Friday, August 26, 2016

Haslam, in Memphis, Suggests Calling Special Session

Governor says bill raising blood-alcohol levels for young motorists must be amended, or state could lose $60 million in federal funds.

Posted By on Fri, Aug 26, 2016 at 11:28 AM

Governor Haslam
  • Governor Haslam

Governor Bill Haslam, in Memphis on Thursday to visit Winridge Elementary School to klick off a statewide tour of K-12 public schools, said he would call a special session of the legislature to look into amending a DUI law passed in the last session that raised permissible alcohol levels for 18- to 20-year old motorists.

The National Highway Safety Administration has announced that the state is liable to lose 8 percent of its federal highway funding annually, or $60 million, as a result of raising the alcohol blood level from .02 per cent to .08 for the affected youthful motorists. The higher amount is in violation of the federal government’s zero tolerance policy for the 18-to-20 year-old group.

“$60 million is too much money to give up,” Haslam told reporters. Noting that members of the state’s congressional delegation are negotiating with the federal government for some sort of compromise on the funding matter, the Governor said the legislature would have to act if those efforts failed.
As of now, the change in funding is scheduled to begin in October.

• The Governor also said, “I’m not a fan” of efforts to decriminalize recreational marijuana use, when asked about a pending ordinance before the Memphis City Council to allow police to give misdemeanor tickets rather than to make felony arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Haslam said, “I do think there are people spending more time in jail than they need to,” but he said outright decriminalization would not be a “helpful signal” in a state where drug abuse remains a problem.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Shelby County Democratic Party Decertified

Posted By on Fri, Aug 19, 2016 at 4:13 PM

State Democratic Party chair Mary Mancini has, in the wake of the dispute between the TNDP and the Shelby County Democratic Party over the correct procedures for dealing with ousted former SCDP chairman Bryan Carson, officially decertified the local party.
TNDP chair Mancini
  • TNDP chair Mancini
Mancini took the action in a letter to current Shelby County Democratic Party chair Michael Pope.

In claiming the right to decertify the party, Macini cited  "Article III Section 2(f) and Article VII Section 1(a)(3) of the Tennessee Democratic Party Bylaws," which, she said, give her the power "to develop and monitor a minimum set of requirements that must be observed by a state sanctioned certified County Democratic Party."

Although Mancini did not specify particular reasons for her action, she has been at a standoff with the local party's executive committee over the Carson issue. The SCDP executive committee has declined — by virtue of a 10-10 tie in voting on the matter — to ratify a payback agreement reached between Mancini's office and SCDP chairman Pope, allowing Carson to pay $6,000 to the party at the rate of $100 a month in order to satisfy the local party's claims of financial irregularities during Carson's chairmanship.

A strong component of the Shelby County committee's membership has pressed for sterner action against Carson, contending that he embezzled at least $25,000 in party funds that cannot be accounted for. And a majority of the committee voted last week to declare Carson non bona fides as a Democrat, an action that Mancini claims the local party lacked sufficient grounds or legal underpinning for.

The Carson affair is but the most glaring example of discord between the local party and Mancini, who expressed displeasure that the SCDP has incurred substantial fines for late and insufficient financial disclosures to the state Election Registry, both during and after Carson's chairmanship.

Even beyond the financial issues, the SCDP executive-committee membership has been seriously divided on matters of organization and leadership, and some current and former members have openly invited an action like that which Mancini has now taken, as a prelude to starting the local party over again from the ground up.

One such was veteran blogger Steve Steffens of, who in a post on Mancini's action said in part:  "Today, TNDP Chair Mary Mancini did what we have been urging her to do, decertifying the Shelby County Democratic Party, sending it to a farm where it could run and play with other defunct institutions.  It had ceased to function as a political organization a long time ago, unable to deal with the Bryan Carson situation...."

