A Tale Of Two States

A friend of mine sent me an editorial written by John Arrono that appeared in the Anchorage Press about their recent state races where the democrat lost. It’s a compelling read and one that Tennessee democrats might want to take a look at.

The problem is that, this election cycle, Alaska Democrats didn’t advocate for that competition. They made an uncomfortable, unhelpful case that, in fact, they were the actual Republicans.

When given a choice between someone who clearly states who they are and what they stand for, and someone who clearly stands next to that person and makes comments to the effect of “me too, kinda,” the voters will choose the person who speaks in declarative sentences. Regardless of how ridiculous those sentences may be.

The good news for Democrats is that—when given the effective power of “one party rule”—Republicans generally end up sending a good number of themselves to jail.

The question is whether or not the Alaska Democratic Party, under new leadership, will buck the recent trend of tethering their passion to polling data, whether they’ll commit to a backbone, even if it means they might lose reelection.

Leaders don’t say: “Who do you want me to be?” They say: “This is who I am.”

The Democratic Party needs to figure out its identity, get behind it, and start living it. Forget the need to win every election and figure out what a victory means. Democrats: think long term, because whether you want to acknowledge the reality or not, the short term ain’t happening for you. You currently amount to a symbolic objection in Juneau. The GOP doesn’t need you to pass their agenda. There is no need for compromise. And they haven’t taken you seriously for a good amount of time now, because you’ve been trick or treating as Republicans during campaign season.

The Democratic Party has two choices. Keep moving to the right, or plant the damn flag and figure out who you are. Win our votes. It won’t be long before we need an alternative to the folks we just elected.

Here in this state, Frank Cagle wrote last week at the Metropulse on what is the tipping point between urban democrats and rural independents.

Democrats have had success statewide with right-of-center candidates like Ned McWherter and Phil Bredesen. Where is that sort of Democrat for the future?

Will Obama Democrats get excited if some right of center Democrat comes along and tries to revive the old coalition? Can it be revived?

The election of a new party chairman early next year might give some indication of where the Democratic Party will go. Will control of the party machinery be retained by Obama Democrats or will the leadership go to someone more in tune with big donors and traditional Democratic leaders—people like Bredesen or former chair Doug Horne?

Can any potential statewide candidate gather the support of urban Democrats and also win in the small towns and rural areas of the state? There are not enough minorities and liberals in Tennessee to win a statewide election.

The article from Alaska showed that voters were not fired up by anything resembling Republican Light. In Tennessee, Cagle’s message is different on how will Democrats engage rural independents who might very well split their ballot. Folks that vote to the left want a more liberal-minded candidate, but are there enough of us in the state to make gains in 2014? It’s not a bad question to be asking ourselves as we head into 2013 and it deserves a serious conversation where everyone has a voice.

I think it should also be noted that there are so many new faces in Tennessee that want to regain some sanity that we will lose when the supermajority settles in next month. We need to start asking the right questions that have tangible solutions and gauge what will work and what won’t. We’ve been talking about messaging for years now, it’s a matter of getting it to everyone and it being concise, on-point and inclusive.

As Aronno wrote, a message of stating who we are and not just saying what we think people want us to be is crucial. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, leaders just lead.

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