A super-confusing Tuesday

Friends, it is finally here. For those of us who have been following this election since twenty(ahemcough)teen, this day, while not as important as the one in November, is way up the list.

But I have a problem. I just don’t know what to do. I’m headed to my polling place later today, and I will be asked which ballot I want. There are issues with picking either one.

I don’t belong to either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. But as one person with one vote in a public election, I have an obligation to weigh-in on which candidates will, in my humble opinion, do the best job in the offices they seek.

In the Presidential Preference Primary (PPP), each party boasts among its offerings a person I feel quite strongly would be The Wrong Choice as that party’s nominee. Like, dangerously wrong. I could easily justify pulling either ballot in an effort to block one or the other of those, but I have to look down the ballot as well.

It seems ridiculous, but a single county office is elected at a completely different time than all the rest. The Assessor of Property primary elections in Hamilton County feature multiple GOP candidates and only one Democrat. If I get a Democratic ballot in order to strategically vote against someone in the PPP, I don’t get to do much about Assessor of Property (until the general election).

Likewise, there is a Criminal Court Judge seat, for which zero Democrats qualified, but there are, again, several Republicans. It seems like the latter would be the most meaningful ballot to pick; but what if I wanted to vote for, I dunno, Bernie Sanders? After all, he’s pretty much exactly who I want to be when I grow up: a slightly rumpled, crotchety, seventy-something secular Jew. That’s my spirit animal right there.

But if I did that, could I count on the rest of you to do the right things in the Republican primary?


Posted in Commentary, Hamilton County Elections, Tennessee Federal Elections Tagged with: ,

In remembrance of John Jay Hooker

It was my first brush with a real, live, seersucker-clad political legend. In person and up close, John Jay Hooker commanded attention and fomented respect, whether or not one knew exactly who he was. I can still hear his baritone voice enunciate the word “Attorney” (and yes it was capitalized) in that olden Nashville accent.

The scene wasn’t what you might expect. Not a rally, nor a courtroom, nor a university lecture; it was actually a blogging conference, where many attendees were younger, technical, entrepreneurial, and either progressive or libertarian-ish, if politically minded at all. What was this man in his seventies, who had decades before run (and lost) as a Democrat for Governor of Tennessee, doing in our midst?

While some of the memories have faded and others are available only by the grace of the Wayback Machine, a few extant accounts help fill in the gaps. I especially appreciate this one from Les Jones, whose site still captures the quote “You can’t call a son-of-a-bitch a son-of-a-bitch without calling him a son-of-a-bitch.” It’s cheeky out-of-context, but when considered as part of a discussion on independent, individual media voices telling the truth, Hooker’s aptness is readily apparent.

And that’s why he was there. For whatever reason, Hooker had an insatiable curiosity about, and hope in, the form of content production and sharing we called blogging. He attended BlogNashville as a learner, but every true learner is also a teacher.

Hooker held court during a raucous session ironically titled something about “Respectful Disagreement,” during which the presenter, with the able help of a few combatants, proceeded to blow the very concept to smithereens. (I’ve still never quite figured out how much of that was on purpose.) In that circus moment, seeming like nothing more than a caricature and a gadfly, Hooker slyly revealed his true nature. It was, in retrospect, like watching someone practice “drunken fist” fighting. He won you over. He made you a follower. He was magnetic.

This website endeavored to follow the Tennessee giant thereafter, whether it was listing him among candidates for office, or linking to articles about his fervent opposition to judicial nomination—or just people commenting on his general quirkiness. Like many others, I became “friends” on Facebook with him.

I can’t claim but a sliver of knowledge about the man’s life and legacy, and even that owes a debt to my fellow correspondents across the state. But my encounter with him was nonetheless momentous, as it propelled my resolve to become a more fully participating citizen, and to use the web to inveigle others.

John Jay Hooker loved the Constitution. He stood up for individual rights. He taught us that love of liberty can transcend political ideology, as can personal friendships. He lost a lot of battles, including his final one. His gift to all is our ability to carry the light forward, despite our flaws and failures, using his tenacity as our model.

Posted in Commentary, Political News Tagged with: ,

Web log for 2016-01-12

Here’s what’s at top of mind this Tuesday morning.

President Barack Obama tonight will give his final State of the Union address, followed by a Republican response from South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Obama’s track record as president has been neither as breathtakingly progressive as the “Hope” and “Change” posters seemed to promise, nor as doom-filled as the apocalyptic conspiracy theorists projected. Surely there are disappointed people along both fringes: some who wished for massive wealth redistribution to the 99 percent, and others whose BDSM fantasies had them secretly hoping to be locked up in Nazi-style camps practicing a Kenyan flavor of Sharia Law. All in all, it’s been a mostly moderate, if left-leaning, tenure that has pleased not all of the people, not all of the time.