Alvin Crook, president of the Shelby County Young Democrats, responded to the surprise new development by noting that his own organization still maintained full legitimacy and pledging to work with state party officials in rebuilding efforts locally. Crook said the YDs would also be holding a press conference on Saturday, time and place to be announced.

Brent Leatherwood, executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party, wasted no time in commenting on the new development in Democratic ranks, issuing the following statement:

"With allegations flying that $25,000 from donors has gone missing, the TNDP's answer is to simply sweep the issue under the rug. That's inexcusable. A proper and transparent investigation needs to be conducted immediately and, if necessary, charges should be filed. Shelby County deserves better but this whole episode is just another example of the Democratic Party's long tradition of corruption."

Below is Mancini's letter of today, addressed to  SCDP chair Pope, conveying the news of her action and the reasons for it.
More information to come:

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Kustoff v. Flinn Backstory

Though it was not so obvious publicly, with 13 candidates running, the two campaigns saw themselves engaged in a two-person race.

Posted By on Fri, Aug 5, 2016 at 10:46 AM

There are some interesting backstory twists to the 8th Congressional District Republican primary just concluded, in which former U.S. Attorney David Kustoff
Kustoff (l), Flinn
  • Kustoff (l), Flinn
beat fellow Shelby Countian George Flinn and 11 others.

People in the Flinn camp were still seething over a late Kustoff ad which accused broadcast executive/radiologist Flinn of having supported “a Democrat” in a prior election. The unnamed Democrat was Shea Flinn, the doctor’s son, who many years ago ran an unsuccessful race for state Representative and later was appointed to an interim position as state Senator.

Shea Flinn, now a vice president of the Greater Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce, still later was elected to two terms as a Memphis City Councilman. He was also a member of the inner circle in his Council colleague Jim Strickland’s successful campaign for Mayor last year.

The fact that Strickland was, before his election, the law partner of David Kustoff created an odd and somewhat ironic overlap in the congressional race. But there were many other such overlaps, such as the fact that many of Kustoff’s chief fund-raisers — notably Mike Keeney, Mitch Graves, and Billy Orgel — also had served Strickland in that capacity.

The two campaigns also employed Steven Reid of Sutton Reid, a Memphis-based political consulting firm, though Kustoff’s chief strategist was Chip Saltsman, who had been campaign manager for the presidential campaign in 2008 of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who endorsed Kustoff in the congressional race.

A further connection between the Strickland and Kustoff campaigns was that they shared the same pollster, Patrick Lanne of Public Opinion Strategies, a firm based in Alexandria, Virginia.

Although the fact never surfaced publicly, Lanne’s polling for Kustoff had, until the week or two before the election, showed a consistent lead for Flinn in the 13-person 8th District race — as did Flinn’s own polling. Flinn’s campaign loan to himself of $3 million had also allowed the Memphis physician to advertise not only more consistently than other candidates but in more places throughout the district (e.g., in the Paducah, Kentucky, media market).

As Kustoff put on a well-funded late rush, the congressional race became, basically, a two-person affair between himself and Flinn, whom he was able to surpass only at the end of the race, and mainly through his edge of 4500 votes over Flinn in Shelby County (as against a mere 2500-vote margin in the district as a whole).

The ‘Flinn-supported-a-Democrat’ ad was a late thrust, and the Flinn campaign had only a day or so to counter it, with a fresh ad of their own, pointing out the family relationship between the two political
Flinns. The Flinn campaign’s bitterness over the Kustoff ad was paralleled to some degree by a Kustoff supporter’s observation that in Flinn’s response ad, he had made a point of calling himself a Christian.

(Kustoff is Jewish, and, if he is successful in November, as is expected against the Democratic nominee Rickey Hopson, a political newcomer, Memphis would have not only two congressmen for the first time since 1994, the city would have two Jewish congressmen, the other being Steve Cohen, a Democrat, in the 9th District.)

In any case, though few outside the two campaigns were aware of it, the showdown between Flinn and Kustoff overshadowed other candidates in the campaign’s late stages, notably Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, an early leader in the race, and state Senator Brian Kelsey of Germantown, who had been expected to contend.

