Opinion » The Rant

Bredesen Can’t Be GOP-Lite



There's talk of a "blue wave" sweeping the country in 2018. It already has elevated Democrats in impossible places such as Alabama and Pennsylvania and scared the likes of Paul Ryan into retirement.

And it is going to graze Tennessee like a fizzling tropical depression. I don't want it to be true, and I hope I'm wrong. When it comes to Bob Corker's soon-to-be-vacant U.S. Senate seat, Tennessee has two options: flip it or get used to hearing the words "Senator Marsha Blackburn." Recent polling has shown Blackburn lagging behind her opponent, former Governor Phil Bredesen, by up to a double-digit margin, prompting behind-the-scenes pleading for Corker to reconsider. Of the 600 registered voters surveyed, more independents said they would pick Bredesen over Blackburn.

Cool. So this strategy of finding the one Democrat who has proven an ability to win a statewide election in Tennessee is working so far. Not my first choice, but keep doing what you're doing, I guess. How long will it work if he sticks with the message of "There's no reason the president and I can't work together?" Just because half the state hasn't figured out that nobody can work with the guy doesn't mean their votes are gettable. Trusting Marsha to stick to her proven track record of being The Actual Worst and hoping it all works out seems a little naive.

  • Wikimedia Commons
  • Phil Bredesen

The president announced on a Friday night he'd done another little war, and totally not to distract us from the avalanche of scandal that befell him in that particular week, by the way. No dog-wagging here. He doesn't even like dogs. He's a germaphobe, okay? I checked Twitter, as I usually do when these things go down, and I swear I heard a TV-show record-scratch sound effect when I read this tweet from Bredesen:

"The President is justified in his actions. The chemical attacks in Syria compel us to act decisively in cooperation with our allies. If the President intends further action, I trust Congress will take up its Constitutional war-making responsibilities. Godspeed to our military."

I usually abhor articles about other people's tweets. I think it's lazy. But I have been stewing about this particular post for days now, and I just have to ask: why? Why tweet this, Phil Bredesen? Who put you up to this? Who even asked? It looks to me as if someone got a little too confident and decided to let that tepid neoliberal flag fly on a Friday night.

If Marsha Blackburn wins the Senate election, it will not be because the people of Tennessee abhor net neutrality and funding disaster relief, and love Blackburn's folksy brand of Bought and Paid For. It will be because the Democratic candidate let his eagerness to be Reach Across the Aisle Guy overshadow the fact that there is ostensibly a (D) next to his name. "Reaching across the aisle" isn't a thing anymore. It's a nice notion, but it doesn't work when the people on the other side only reach back only to steal your watch.

"Bomb first, explain later" is never a good look. "The president was justified" is not the way to say that. Especially as a Democrat. Especially with this president.

"I trust Congress" should have stayed in the Drafts folder. Nobody trusts Congress. Not even Congress trusts Congress. That's why Trump didn't ask for their permission. Even though the majority party has not yet displayed a willingness to defy him, they can't afford for their war votes to become a talking point when they're up for re-election.

I'm out of the social media management game for now, but if I worked on the Bredesen campaign, I would have advised staying mum on this and focusing on localized issues. But here's what he should have said: What Assad is doing is wrong, and we deplore his actions. We turn to violence only as a last resort and in a way that minimizes harm to civilians. The Syrian people need our support, and as your Senator I'll do my best to ensure any future action is taken with their human rights in mind.

The state of Tennessee ranks in the bottom 10 in education, median household income, and employment rate. We're top 15 in opioid deaths. There's plenty of evidence that the people who represent this state in our federal government aren't fighting for us. Pandering to the people who elected them — the same ones who'd rather die than vote Democrat — won't get it done.

Jen Clarke is a digital marketing specialist and an unapologetic Memphian.

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