Yesterday, the Knox County Election Commission defeated the so-called "convenience voting" in a 3-2 vote. The result is a classic example of just why the change in composition of Tennessee's county election commissions from Democratic dominance to Republican control is so important-especially in East Tennessee:
The pilot project, which would have replaced the city's 52 precinct polls with 10 centrally located voting centers open during a 20-day window, needed a supermajority of four votes among the five appointed election commissioners. The panel's three Republican members voted against the proposal, voicing their skepticism of whether the plan would actually making the voting process more convenient for citizens.
"Right now, we have convenience voting," said Commissioner Paul Crilly, a Republican, noting the two-week early voting periods that already precede election days.
"And we have other means - absentee ballots and so forth. I'm not comfortable with changing our system for the convenience of the county."
There is a reason that Crilly and the other Republican Election Commissioners are so concerned about this new "convenience" and its elimination of the precinct-in Knox County, as in most East Tennessee counties, the Republican party is organized by precinct. Each precinct has a precinct Chairman and a number of precinct delegates who can be convened to district conventions if necessary. More importantly, these precinct organizations are what help with Republican get-out-the-vote efforts all over East Tennessee. The Knox County Republican Party's governing apparatus has been in some disarray for a couple of years at least, but the precinct structure is still very much in place, along with neighborhood Republican clubs.
Similarly, the precinct structure is very much in place in Jefferson County, and will likely be re-enforced with a Republican-led Election Commission. Why would certain people want to take this "pilot program" to other East Tennessee counties, and then Statewide? Because Democrats know that in East Tennessee, Republican dominance filters down to the precinct level, and they can't beat Republicans at the polls, so they must destroy the party from within.
Destroy the precinct, and you can destroy the Republican Party in East Tennessee. Perhaps the politically naive can't see that would be the ultimate end of such a voting scheme, but neither the Democrats who came up with the idea nor the veteran Republicans on the Election Commission are that naive. Republicans are not going to sign off on their own partisan death warrant.
Memphis Commercial Appeal columnist Wendi Thomas discusses (from an African-American perspective) how now-former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton's campaign slogan "Keep It Real" is really just a way to race-bait black voters in the 9th Congressional District against his forthcoming Democratic Primary opponent, Rep. Steve Cohen:
Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton's slogan for his 9th District Congressional race is a clue.
No, make that a telling, horrifying signal as to what kind of congressman we could expect if he were, horror of all horrors, to oust Rep. Steve Cohen.
The slogan? “Keep It Real.”
No, "keep it real" is an old phrase straight from the street. The 'hood, to be more exact, where Herenton believes the "real" people live, in his race-baiting, polarizing, ghetto-glorifying way that oddly, his white business friends manage to overlook.
"Keep it real" is an all-purpose defense, trotted out regularly to prop up trifling, unwise, short-sighted behavior that is lauded in the twisted logic of the street.
I won't go into detail about the rest of Thomas' missive about the problem with using "Keep It Real" as a political campaign slogan, largely because I can't begin to comment in a justified way about the things that she, as an African-American, has to say. I will say that I agree with her thoughts about "Keeping It Real."
The one person who may be really watching all of this is the President of the United States, whose minions-almost certainly with the President's approval-have already taken to referring to concerned citizens who express concern at Town Hall meetings about his agenda as "the mob." His approval ratings are on their way into the tank, and if the President doesn't turn things around, his Administration is headed in that direction as well. If Barack Obama's political fortunes begin to take a turn that indicates that he either may lose his Congressional majority or may not get re-elected, it wouldn't be a bit surprising to see a desperate "post racial" President begin to race-bait.
Should Obama use race-baiting political tactics, he will be hoping for a strange but not unheard-of political coalition. The President will make the Herenton-like assumption (under such circumstances) that he will win the black vote universally because he is black, and he will do everything he can to maximize black turnout, and probably use some slogan similar to Willie Herenton. Barack Obama would then count on enough gullible white liberals and attempt to play on Hispanics and other ethnic minorities in a subversively racist campaign. It would be a disgusting way to run a campaign, and it is racist all the way around for black, white, and brown alike-and it will fail. If it works for Willie Herenton, however, don't put it past the President to try winning that way if he gets politically desperate.
Once upon a time, say a couple of decades ago, there was a lot of gossip in Tennessee political circles about inappropriate sexual activity but it rarely, if ever, made its way into media reports.
Today, on the other hand, we find two gubernatorial candidates dealing - on a rather indirect or tangential basis, of course - with publicized adultery allegations.
For Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the tangent has been Sen. Paul Stanley, R-Germantown, who last week resigned his Senate seat after acknowledging to the TBI that he had a sexual relationship with a 22-year-old intern.