Kustoff Edges Flinn, 11 Others in GOP 8th District Race

In other results, Curry Todd loses reelection bid for his House seat, Stanton holds on as General Sessions Clerk.

Posted By on Fri, Aug 5, 2016 at 1:25 AM

8th District GOP winner David Kustoff, flanked by wife Roberta and his children and by his mother Sharon, greets supporters at victory party. - JB
  • JB
  • 8th District GOP winner David Kustoff, flanked by wife Roberta and his children and by his mother Sharon, greets supporters at victory party.

On his second try, lawyer David Kustoff, a former U.S. Attorney for Shelby County, has won a congressional seat.

Kustoff, who ran second to Marsha Blackburn in a multi-candidate race for Congress in the 7th District back in 2002, finished ahead of 12 other candidates in the Republican primary for the 8th Congressional District, which has been reapportioned to take in much of the same territory that Kustoff ran in before.

Although Kustoff will have to face a Democratic opponent, Rickey Hopson of Arlington, winner of the Democratic primary over Gregory Alan Frye (2595 votes to 1736), and several independent candidates in the November 8 general election, victory in the GOP primary is tantamount to winning in the 8th these days and in much of the rest of Tennessee, as well.

Kustoff received 16,505 votes, for 27.3 period of the total district vote, while businessman/physician George Flinn finished second with 13,956 votes or 23.1 percent. Third place went to Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell, 10,597 votes and 17.6 percent of the total. State Senator Brian Kelsey, with 7,806 votes and 12.9 percent, and Jackson businessman Brad Greer, with 6,807 votes and 11.3 percent, came next.

In Shelby County, the order of finish was Kustoff, Luttrell, Kelsey, Flinn, and Register of Deeds Tom Leatherwood.

Speaking to joyous supporters at the Marriott Hotel on Poplar Avenue Thursday night, Kustoff professed himself “humbled” by the opportunity to serve the 8th District and reminded the crowd that he had another election to run in the general.

He said he had run “for all the right reasons,” mentioning among them a concern for public safety and national security, maintenance of America’s southern border, and countering “wasteful spending.”

Kustoff’s greater edge over Flinn within Shelby County, some 4500 votes, as compared to 2500 over the runner-up in the district as a whole, was clearly the key to his victory; his Shelby County totals owed much to the winner’s long-term service in Republican Party ranks and a resultant hold over local party activists.

Kustoff has also long been prominent in state GOP ranks, having been Tennessee campaign manager for George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 2000.

In the late stages of the campaign, Kustoff and his supporters went on the attack and generated some controversy, as with a late ad from a PAC friendly to Kustoff that accused Flinn of having once backed a “Democrat” for office. With less than a day to respond, Flinn pointed out in an ad of his own that the Democrat in question was his son, Shea Flinn, who served a brief appointive term in the state Senate and was elected twice to the Memphis City Council in non-partisan elections.

In other contests:

*Incumbent Steve Cohen, with 35.628 votes, well over 80 percent of the vote, easily dispatched three opponents —Justin Ford,4164; M. LaTroy Williams,1453'; and Larry Crim, 407 —in the Democratic primary for the 9th Congressional District.

*Incumbent state Senator Sara Kyle, with 7603 votes,  defeated former Senator Beverly Marrero, with 2478 in the Democratic primary for Senate District 30.

*Plagued by late publicity accruing to his arrest for stealing opponents’ yard signs, District 95 incumbent state Representative Curry Todd, with1493 votes,  was easily beaten in the Republican primary by Mark Lovell, who had 4437 Other candidates were Diane George, with 1149 and Dana Matheny, with 833.

*Incumbent state Representative Johnnie Turner, with 3352 votes, beat challengers Keith Williams, with 1259and Felicia Irons, 546, in the Democratic primary for House District 85.

*Larry Miller, Incumbent state Representative in District 88, with 2794 votes, turned away Stephen Christian, with 697, in the Democratic primary.

