There’s a lot of wind being blown out there about the “Republican resurgence” in the recent election. Too bad we can’t turn a few turbines with it!
In my view, it comes down to this: the Democrats paid the price for the Grand Canyon-sized gap between their populist rhetoric and their corporatist reality. People didn’t turn out to vote for Democrats because the Democrats haven’t delivered on their promises. The reason they beat the “we’re pro-choice” drum so hard is that, when you come right down to it, that’s one of the few real differences between the two wings of the American Corporate Party, but grabbing people by the short hairs didn’t motivate enough voters to come out and participate in the charade this time. The average voter turnout in the U.S. was 33.9%. More than 50% of the voters showed up in only 3 states, and the highest rate rates of participation were in Wisconsin and Maine, where a whopping 56% of the voters cast ballots. In other words, the GOP’s “mandate” comes from less than a quarter of the electorate. Just as in the Middle East, a small, radical, committed minority is ramming its agenda down the throats, to be polite, of the rest of us.
This was especially evident here in Tennessee, where voter turnout was only 28.5%, meaning that Governor Haslam’s “landslide” reflected the wishes of about 20% of the potential voters in the state. The number of voters who chose Lamar Alexander and banned a state income tax was lower, down in the upper teens, and our legislature now has the permission of about 15% of the electorate to regulate abortion out of the realm of possibility in Tennessee, which I am quite sure they will do to the best of their ability, as has happened in several other states.
I want to talk more about the abortion issue, because I think the level of deceit employed around the passage of Issue One was truly appalling. It was billed as a way to “make abortion safer,” but you couldn’t help but notice that its backers were all the churches who think abortion is as sinful as non-marital sex and that the government should enforce their views on this subject. For these people, Christianity is more about controlling women’s bodies and behavior than it is about being honest and truthful, even though their ostensible guidebook, The Bible, has a lot of bad things to say about “people who love a lie.”
Well, lies or no lies, we can now expect that our legislature will be emboldened to subject all Tennesseans to the “Christian” version of Shari’a. I wonder what other precepts of Dominionism they will enact, Perhaps slavery will be reintroduced? Will the death penalty be inflicted on those who work on Sundays? No, that’s highly unlikely–it would be bad for business!
Well, OK, we don’t know for sure that the Tennessee Republican Party is a cabal of covert Dominionists. But they are just about certain to do all they can to encourage the continued exploitation and destruction of the Tennessee landscape, spreading coal mines, gas drilling, and clearcutting as far as the economy will permit. Forget about a hike in the minimum wage, aid for public transportation, better health care for the poor and indigent, or any kind of environmental protection. Let us all bow down and worship the short-term bottom line.
Not that the Democrats had anything better to propose. Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Brown’s “main interest” was “putting the Bible back in our public schools,” and Senate candidate Gordon Ball, who must have known he was a sacrificial lamb, came out in favor of a federal balanced budget amendment, wanted to build “clean” coal plants (no such critter!), and attacked Lamar Alexander for being soft on immigration.
We Greens, running in a small scattering of races, offered a more creative alternative, but the state’s news media kept us off the public radar. In spite of this blackout, we still had the best showing we have ever had, but our statewide candidates fell far short of the 5% of the vote state law says we need to keep our ballot line. in her run for Governor, Green Party candidate Isa Infante received about 18,500 votes, about 50,000 short of 5%, and Senate candidate Martin Pleasant fared similarly, but not quite as well, with around 12,500 votes. Our two U.S. House candidates, Bob Smith in District One and Norris Dryer in District Two, did better, much better in Bob’s case, where he received over 9,000 votes for about 7% of the vote. Norris, who, sadly, passed away shortly before the election, received about 2.4% of the vote, 4,000 votes.
Down in Williamson County, Amy Balderama ran for the Tennessee Senate against an otherwise unopposed Republican, and received over 9,000 votes, 17% of the total, but for some reason that didn’t translate into votes for Isa Infante or Martin Pleasant, who only got 763 and 527 votes, respectively, in Williamson County. Similarly, the 1100 votes I received running for Tennessee House District 54 didn’t support Isa, who only got 4,000 votes in all of Davidson County, My district comprises about a twelfth of the county, and if people had voted for her countywide at the same rate they voted for me, she would have gotten 12,000 votes instead of the 4,000 she’s credited with.
And that brings up another point: we have to take these results on faith. While the failure of the GOP to dislodge those perfidious Democrat Supreme Court Justices last Summer indicates that Tennessee elections may not be rigged, there is simply no way to prove it, and the GOP’s haste to repeal the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, which would have mandated verifiable, recountable paper ballots in our state, remains a highly suspicious move.
Whether it’s an honest reflection of the wishes of the people of Tennessee or not, our statewide candidates’ failure to top the 5% mark puts us Greens back to square one, as far as staying on the ballot goes. The preference of eighteen thousand Tennesseans for a Green Party governor is not good enough to have our First Amendment rights respected–we will need to find about four times that many people willing to sign a petition to get us back on the ballot, even though it would only take twenty-five signatures per candidate to get our names on the ballot as “independents.” If this isn’t discrimination, I don’t know what is.
Nationally, the Green Party fared a little better than we did here in Tennessee, getting enough votes to be put on, or stay on, the ballot in several states. Two samall-g “green” issues were successful in several states: even as they elected Republicans, Arkansans and Alaskans raised their states’ minimum wage, and every ballot measure rolling back marijuana prohibition passed, although the Florida medical marijuana measure failed to attain the super-majority status it needed to pass, and it’s unclear whether a solidly Republican Congress, which has say-so over what the law is in the District of Columbia, will allow repeal of prohibition to stand there. Once upon a time, the Republicans were the party of small government and local control. These days, they seem to just be the party of control.
In the words of Bob Dylan, I don’t know what to do except to keep on keepin’ on. I’m planning to go even more local next year, and run for Metro Nashville Council, another election I don’t expect to win. After that, I’ll probably go back to contesting Brenda Gilmore’s House seat for a while. At 66, I figure I’m good for at least another decade of tossing my hat in the ring. After I’ve lost enough local elections to feel like I know what I’m doing, I might stand for Mayor, or U.S. House, or governor, or senator. A guy can dream, can’t he?
For now, Tennessee remains solidly in the clutches of mean, rich white guys who claim to be Christians, although they certainly don’t act like Jesus. It’s gonna be tough times, but we got to keep enjoying ourselves, because if we don’t enjoy ourselves, who will?
Bob Marley and the Wailers—Top Rankin‘
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