NASHVILLE ELECTION REFLECTIONS

11 10 2019

Twenty-one percent of Nashville’s voters turned out on September 12th, meaning that John Cooper’s “landslide victory” over David Briley boils down to 15% of our adult citizens choosing Cooper, while only six percent of the city’s voters preferred Briley. The initial round of voting produced a 24% turnout rate, enough of a decline to demonstrate the advantage of ranked-choice voting, but still such a light turnout that, if all of those who didn’t vote could have weighed in as  “abstaining,” or voted for “neither of the above,” the election could have been declared null and void. But the threshold for election is not 50% of all potential voters, it’s a majority of the actual voters, and so John Cooper, “the choice of 15% of Nashville,” is now our mayor. I’ll have more to say about him a little later.

Why is there such a marked lack of interest in local government? Is it because most people presume that, no matter who is officially in charge, things will remain about the same? That’s a dangerous presumption to make as climate chaos increases and resource depletion and economic collapse loom on the horizon. I once approached an intelligent, innovative, outspoken member of Metro Council, and told her I’d like to see her run for mayor. Her response was, “Got a million dollars? Cos’ that’s what it takes to run for mayor in this town.” She is no longer involved in Metro politics. This election certainly proved her point. Both Briley and Cooper are members of the millionaires’ club. “Who wants to be ruled by a millionaire?” You could call that the “reality show” we’re involved in, like it or not .The drawback to this arrangement is that millionaires, almost no matter how hard they try, are going to have difficulty relating to the kind of problems the rest of us face, and consequently will have difficulty coming up with ideas that speak to the needs of the rest of us.

We need radical change, because it’s well documented by now that “business as usual” is going to get us all killed. On the other hand, it’s difficult for the elite of Nashville, or the elite anywhere, to conceive of anything but the “business as usual” that has made them wealthy and keeps them wealthy. Beyond our ruling class’s limited vision, adherence to “business as usual” here in Tennessee is enforced by our micromanaging state legislature, which seems determined to smother any rising progressive tendencies anywhere in the state.  I should mention that our state government, like our mayor and metro council, are elected by a minority of the state’s voters. In other words, Tennessee is a “red state” not not because a majority of its citizens vote Republican, but because the Democrats are so uninspiring, and the two corporate parties have such a lock on ballot access, and media access, that trying to get a third party going in this state is a truly Sisyphean task. As I’ve chronicled here, we Greens have tried,failed,  and, frankly, all but worn ourselves out in the process. I think we might properly refer to the phase our country is in these days as “the twilight of democracy.” Some people would disagree with me, I’m sure, saying that the sun set long ago on American democracy. I think they have a point. Not just in Tennessee, but nationally, the two corporate-friendly political parties  have, um, “colluded” with our corporate owned and consequently corporate-friendly media to exclude everyone but themselves from the levers of power, even as their support dwindles. Need I remind you that, nationwide, turnout in the 2016 election was 55-60%, depending on how you count it, and around 50% in 2018?  It was less than that here in Tennessee. That means that, in 2016, about 40% of the adult public didn’t care whether Trump or Clinton became President, and then, in 2018, after two years of Trump showing how dangerous he is and the Democrats showing how ineffectual they are at opposing him, even fewer voters thought the Democrats were an alternative worth voting for. When half the adult population sits out the election, the problem we have is not about how easy, or difficult, it is to vote. The problem is that neither party inspires the voting public. Sure, the Republicans were running on a program of brute corporate domination, but all the Democrats had to offer was kinder, gentler corporate domination. Apparently, about half of our voting population is savvy enough to say, “Neither of the above, thank you!”

If only we could get them to vote Green…..

I think that what I just laid out also also explains why, over the last seventy years, political power has pretty reliably flipped from one party to the other every eight years, as well as why Nashvillians, to the extent that we cared at all, dumped Briley and elected Cooper. Read the rest of this entry »





CO-OPPING NASHVILLE

13 12 2015

As many of you probably know, I ran for Metro Council last summer.  My candidacy was pretty minimal–I made no attempt to recruit volunteers or raise money, and spent none of my own.  I created a blog and a Facebook page to lay out my platform, attended several candidate forums, posted ideas and answers on several internet voter education sites, and was interviewed by the Nashville Scene, which, as it did when Howard Switzer ran for Governor, trivialized my campaign and ignored my issues because they’re Democrats and we’re Greens, and they don’t care for competition on the left. (I was hoping to provide a link to the job the Scene did on my friend Howard, but they have apparently opted to chuck that article down the ol’ memory hole. Probably a good call on their part.)

There were three key pillars in my platform.  One was re-localizing Nashville, economically, socially, and politically–creating neighborhoods in which people could attend school, shop, work, and go out and socialize without needing to use an automobile–thus simplifying the city’s traffic problems–and granting these neighborhoods a fair amount of control over their zoning, codes enforcement, new construction, schools, and policing.  Another pillar was to identify and foster industries that would serve local needs that are currently being met by goods imported from across the continent or across the ocean.  The third pillar was to foster co-operatives as a form of small-d democratic community organization–not just food co-ops and other retail establishments, but worker-owned service and manufacturing co-ops, and housing co-ops, as well.  These worker-owned co-ops would include the local-needs industries, and the housing co-ops would be part of a larger context of urban land trusts. All these would serve to increase opportunities and living standards for lower-income Nashvillians, stabilize their neighborhoods, and empower them with an ownership stake in the places where they work, shop, and live. My proposals were largely modelled on the ones that made Bernie Sanders’ reputation as Mayor of Burlington–they were radical and populist but pragmatic and very “doable.” They are also infectious, in the sense that people hear them, like them, and make them their own.  Their emphasis on citizen, not government, ownership appeals to people all over the political spectrum.2015_1206co_2

That was my basic message.  About 2,300 Nashville voters heard it and signalled their approval by voting for me.  That earned me second-to-last standing in the election, but, for me, the important part of my campaign was that, in the course of attending the candidate forums, I got to speak repeatedly to the candidates who did win the election.  Hey, at several of these, there were more candidates on the stage than voters in the audience! Besides, candidates are also voters, and we each had four votes in the election besides the one each of us was likely to cast for ourselves.

And so, I planted my seeds, with no idea which ones would sprout or where, and, once the election was over, happily returned to my wooded hollow and my usual pursuits.  Imagine my surprise early last week when I glanced through my email inbox and discovered that the Tennessee Alliance for Progress (TAP), in partnership with Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH) and the Southern Grassroots Economies Project, (which springs from the venerable Highlander Folk Center) was sponsoring an all-day workshop on….creating co-operatives in Nashville.  How could I not go?

Read the rest of this entry »








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