*John DeBerry,  House District 90 incumbent, with 2727votes, edged out challenger Tami Sawyer, with 2088.

*Dwayne Thompson's 1481 votes won over Earl LeFlore's 983 in the Democratic primary for House District 96 for the right to challenge incumbent Republican Steve McManus, who defeated challenger Price Harris with 2717 votes against 877 in his primary.

*Incumbent Antonio Parkinson easily defeated Johnnie Hatten, 2676 to 926, in the Democratic primary for House District 98.

*Valerie Smith, a recent gubernatorial appointee to serve as Circuit Court Judge in Division III, defeated Michael G. Floyd, with 51,300 votes to 22,712,  but another appointee, Chancellor Jim Newsom, was the victim of a vote split in the race for Chancellor, Part III, his 23,850 votes losing to challenger Joe Jenkins, with 20,431. David Ferguson was a third candidate, with 18,056.

*Despite fears of his supporters that a stiff GOP turnout in the 8th District congressional race might aid Republican challenger Richard Morton, General Sessions Clerk Ed Stanton Jr., the Democratic incumbent, was able to prevail, with 45,432 votes to Morton's 28,121. Independent William Chism had 5493.

*Incumbent Stephanie Love, with 3232 votes, defeated Sharon Field, with 2242, in the District 3 race for the Shelby County Schools Board.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Candidates Pulling Out the Stops

Some call on ex-presidential candidates for backup, amid charges of campaign skullduggery and one bona fide arrest.

Posted By on Wed, Aug 3, 2016 at 7:42 PM


Late developments in various legislative races and one intensely contested congressional race are heating up beyond even what your sorely taxed thermometers are showing.

*The latest flare-up in the 8th District congressional race is a contention by the George Flinn campaign that one of Flinn’s GOP primary foes, former U.S. Attorney David Kustoff, is behind a series of attack ads which, among other things, accuse Republican Flinn of (horrors!) having supported a Democrat in a previous election campaign.

That Democrat, of course, is Shea Flinn, currently a vice president of the Greater Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce and a former city councilman who did in fact enjoy support from broadcaster/physician George Flinn — who happens to be Shea Flinn’s father.

That the two have maintained close family relations while differing significantly on political matters has never been exactly a secret.

The younger Flinn, Jackson radio talk host Frankie Lax, and John Niven, a campaign aide to George Flinn have all pointed to Kustoff as the source of the series of attack ads, and Lax has cited documents relating the attack ads directly to an advertising agency controlled by family members and associates of former Arkansas Governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who is supporting Kustoff in the 8th District race and has actively campaigned for him.

Kelsey and Santorum in Collierville - JB
  • JB
  • Kelsey and Santorum in Collierville
*Meanwhile, Kustoff is not the only 8th District candidate leaning on support from a former Republican presidential candidate. State Senator Brian Kelsey was accompanied on a district tour on Tuesday by former Pe nnsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, runner-up to Mitt Romney in the GOP primary contests of 2012.
At Collierville, end stop on the tour, Santorum, who emphasized his conservative position on social issues during his run for the presidency, vouched for Kelsey as someone of similar views and as a fiscal conservative as well.

*And, according to state Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Republicans have mounted misleading primary campaigns against two incumbent Democratic House members running for reelection.

Speaking to reporters in Memphis, Stewart pinpointed the Rev. Keith Williams, whose opposes state Rep. Johnnie Turner in District 85, as a faux Democrat who has failed to vote in Democratic primaries in a series of recent election and did not vote in either general election campaign waged by President Obama. (Williams has also benefited from name confusion with Memphis/Shelby County Education Association CEO Keith Williams, Stewart noted.)

Stewart also charged that Republicans are backing the Democratic primary campaign of Johnnie Hatten, a charter school/ASD advocate who in the District 98 race is challenging state Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a consistent critic of the ASD and other educational initiatives pursued by the administration of GOP Governor Bill Haslam.

