Let’s have a conversation today about staying focused.
In a former position, I worked for someone fond of saying that we basically have two choices in life. We can focus on a lot of things and do them with mediocre results or we can focus on a few things and do them really well. I have always been a proponent of the latter.
As progressives, we can’t get distracted by what I like to call shiny issues. Shiny issues are a lot like shiny objects in that both serve as distractions from the real goal. Take for instance the Wisconsin recall elections. No Democrat would disagree that what Governor Walker did in Wisconsin is a tragedy of the first degree. And no one would disagree that these Senators need to be sent into retirement. However, how much time, effort and money did this take from Democrats across the country-including in Tennessee-that could have been better spent advocating progressive causes in their own state? How much time did we spend as Tennessee Democrats discussing this, when we could have been talking about a strategy for the next legislative session?
My point is this: we had a myriad of horrible, terrible, no-good legislation come out of the Tennessee General Assembly this session. We limited people’s access to the court, completely ripped apart teaching as a profession, tore the already weak organized labor groups down to bare bones, dictated reproductive health to women, overruled local governments, made ‘gay’ a swear word, set science curriculums back to the dark ages and put public schools on the path to bankruptcy all while managing to completely ignore the 10% unemployment rate in Tennessee. We have enough crap to deal with from here to kingdom come without ever looking for issues elsewhere.
Let’s face facts. Barack Obama isn’t going to win in Tennessee. We are not going to beat Bob Corker in 2012. We have ZERO say in redistricting. So as Tennessee Democrats, let’s get focused on things we CAN do. Instead of spending time phone banking for the President, let’s phone bank for someone in House District 40 where James Hale almost beat Rep. Weaver in 2010. Instead of sending $5 to fight Prop 8 in California, send $5 to the Maury County Democratic Party to help send the bigoted Rep. Butt back to Columbia. Instead of focusing on national issues and campaigns, follow the lead of groups like the National Firefighters Union and get involved on a local level where we can actually have an impact.
I say this from place of love and, as my minister says, I am as guilty as anyone of doing what I am advocating against, but we have got to get focused as Tennessee Democrats. I love the President. I hope Elizabeth Warren wins the Senate seat in Massachusetts. I hope Scott Walker gets recalled, we win the special election in New York and Prop 8 gets overturned in California. But right now, I’m more concerned about Republicans screwing up the HOPE scholarship for my sister. I am more concerned that my cousin-a first year teacher-won’t have basic classroom supplies she needs to be effective. I am more concerned that members of the General Assembly think a sexual orientation is a swear word, that any jobs bill from a Democrat is socialism and that we should really go back to the days before that disastrous Scopes Trial. These are issues that affect my daily life as a Tennessean. These are issues where I can have a real impact.
Over the next weeks, I am going to begin talking about issues that we can affect as Tennessee Democrats. I too love a good fight at the national level. I support many progressive causes that are going on around the country, but right now I want us to examine what is really going on in Tennessee and how we can make a difference. The issues won’t always be sexy, but they will be substantive.
Let the conversation continue.