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Letter From The Editor

Tennessee Democrats are "orphans." And they ain't seen nothing yet.

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Hey, Tennessee Democrats, how does it feel to be an orphan? That's a term that describes a minority party in a state that is overwhelmingly controlled by the opposite party. In New York, for example, Republicans are the orphan party, with little or no clout. In Tennessee and certain other red states, it's the Democrats who are the orphans.

Why "orphans"? Because in this "Citizens United" era of multi-million-dollar PAC politics, the large money is being invested in close races and in pivotal electoral swing states, not hopeless causes. The old saying "the rich get richer" was never more true. And in Tennessee, the Democratic Party is dumpster diving and eating government cheese.

The clearest indication of this is the fact that Mark Clayton, who won the Tennessee Democratic senatorial primary, is a gay-hating, conspiracy theorist. He did have the good fortune to be the first name on the ballot and to win 30 percent of the vote and the right to represent the party against incumbent Senator Bob Corker. It's unlikely that 30 percent of the voters even knew who he was. They just thought, "Nobody's going to beat Corker, and I don't recognize any of these names, so I'll just select the first one." (The Democrats quickly distanced themselves from Clayton, but the damage was done.)

Former sitcom actress Park "Empty Nest" Overall finished second, with 15 percent of the vote, but Park Overall is a name that sounds like it might belong to a nutty person. Mark Clayton sounds All-American. Oops.

The problem was that none of the Democratic candidates got enough money to do any statewide campaigning, so few voters had heard of any of them. That's because in most statewide races, Tennessee Democrats are orphans. No money, no visibility, no chance.

If you need further evidence of the power of big money, consider the fate of Tennessee House GOP caucus leader Debra Maggart. She had the temerity (with the support of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Governor Haslam) to oppose the "guns in parking lots" bill. The NRA promptly lavished $100,000 on her primary opponent, compared Maggart to President Obama (sure death in East Tennessee), and accused her of being anti-gun rights. See ya, Debra. Hello, Tea Party. Five other Republicans were also defeated in state House races by more "conservative" candidates.

If you think last year's GOP antics in the state legislature were scary, wait till this year. There will be no stopping the Christianist social engineers and the gun-rights nuts.

And no porridge for the orphans.

Bruce VanWyngarden
brucev@memphisflyer.com

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