*Finally, GOP state Representative Curry Todd, the District 95 incumbent who has been accused by primary opponents Diane George and Mark Lovell of stealing their campaign signs but has either denied doing so, despite apparent photographic proof of the fact, or maintained he had permission to remove the signs, was arrested this week by Sheriff’s deputies for — yep, stealing opponents’ yard signs.

Todd, his pickup, and its contents in June
  • Todd, his pickup, and its contents in June

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Here's Hillary!

One week after Republican nominee Donald Trump hurled his defining acceptance speech, Hillary Clinton answered for the Democrats.

Posted By on Sat, Jul 30, 2016 at 9:01 AM

  • JB

PHILADELPHIA -- She was swathed in white, with all the multiple-choice symbolisms that go with that fact, pant-suit or not.

She began her speech of acceptance with thanks to daughter Chelsea, who had introduced her, and with courtesy nods to the two male Democrats who had preceded her in the presidency, which, as her party’s formal nominee, she now hopes to achieve herself:
Her husband Bill, “my Explainer-in-Chief….the Man from Hope,” and Barack Obama, “the Man of Hope.”

Both had apotheosized her — former President Clinton on Tuesday night of the Democratic convention now ending with (literally) blazes of glory, current President Obama on the next night, when he told the teeming audience of delegates and spectators and the millions watching from elsewhere, electronically, that no one, “not Bill, not me,” had ever come to the presidency better prepared than her, Hillary Clinton.

And she thanked her chief rival for the nomination:

I want to thank Bernie Sanders.

Bernie, your campaign inspired millions of Americans, particularly the young people who threw their hearts and souls into our primary.

You’ve put economic and social justice issues front and center, where they belong.

And to all of your supporters here and around the country:

I want you to know, I’ve heard you.

Your cause is our cause.

Our country needs your ideas, energy, and passion.

That’s the only way we can turn our progressive platform into real change for America.

Nor did Hillary Clinton omit from her attention the remaining obstacle to her quest — Donald J. Trump, the outspoken billionaire developer and celebrity who had, out of nowhere, come to bear the standard of the opposition party, the very patrimony of which she would deny him:

He’s taken the Republican Party a long way … from “Morning in America” to “Midnight in America.”

He wants us to fear the future and fear each other.

Well, a great Democratic President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, came up with the perfect rebuke to Trump more than eighty years ago, during a much more perilous time.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Now we are clear-eyed about what our country is up against.

But we are not afraid.

We will rise to the challenge, just as we always have.

She would, in her speech, associate herself with all political callings:

I will be a President for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

For the struggling, the striving and the successful.

For those who vote for me and those who don’t.

For all Americans.

But there would be yet another nod to Sanders, the “democratic socialist” who had run her so close and whose call for a political revolution had mobilized millions of potential cadres for the November election. There was no doubt that her rival had basically co-authored a party platform that would, as she said, “help working people in our country get ahead and stay ahead.”


Bernie Sanders and I will work together to make college tuition-free for the middle class and debt-free for all!

We will also liberate millions of people who already have student debt.

And even further, after she’d laid out a program of further governmental incentives. How would she pay for them?:

…[H]ere’s how: Wall Street, corporations, and the super rich are going to start paying their fair share of taxes.

Not because we resent success. Because when more than 90 percent of the gains have gone to the top 1 percent, that’s where the money is.

Her motto of the day, and perhaps of the campaign to come, was “Stronger Together.” Over the next few days, in this space and in the Flyer issue of August 4, we’ll take a more detailed look at how Hillary Clinton made history by becoming the first woman nominated for President by a major party, how her convention went, and what she intends to do if elected.

And we’ll make comparisons to how her opponent, Donald Trump, got to where he is, as well, to what he intends to do, and more about his prospects, going forth from his own convention.

