The Tennessee Democratic Party has some rather existential and fundamental questions to answer, and quickly.
What is a political party’s actual purpose? Is it solely to (raise money to) win elections for its nominees, regardless how (or why) they perform once in office?
Is it a bit broader than that, having a goal of advancing legislation that more or less aligns with a commonly held platform, thus relegating elections to “means” status, as opposed to “end”?
Or is it a fully engaged and powerful member of a larger social ecosystem that works at all levels to solve real problems that face all people (not limited to its membership)?
As an outsider, I sometimes get the sense that those in the major political parties’ core operating units (local, state, and national) develop pretty severe tunnel vision. That they, you know the saying, can’t see the forest, or even the trees. I could be wrong. And we’ll deal with the GOP in a different post. For now, let’s talk about Democrats in Tennessee.
Their electoral fortunes have been staggeringly miserable over the past several years. But is that the disease, or just a symptom? Can they blame it all on U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, or President Barack Obama, or the Republicans? Should they look internally to see what dysfunctions might be standing in their way?
A nominating panel just came up with three names to recommend to the State Executive Committee as potential party chairs. Terry Adams, Rep. Gloria Johnson, and Mary Mancini made the cut; Lenda Sherrell did not.
Again, I’m on the outside looking in, but allow yourself to imagine that that very perspective lends someone an ability to troubleshoot root causes and recommend solutions.
Imagine further that a political organization that adopted an “outside-in” view—from the “customer’s” (i.e., citizen’s) perspective, instead of from central office looking outward—could collaborate with ordinary people to refurbish its purpose and vision, use that to craft a strategy for fulfilling that vision, and recruit hordes of eager volunteers (and, yes, donors) to execute that strategy, all the while keeping in close contact with the very public on whom it depends. It could happen.
I don’t have a proverbial dog in the hunt for TNDP chair. What compounds my apathetic stance further is my belief that it may not matter which one of the nominees gets it. The issues facing the SEC and the party at large are systemic; they run to the bone marrow. It would seem shortsighted to lodge all one’s hopes in the belief that a single executive (or even the SEC itself) could engineer a turnaround. To do that, the party actually needs a direction first.