And the wars continue, so at least the hawks are happy. (No, that’s not right. It’s never enough.)

Here in Tennessee, today the 109th General Assembly opens its second session. The partisan makeup of both houses guarantees that nothing will get passed without GOP approval, but the question remains as to which arm of the GOP maintains control. Dave Boucher of the Nashville USA Today paper breaks it down.

Speaking of the Republican House Caucus, today also marks when its members will at least get some procedures in motion about what to do with Rep. Jeremy Durham, the current Majority Whip.

Looking ahead: I keep trying to decide how much weight to put on the outcomes of the first four primary/caucus contests in the 2016 nominating cycle, and whether to fully focus instead on the March 1st “Super Tuesday” primary, when Tennessee joins a bunch of other states to really make things clearer in this rather murky race. I also remain convinced about which GOP contender will carry Tennessee; but just ask Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee about how much that matters.

Looking further ahead: it’s roughly fourteen months until the next Chattanooga municipal election; and the following year sees an open seat for Governor of Tennessee. Many of us will be watching for the moment when Mayor Andy Berke will publicly decide what he’s going to do about those two things.

See you on Twitter for the #SOTU.

Posted in Political News Tagged with: , , , , ,

What he said about Trump will shock you

This country is well into its sixth decade of absurdist politics. Wait. Let me make that clearer: there have been weird moments all along, but always in a cocktail mixed with earnestness and hope. Even the brash (Teddy Roosevelt) were relatively mature. But since the 1960s (with 1968 as the turning point), we’ve drunk our absurdism straight, with not even a chaser. We’ve become completely desensitized to being manipulated. We nod glibly when a Washington, D.C. personality flings an accusatory “Kabuki theater” epithet at an ideological opponent (even though they shouldn’t), without considering the “play within a play” (within a play, and so on, like animated Russian dolls) happening before our eyes.

So it’s good to have—like the person who shared it on Feisbuk described it—a refreshing look at what really are the causes and effects of the current political maelstrom. Regardless how your political views compare with the author’s, this piece by New York Magazine’s Frank Rich lays out a case for Donald Trump’s candidacy being like chemotherapy to a cancer-ridden political system. (That’s my analogy, not his.)

The billionaire businessman’s campaign has caused consternation among everyone except his ardent supporters. It has outlived all of the pundits’ lifespan predictions. But what does it mean? And how did we get here? Rich’s essay digs way into our political psyche. The only thing I think he leaves out—and this is a huge miss, don’t get me wrong—is honest treatment of how riling up the aforementioned supporters’ white nationalist urges is dangerous to the health of our nation.

But I do like that it has a sidebar from a co-writer of Bulworth.

Posted in Commentary Tagged with:

Like fantasy football? You’ll love this.

Happy Friday.

Today we’re standing right up to statistics giant Nate Silver, who calculates a pretty heavy certainty that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders won’t win their respective nomination contests.

What Sanders and Trump have in common is they’re both unlikely to be nominated. (If I were laying odds, I’d put either one at something like 15-1 or 20-1 against.)

But never mind the numbers. Let’s put a rock in our sling and imagine what would happen if these two (very different, as Silver points out) thorns in the establishment’s side were to amass enough delegates each to be of the two major parties’ chosen ones.

Let that thought sink in for just a second.

What would Hillary do?
Has Hillary Clinton signed a loyalty pledge promising not to run as a third-party candidate? The Clintons would really, really like, please and thank you, to move back into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. To what lengths would they go to make that happen?

An independent Clinton run (or under a newly minted party banner) in this scenario obviously would triangulate to pull in moderates of whatever stripe. But two things would work against her: she’d be at war with the nation’s oldest surviving political party; and moderate Republicans, as repulsed by Trump as they might be, still would think twice before voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

What would Republicans do?
It’s at least remotely possible that a faction of anti-Trump Republicans could strike out on their own, find some way to renege on the pledge, and run their own ticket.

Could we have a four-way election, like some in America’s past? What if voters had these choices?

  • Hillary Clinton, America Forever Party
  • John Kasich, Modern Whig Party
  • Bernie Sanders, Democratic Party
  • Donald J. Trump, Republican Party

What would the national parties do?
Frankly, if it looked like the presidential preference primaries were going to yield a majority of delegates to Sanders, I don’t think the DNC would let him escape the convention. They would contain it through one maneuver or another, and preserve Clinton’s ascendancy.

I don’t know that I could be so bold with a prediction about the national Republican Party. It’s possible they would resign themselves to a Trump nomination and urge him to pick an agreeable running mate.

Yes, this is all casual conjecture. None of this will happen, probably.

But if Sanders and Trump were to win, we definitely could call it the “wild hair” election.

Posted in Humour, Journalism Tagged with: , , , , , ,