Meanwhile, here are two looks from Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, the first a spirited performance by Katy Perry, the second Hillary Clinton and friends in the post-speech celebration:


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Bernie vs. Protesters

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 8:00 PM

Bernie Sanders has been addressing Democratic delegations on behalf of Hillary Clinton. In the street, supporters repurpose the progressive Senator's campaign rhetoric: It's not him, it's us.

This video juxtaposes Sanders' message with images of protests beyond the convention perimeter.

Sen. Bernie Sanders Addresses Tennessee Democrats

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 6:22 PM

Senator Bernie Sanders dropped in on a joint breakfast for Tennessee, Michigan, and Minnesota delegations.  

Streets of Philadelphia — DNC, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 4:05 PM

  • Chris Davis
While speeches were being made inside Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center Bernie Sanders supporters and Black Loves Matters protesters marched took to the streets to make some noise. This is what it looked like. 

Democrats in Philadelphia Wonder, 'Where's Jim?'

Memphis Mayor Strickland is the only one of the nominally Democratic big-city mayors who has not made an appearance, nor addressed the home-state delegates, at this week's Democratic National Convention.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 12:13 PM

Mayor Jim Strickland - JB
  • JB
  • Mayor Jim Strickland

PHILADELPHIA —The mayors of Tennessee’s five largest cities have all been in attendance at the Democratic National Convention here this week, and all have addressed a Tennessee delegation breakfast at one time or other.

All, that is, except Jim Strickland of Memphis, a former Shelby County Democratic Party chairman who, as of his successful election run last year, said he still considered himself a Democrat.

The mayors gathered in Philadelphia, also self-avowed Democrats, are Mayor Megan Barry of Nashville, Madeline Rogero of Knoxville, Andy Berke of Chattanooga, and Kim McMillan of Clarksville.

From the time of the first delegation breakfast, on Monday at the Raddisson Valley Forge Casino Tower, where the delegation is housed, those members of it from Memphis have been wondering about Strickland’s whereabouts and anticipating a possible late arrival.

But, as of Thursday, the day of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s highly awaited acceptance speech and the occasion for the last formal gathering of Tennessee Democrats here, Strickland was still a no-show.

State Democratic Party chair Mary Mancini did plug in Strickland’s name, however, when, in her final remarks to the delegation, she enumerated the names of each of what she described as “Tennessee’s Democratic mayors.” Strickland’s name was included, last on her list, a fact which generated renewed speculation about the mayor’s itinerary (and some grousing) on the part of delegation members from the Bluff City.

The Flyer has not yet been able to contact the Mayor’s communications office, although one of Strickland’s regular professional associates theorized that his absence from the Democratic conclave (and from last week’s Republican conclave, for that matter), were due to his unusually busy work schedule in Memphis.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Memphis Flyer Podcasts from the DNC

Posted By on Wed, Jul 27, 2016 at 11:48 AM

It's hot as hell in Philadelphia. In the Wells Fargo Center and in the streets. Jackson Baker and Chris Davis share their experiences and analyze what they've seen. 

Can the Democrats trump Trump? Tune in, turn on, drop a beat. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Al Franken Addresses the Tennessee Delegation: DNC 2016

Posted By on Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 7:41 AM

Who loves Chachi? Judging by quips, comments, laughter and applause at the traditional DNC morning breakfast, Joanie's boyfriend isn't very popular in the Volunteer State. 

Classic-era SNL writer/comedian turned Minnesota Senator Al Franken addressed the Tennessee Delegation. His comments were brief but pointed and you can watch his whole speech here. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Trump's Acceptance Address Aimed Beyond the GOP Base

Clinton still has most of the advantages, but she'll need to nail them down at her own convention this week in Philadelphia.

Posted By on Sat, Jul 23, 2016 at 11:23 PM

CLEVELAND — During the 76 minutes of his acceptance address at the Republican National Convention on Thursday night, Donald J. Crump made his most determined and conscientious effort yet to discuss actual policy issues — as against the insults to adversaries and boasts of his electoral successes.

