‘Smile, the only place we can go is up.’

On election night, I was asked to text some of the results of Tennessee races to a friend of mine who was out of town. I was the messenger and bastian of bad news, campers, as my clumsy fingers sent text after text with a great deal of losses around the state. The wins were few and far between.

My pal answered back with one simple text, “Smile, the only place we can go now is up.”

Over the last few days I’ve thought about that a great deal. My friend was right, the only place in the next couple of years that we can go is up but we have to work together and we are going to have to look at the good, the bad and the undeniable ugly with realism and learn how to change.

I had the privilege last night to speak to The L Club. The small house in Nashville where we met was packed. People filled every chair and sat cross-legged on the floor. It was a room of people where I only knew four or five folks and although I’m not a shy person, I was a little nervous as these were new faces.

So I stepped up the the plate and started talking about what I know and what I truly believe. I talked about distributing Tennessee political news that comes out of the capitol to rural areas, who don’t always have Tennessee televised news.  I think there is a desert of information in certain areas around the state There was discussion regarding “building a bench” something the state hasn’t done in a long time and which needs to start now. I basically spoke about everything last night I’ve talked about here at Newscoma for the past six years.

The main thing that many people talked to me about individually was the need for a new face with fresh ideas for the party. And of course, there was a lot of discussion about the TNDP.

You can’t build a bench six months before an election, that’s a given.  You can’t build allies around the state who can be ambassadors in their community six months before an election when you need volunteers for the ground effort. Grassroots activism is crucial and identifying leaders who can spread a consistent message needs to start immediately. There is also a need for solid leadership that identifies new ways to reach out to independent voters as well as long-time democrats. And, for pete’s sake, we need new blood in a variety of areas.

Let’s for a second think about the TNDP as a business. It is honestly a franchise, for lack of a better word, for the national party. Yet each state is unique and as this is the longest, skinniest state with 440 miles from tip to tip, various regions are going to have specific and very real differences. We can identify just as easily what each division (Shelby, West, Middle, Davidson, East and Northeast Tennessee) have in common.

Focusing on those areas and building alliances for not only candidates but for advocates and activists is very important. The only way we are going to have a seat at the table when it comes to policy makers in this state (where there is a GOP Supermajority) is to combine several elements and start moving forward together. And we all have to remember that not everyone is going to be the head chef. If there are too many cooks in the kitchen, who is going to deliver the food to the tables of hungry people. Who is going to design the menu. Who is going to shop for the food? Who is going to be the cashier?

Because everyone of those roles is valid and damned important. I realize I’m simplifying what I’m trying to say, but I think there is so much lost potential but it doesn’t have to remain that way.

We can all fuss right now about how crappy things are or we can see the many opportunities available. And in many ways things are already happening, we may just not be seeing it. Keep that in mind in the next couple of months.


5 comments for “‘Smile, the only place we can go is up.’

  1. Eykis (@Eykis)
    November 11, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Thank you – will watch with great interest and had no idea the L Club existed. Would like to participate.

  2. November 11, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Everyone is invited. It is a wonderful experience. I have not seen that many like-minded people in one place in a long time. I recommend it highly.

  3. Pam
    November 11, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Trace, l-club loves you! I see brighter days ahead for Tennessee with people like you in the lead!

  4. November 11, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    This sounds and is naive, so I’ll just throw that out there and let the rest of you nod your heads and ignore me. But at some level, I think the folks who are interested in liberal politics (myself included) could first just try to be there for the rest of Tennessee outside our hometown. We could look for ways to just be there first, listen, make friends, etc. Find ways outside politics to connect. Look up the hometown treasures of these places, and organize a road trip, and then when we get there just talk to people with no hidden agenda other than to make friends. Being out of the state right now, what I could do is bet a better friend to a pal of mine from Cleveland, Tennessee, who I don’t keep up with too much. That doesn’t require having political power at the state level, but I feel like it’s the start of what leads to the kind of state we want Tennessee to be. Newscoma, your awareness and intimate knowledge of the various geographic zones of Tennessee and the people in them is part of what makes you a great, statewide Tennessee progressive. Maybe turning more of us into people who know all of Tennessee and who know more Tennesseans than our immediate neighbors, just because they’re there – and not because they’re political end zones – is where we need to start.

  5. November 12, 2012 at 6:52 am


    I stand and applaud. I don’t think that is naive at all. Sometimes simply reaching out to our neighbors is the best thing we can do. It starts with exactly what you said, reaching out and making this the state we want it to be, not settling because some folks think that smaller gestures of building friendships across the state is too hard. It’s not.

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