The Tennessee Democratic Party Executive Committee elected former State Senator Roy Herron (D-Dresden) as their party Chairman on Saturday, succeeding the uber-liberal Chip Forrester. Herron has said for at least the last week that he had the votes to win a majority of that party’s State Executive Committee members, and he proved that on Saturday. Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times-Free Press reported that after the vote, at least one Democratic Committee member asked Herron to publicly declare his support for Barack Obama-which he did.
Herron-who is an ordained Methodist minister-has long been a favorite of the party’s moderate wing, and as was pointed out in this very space last week, Roy Herron’s political heyday just happened to coincide with the Tennessee Democratic Party’s last great hurrah in the majority. As a result, the sheer amount of Leftist disdain directed at Roy Herron is amazing considering that it is utterly impossible for the Democratic Party in Tennessee to do any worse. Yet some in the liberal activist wing of the party have nothing good to say about Herron. Memphis area activist Steve Steffens (aka the LeftWingCracker) has directed several recent blog posts against Roy Herron to some degree or other. Perhaps the most “damning” post of all was this one from Friday, January 18th in which he bemoaned that rural outreach was not nearly as important as Herron-or many Democrats on the State Executive Committee-believe it to be.
Look, I know a lot of you want rural outreach, but maybe we need to realize that A) there aren't as many rural Tennesseans as there once were and B) the ones who are still there tend to vote culture over economics, against their own best interests.
I do not quote Steve Steffens because he is a random disgruntled Tennessee liberal-there are plenty of those who could be quoted. Steffens is a reliable indicator of sentiment among the “worker bees” of the Democratic Party because in many ways, he is the proto-typical Shelby County Democratic activist-a believing liberal who will tell you that he believes in socialized medicine and not hide it, who believes in legalized abortion and does not attempt (as many Democrats in this State do) to conceal his views, and who believes in high taxes and gun control and is not ashamed of it. Steffens spent six years on the Shelby County Democratic Executive Committee, and he’s someone whose words have influence in liberal circles. This writer will readily admit to admiring his zeal for his beliefs as well as his personal consistency in those beliefs, while disagreeing vehemently with him about them. However, Steffens’ above statement-the sentiments of which are clearly shared by others on the Left-and his apparent lack of enthusiasm for Roy Herron illustrate exactly why Tennessee Democrats have a real problem.
What exactly constitutes “rural” has been the subject of some debate in recent years, and Steve Steffens is right that by any measurement of what constitutes “rural,” Tennessee’s rural population has shrunk in the last three decades, but the rural population in Tennessee is still so large that no political party can win a Statewide majority without a significant share of the rural vote. The Tennessee Democratic Party is suffering greatly from the national party’s decision to abandon rural voters, and it is tied to a president who is profoundly unpopular here. However, if rural voters come to believe that the Tennessee Democratic Party does not and will not represent their interests (and whose activists think they know more about rural interests than rural voters do), it will be a minority party for decades to come. The fact that a new party Chairman now specifically targets rural voters is causing such a negative reaction shows just how divorced many in the minority party are from the reality of how to fix their political problems.