Oh, there were still lots of the latter. He’d only been speaking
The Donald, making his pitch in Cleveland - JB
  • JB
  • The Donald, making his pitch in Cleveland
a minute or so when he made a point of mentioning that in the primary season he’d polled “14 million votes, the most in the history of the Republican Party” and that “the Republican Party would get 60 percent more votes than it received four years ago.”

And he was certainly less than flattering toward his Democratic opponent-to-be, Hillary Clinton, whom he’d rebuked for “her bad instincts and her bad judgment” and whose “legacy” he described as one of “death, destruction, terrorism and weakness.” 

But he responded with conspicuous — maybe even exaggerated — restraint when his repeated enumerations of Clinton’s alleged failures and misdeeds prompted the crowd of delegates and guests on the floor of the Quicken Loans arena to renew a mean-spirited chant of previous nights, “Lock her up/Lock her up….”

Said Trump in a show of mock magnanimity that calmed the roar: “Let’s defeat her in November.”

And his catalogue of complaints about Clinton’s performance as candidate and Secretary of State were cross-referenced to statements “pointed out by Bernie Sanders,” the erstwhile populist challenger to Clinton in the Democrats’ long-running primary contest.

This was more than a mere courtesy. Though Sanders has now formally endorsed Clinton and has made his share of denunciations of Trump, the GOP nominee apparently is taking very seriously the estimates in some quarters that as many as 10 percent of the Vermont Senator’s former supporters might switch their allegiance in November to Trump — who, like Sanders, had attacked Clinton for her ties to “big money” and trade agreements injurious to American workers.

Trump also played to a sense of grievances known to have been nursed by both Sanders and members of his unexpectedly immense primary-season following.

“I have seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens, just like it was rigged against Bernie Sanders – he never had a chance,” said Trump, who ventured to make a cold claim: 

“But his [Sanders’] supporters will join our movement, because we will fix his biggest issue: trade deals that strip our country of its jobs and wealth. Millions of Democrats will join our movement, because we are going to fix the system so it works fairly, and justly, for each and every American.”

Trump repeatedly touched base with the Republican mainstream, of course — condemning Obamacare, promising a “fast” restoration of law and order and public safety, and blaming President Obama and Secretary Clinton for the ominous advances of ISIS, as well as for the continued high rate of unemployment and under-employment of American workers.

But he made subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle appeals across party lines. Though to many ears it sounded seigneurial and condescending and even ironic, considering his own billionaire status, Trump expressed solidarity with workers as a class. And he was at pains to distance himself from the social conservatives in his own adopted party (and from the rigid strictures in the Republican party platform) on one key point.

While, like all previous speakers at the convention, he expressed abhorrence for the recent murderous assaults on police officers, he also lamented the deaths of African-American citizens at the hands of police, and there was this:

“Only weeks ago, in Orlando, Florida, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. This time, the terrorist targeted our LGBTQ community.”

Granted, that series of initials sounded strange when pronounced by Trump (each letter sounded awkwardly in its own space, like a bingo call or a Scrabble play), but he had a point to make:

“As your President, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.”

This was an unusually artful statement, simultaneously embracing a community still regarded with suspicion by many in his party (and, to repeat, in its platform) and, almost off-handedly, conferring a patriotic bona fides on its members.

 He underscored his intent when he ad-libbed the following response to the applause his statement had generated from the floor:

"I have to say, as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said.”

The fact is that, for all the fidelity to GOP talking points checked off by Trump in his address, he found ways to indicate that he reserves the right to deviate when he feels like it, and he knows — as is recognized by all careful observers of his own campaign and, for that matter, of numerous other political campaigns in history — that personality can play a significant role in voters’ decisions in November.

Repeatedly on Thursday night Trump put himself forth as a figurehead to rally around. “I am your voice,” he proclaimed twice, amending that at another point to say, “I am your champion.”