Ramsey had appointed Stanley chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. He was caught by surprise, the Senate speaker says.
After the scandal became public, Ramsey says he prodded Stanley to, first, resign as chairman and, second, to resign from the Senate.
There is no evidence to suggest that Ron Ramsey knew about Paul Stanley's relationship with his intern for any longer than Ramsey himself says that he knew. Similarly, as Humphrey points out, certain media and Democratic shill outlets trying to make connections between Republican gubernatorial candidate Rep. Zach Wamp and disgraced Congressman John Ensign where none exist based solely on a campaign contribution from Ensign's PAC-and the fact that the two men shared a place in Washington with other Members of Congress who were people of faith-are also trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. Humphrey brings up a much deeper question, however, and that is whether the voters even care about political figures' sexual indiscretions.
The state's Democrats, meanwhile, have generally kept quiet about Stanley's steamer.
Former Rep. Rob Briley, D-Nashville, resigned his committee chair after a drunken-driving arrest that led to disclosure of an apparently inappropriate relationship. But he served out his regular term.
For me, the issue with Rob Briley was not that he was apparently having loads of fun with a lobbyist for the Tennessee Trial Lawyers' Association (an oddly appropriate match for Briley). Titilating information, to be sure, but that probably didn't impact Briley's ability to do his job in the Legislature on its face-especially since he already saw the Legislature as his personal club of sorts. It probably did have an impact on the lobbyist's ability to do her job, but that was settled between her and her employer. The difficulty in the Briley case is that his relationship with Mary Littleton was also a part of a larger life problem that was impacting his job. Rob Briley wasn't just an alcoholic, but his addiction had become dangerous and placed his life, his work, his constituents, and his health all in jeopardy. Hindsight being 20/20, we now know that part of the reason for Briley so often appearing mean, hateful, uppity, snobbish, and downright rude was that this was the liquor talking, we may never know what an alcohol-free Briley would have been like. Since Briley left, several legislators have mentioned to me that part of the reason Briley was the way that he was had to do with his excessive drinking.
Briley blamed bloggers for his ouster, but he had problems that may have been inherited. It is said that his Grandfather was a pretty mean drinker in his own right. Regardless of all of the reasons for his leaving, Briley could not effectively represent his constituents, and he needed to go.
While some people really do expect their political leaders to be perfect, the most reasonable expectation is not perfection, but that these officials not engage in behavior that could negatively affect their jobs-and they should have the good sense to know what that kind of conduct might be.
It would be very helpful for the Republicans to have the speaker of the House helping their nominee win the seat—with fund-raising and with campaigning. But the party’s official position remains that the “Carter County Republican” Kent Williams is not a member of the party. This special election is a microcosm of next year, when all House seats will be on the ballot. Will the party use Williams for fund-raising and for campaigning to keep seats and pick up additional ones? If they don’t, it’s like playing a game of chess and leaving your queen off the board. In chess, the technical term for this is “stupid.”
It is completely understandable for members of the Republican executive committee to still be upset with Williams. Williams’ sin was getting himself elected Speaker in place of Majority Leader Jason Mumpower with Democratic votes. Former Republican Party chair Robin Smith has decreed that Williams can’t run for reelection as a Republican.
If Williams is not a Republican and is forced to run for reelection as an independent, it will be impossible for him to raise money and campaign for Republican candidates. He got elected speaker with Democratic votes. Why should he anger the Democrats by campaigning for Republicans if the Republicans have thrown him out of the party?
The real question is not whether we should accept Kent Williams as Speaker of the House. At first, Williams "election" as Speaker was very difficult for me to swallow. I was on the floor that day and it was clear that the Democrats were the ones who chose Williams, and that the Leadership kept their plan secret even from many members of their caucus until just minutes before the vote. It was one of the most deceitful and underhanded political power plays I have ever heard of-and I witnessed it. At the time, I really believed that what happened on January 13th would bring the business of the House to a grinding halt. It didn't happen that way...
As I have written in this space in the preceding weeks, Williams' tenure as Speaker has certainly been far better than I had ever expected. Large portions of the Republican agenda passed because Williams kept his promise to bring those matters to the floor, which is a vast improvement over Jimmy Naifeh. Naifeh understood that many Democrats from rural districts agree with Republicans on social issues and Second Amendment rights, and that even with a Democratic majority in the House, pro-life bills, gun bills, and other conservative matters would pass the House with solid votes in favor. Thus, Naifeh twisted arms and used (or rather, abused) his authority to vote in all committees to keep bills he knew would pass bottled up or make sure they died. Members who played ball with the Speaker were given the money for their district to help them get re-elected-regardless of party.
