Democrats and East TennesseeCertain Democrats in Middle and West Tennessee who have their minds set on regaining the majority in Nashville believe that the path to that majority lies here-in the most Republican part of the State:
As red as East TN is, there have to be Democrats in City or County Government somewhere out there. These are the people who we need to approach to run first. Ultimately, this is a trust building exercise. The TNDP and County Parties have to put a good faith effort forward well in advance to convince our friends in the east of the state that they can compete and will be supported by the party at all levels. In some cases, the local party may be suffering from malaise or lack of leadership. While the State party can’t necessarily directly fix this problem, it can work to create conditions where the problem can fix itself by training up motivated and interested area Democrats.
I have said before in this space that I have no interest in the success of the Tennessee Democratic Party, and I cannot in good conscience wish them political well-being. However, I do understand from a raw political point of view why Democrats-especially liberal Democrats-do not want to write East Tennessee off. As someone who has been involved in several political campaigns and who has even run for public office himself, I believe it to be an insult to the voters to simply write anyone off. Yes, political formations may simply be destined to lose in certain places and among particular people because their views are not deemed to be ideologically compatible. The insult is far worse and the political consequences far greater than simply being willing to campaign and be soundly beaten.
There was a time not long ago, after all, when all too many Republicans wrote off West Tennessee to the Democrats. However, because we were aggressive and we saw that our basic message and social doctrine had many adherents, it has ultimately paid off with a legislative majority.
With that said, it is also clear that many of our friends in the party opposite send themselves strong delusion if they believe that a Democratic Party that continues to move increasingly to the Left will find many adherents in East Tennessee. I've spoken with many Democrats this year who shared that they had voted Republican for the first time in their life. Many others in the First and Second Congressional Districts participated in Republican primaries, and still more find themselves alienated from their party. A few stalwarts simply deny that such crossing over was and is occurring:
The ones I know, myself included, most assuredly did not vote quietly for John McCain or in the GOP primary.
All one has to do is look at the results and the raw data to see that not only did Democrats vote in Republican primaries, but many of those same people did not do so with sabotage in mind because Tennessee turned a deeper shade of red on November 4th, and East Tennessee became so crimson that Democrats crossing over in numbers had to be happening (note that I personally do not believe in the concept of primary crossover voting). The Democratic Party has neglected East Tennessee, to be sure, but antipathy and outright mistrust of the federal government, which is rooted in history, is now at very high levels among the electorate on the "right side" of the State.
For liberal Democrats to win here in the current climate, they are either going to have to change their brand or try and sell themselves as something they simply are not.