Jamie Hollin has written a marvelous piece that combines a little bit of history about what the democratic party was in this state back in the days of Gov. Ned Ray McWherter. He focuses more in-depth about how we need to make current leadership to go to both chambers and “adults take away the keys” to some of the boneheaded legislation our state is passing right now.
If there is one thing our former democratic leaders knew about with the precision of a diamond maker was how to run the calendar portion of session. Man, it used to be an art form when the Dems were in power but those days are over right now.
This morning there was a question posed about why folks like Jamie and I still write about Gov. Ned McWherter. I can’t speak for Jamie but I will offer this.
I’m older than a lot of political bloggers, and I love political history. The differences between then and now are massive, and with a news cycle lasting about as long as a hard sneeze, things have definitely changed. Could Annabelle Clement O’Brien say in this day and age “Politics is a beautiful word to me” or would she be ridiculed with the snarkometer that guides much of the political conversation these days? I don’t know the answer to that question.
I do believe, however, that one reason why McWherter keeps coming up in conversations about politics despite the fact that he passed away last year is that he was extremely patient when it came to the political long haul, was willing to work across the aisle and built long-lasting alliances with voters and legislators all across the state, not just in rural areas as well as nationally. Legislation during that era was about building, not tearing down which is the current political environment. There were a great deal of bills and laws that looked at helping the average Tennessean. There was a statewide conversation about roads, creating jobs and offering quality education for Tennesseans. What we have now, and for several years quite frankly, is a conversation about Guns, God and Gays. We’ve gone from talking about giving Tennesseans opportunity to wedge issues designed to divide. (Southern Strategy much?)
Remember this is the man who teamed Bill Clinton and Al Gore up to run for the presidency. Ned was also a reminder that a man who was the son of a sharecropper could make it. That’s not going to happen in this day and age I’m afraid with Citizens United. So yes, we talk about ghosts with affection and nostalgia because we remember and hope for better in the future.
We celebrate Jackson Day, Lincoln Day and Truman Day because we respect their legacies. And there is a Ned McWherter Day scheduled in Jackson in April. All around this country, we celebrate strong leaders in politics that we admire. We forget those elected officials that didn’t make a difference.
The question that we aren’t asking right now is who is the new face and political icon for the future of the Tennessee Democratic Party? Who is going to have the next legacy that inspires us?
Now is the time, and I think Ned would agree with me.