Williams hasn't hard-balled the conservative agenda the way that his predecessor did, and his few efforts to attempt it haven't been terribly successful. The split committee system he has created has killed several good bills, but just as many bad ones. The gridlock it has created has often proven to be a good thing.
Asking Williams to campaign for Republicans may be quite a long stretch, however:
I cannot recall anyone suggesting throwing former Congressman Jimmy Quillen out of the party when he used his influence and organization in East Tennessee to elect Democrat Ned McWherter governor over Republican Winfield Dunn. No one is suggesting throwing Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey out of the party—even though when he was in the House he voted for Democrat Jimmy Naifeh for Speaker. (The majority of the Republican members of the House with any length of service voted for Naifeh at some point.) Who wants to throw out Ramsey and most of the other Republican senators because they voted for Democrat John Wilder for Senate Speaker?
Frank is right that at some point every Republican he mentioned-and few would question the conservative credentials of someone like Ron Ramsey-has supported Democrats in leadership when they felt their position warranted it. The great difference in the examples Frank Cagle cites and the case of Kent Williams is that none of those were nearly as hidden as the Williams coup. The famed 1987 Wilder coalition was organized around 15 Republicans and six Democrats whose loyalty to Wilder was widely known. Wilder could not have been re-elected Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the Senate without the Republican Caucus, and he organized the Senate in such a manner.
In the case of Kent Williams, he owes nothing to Republicans, because the only Republican who voted for him was himself. Asking Williams to campaign for Republicans is a bit like asking Henry VIII to chair a campaign against beheadings. To maintain power, Williams will have to organize a coalition of some sort should the Republicans expand their majority. It certainly isn't impossible given Tennessee history, but the larger the Republican majority, the less likely Kent Williams will be able to hang on. If the Democrats retake the majority, they almost certainly will not renominate Kent Williams. Thus, it is in Williams best interest to keep the Republican numbers in the House low enough that he can cobble together the votes for re-election as Speaker. That threshold is somewhere between the 50-49 majority we now have and 53-46. If the Republican majority were to reach 55, it would be very hard for even dissident Republicans to justify a vote to retain Democratic Caucus nominee Williams. Kent Williams knows this, so why would he work too hard to cut his own throat?
Across the country, unemployment has reached its highest level since the Great Depression, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show. In June, the male rate was 10 percent and the female rate was 7.6 percent.
We are past the point where the President can blame his predecessor for the present crisis. All the American people hear out of the Administration is how many jobs the President has "created or saved." The numbers tell us that the President has either been given over to strong delusion, or he is flatly lying to the people of this country. The polls tell us that the public isn't buying the Administration's line of bull.
The truth of the matter is that government intervention, especially of the kind that the President has advocated will not save any jobs, and if any are created, they will only be temporary. The Great Depression did teach us one important economic lesson, and that is that for all of the efforts of the federal government, it was no amount of federal dollars that brought the unemployment rate down, but a war that was ten years in the making. Unlike in the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, when many Americans were given temporary busy work and the news cycle was controlled by the inability to disseminate information widely and quickly as we can today, Americans can not only see that many of their neighbors are still down on their luck, but that the whole country is in a funk and the President's talk about the bad times ending is just worthless chatter for Middle America.
The real question for the Administration is the obvious one: Where's the Beef? The President's stimulus was supposed to at least give some indication by now of the situation improving for people on the ground, not just in a few places (suspiciously) where the vote for the President was rather high. The President and his staunchest allies (and those in the Leftist blogosphere who traffic in delusion and alternate reality) are the only people left in this country who believe that Barack Obama's plan for this country amounts to anything more than a pile of rotten beans. While we move deeper into Depression, the President busies himself with the non-existent jobs he has created and saved and with so-called healh care plans that are going to cost those few Americans that will be left with any money at all when the President is finished what is left of their livlihoods.
Change is in the air alright, and that change will likely involve a new Congressional composition after next year's election to act as an appropriate check on the power of the deluded buffoon at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Here is a personal favorite of mine on this Sunday when the Mass Readings remind us once again of Our Lord's gift of the Eucharist. Young Chloe Agnew of Celtic Woman sings Panis Angelicus.
Panis angelicus Fit panis hominum Dat panis coelicus Figuris terminum O res mirabilis Manducat Dominum Pauper, pauper Servus et humilis
Heavenly bread That becomes the bread for all mankind Bread from the angelic host That is the end of all imaginings Oh, miraculous thing This body of God will nourish Even the poorest The most humble of servants Even the poorest The most humble of servants.
A conservative journal of social, cultural, and ecclesiatical affairs grounded in a realistic Catholic Christian worldview. It is my hope that this site will be a reflection of Christ,the teachings of His Holy Church, and of the basic vision of a Christian social morality.