pombo, and who voted for the Patriot Act and the Torture-is-not-torture (Military Commisions) Act. Hint to Harold: try taking Jesse Jackson for a role model instead of Colin Powell.
In general, as I look over national Green Party results, I see the same thing we find in Tennessee: the more local the race, the better the Green Party did. And, while I love tilting at windmills as much as the next old hippie, I think the lesson is clear: we need to follow our own philosophy and act as locally as we can. We need to be working on school boards, zoning boards, county commissions, and the like—we could see our long-term strategy as moving up to winning mayoral races and then state legislature positions. That’s the route individual politicians take, and I think there’s a reason for it: you have to prove your worth at a lower level of responsibility before people will trust you with a higher one. It’s slow, it’s not glamorous, and time is short; but I think it’s the path we have to follow. It’s all about taking care of the details.
That seems to be how the rest of the party sees it.
In a “campaign wrapup letter,” Chris Lugo said:
“Although my ultimate goal would be campaign finance reform, in the meantime, the practical reality is that progressive candidates in Tennessee are going to need to do fundraising to get their message out. Even though we are going to continue to lose in Tennessee for some time to come, we won't even register in the eyes of most Tennesseans until we start doing some serious fundraising. Regarding running Greens locally versus statewide, I think we need to continue to do both. In Knoxville (we) are running Greens locally and even though they are losing, they are continuing to build, having received thirty five percent in one recent Knoxville election. I think running candidates for statewide office is very important though, because that puts (our) voice into the election, which is ground (zero) for the body politic. There is no time when people are more concerned about politics or what is happening in the country than during an election, and that is exactly when we need to make sure that we are being included.”And, as I already said, Statehouse candidate Jon Davidson got 40% of the vote in a neighborhood where he was known personally without doing any campaigning at all. So that's what we as Greens will be working on: networking, fundraising, and local, local issues. The Democrats got themselves elected as part of a national spasm of revulsion. They have no coherent plan, and all too many of them have no clue either. John Conyers, who waxed so eloquently about the sins of the Republican administration, now joins Nancy Pelosi in saying “impeachment is off the table.” Perhaps this is just a diplomatic move. Perhaps impeachment will be on the table again in the Spring, if the White House sticks to its guns and starts stonewalling Congressional attempts at oversight. But if the Dems stick to form and get all namby-pamby, I believe the country will neither forgive them nor return to the Republican fold. Winston Churchill remarked that “America will always do the right thing, but not until they've tried everything else.” The Republicans haven't worked; the Democrats won't work. There is a Green dawn glowing on the horizon. (and I don't know why this bottom part got all funny looking!) music: Leonard Cohen, “Democracy”