That kind of grandiosity has ignited fears among his critics that Trump might see himself in the kind of strong-man role that dictators and would-be dictators have assumed at various points in world history. There was an unmistakably nativist — and, to many ears, troubling — timbre in his unvarnished statement that “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo. “

But Trump — whose focus as a businessman has always been to employ his very name as an over-arching, all-absorbing brand — somewhat offset the impression of monomania here and there on Thursday night with statements of outreach. “We are a team,” he contended at one point.

And he offered voters of this ever-fickle democracy the one premise that is always at the heart of an election season — the opportunity to start over and do things differently.

“…Hillary Clinton’s message is that things will never change,” he said. “My message is that things have to change –and they have to change right now.”

The smart money is on Hillary Clinton for any number of reasons — Trump’s obvious unfamiliarity with basic issues and with the political process, his tendency to get off message in awkward and often repugnant ways, the continuing alienation of a large section of the Republican mainstream from this new pretender, and Hillary Clinton’s seeming lock on key voting blocs in key states.

But the fact is that, for better or for worse, personality can trump every known kind of advantage that can be demonstrated on paper (and yes, the pun is both relevant and intentional).

During the next week, at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, it will be the task of Hillary Clinton and her party to make sure that can’t happen by making the most of what seems to be her obvious lead over Trump — and by expanding it, if possible.

It is possible, even likely, that she —and the Democratic Party — will do just that, but they could be in for some rude surprises if they, like 16 GOP opponents and the Republican establishment itself, take too much for granted.

Friday, July 22, 2016

A Temporary Truce Among Republicans

The major GOP schism was healed, at least temporarily, by an errant action on the part of schism-meister Cruz. Plus: John Ryder’s prospects.

Posted By on Fri, Jul 22, 2016 at 12:09 PM

  **The real story of the GOP convention, both in the Tennessee delegation and among Republicans at large, was that a schism was effectively ended — and, ironically, through the errant effort of the would-be schism-meister, Ted Cruz, to widen it.

When the convention opened on Monday, there were two Republican parties on the floor (and in the Tennessee delegation). One — a majority, but an unwieldy one, technically bound by primary voting — supported Donald Trump. Another, made up both of Ted Cruz devotees per se and members of the GOP's conservative wing in general — remained averse to Trump and unreconciled.

Thus it was that there was a virtual standoff on Monday when a voice vote was forced on the issue of approving the convention rules. Many observers thought the Ayes — who favored a "vote your conscience"
Cruz at the dais - JB
  • JB
  • Cruz at the dais
amendment — had it, but the last in a series of rotating temporary convention chairs, loyal to Trump, called it for the Nays.

But tension remained and gathered steam, right up to the moment of runner-up Cruz's Wednesday night speech. When the Texas senator limited himself to a pallid "congratulations" to Trump for his victory and adamantly withheld anything that, even indirectly, could be construed as an endorsement, the mood on the floor turned ugly — and against Cruz. There were abundant boos for what, both then and, increasingly, in the aftermath, for what was regarded as Cruz' churlish behavior.

Even Bartlett delegate Mick Wright, whose loyalty to Cruz had sparked tension in the Tennessee delegation right up to Tuesday night's roll call, made a point of distancing himself from Cruz during a subsequent interview in which he maintained that delegates should have been able to vote their conscience. A corollary was that Cruz himself, who had been invited into the suite of Sheldon Adelson Tuesday night after the proceedings, found when he arrived that he was refused entrance.

So, if Cruz, as it seemed, had intended his Wednesday night speech to be the opener of his 2020 campaign for the Presidency, the speech may turn out to have been his last of that projected campaign, as well.

When the Tennessee delegation met for its final collective lunch on Thursday, at The Big Bang Dueling Piano Bar on the Cleveland lakefront, there were still rumors afoot that delegates loyal to Cruz might bolt from the floor at some point during Trump's acceptance address that night.

RNC general counsel John Ryder of Memphis had been apprised of that possibility and, in an obvious effort to nip it in the bud within the delegation, made a statement to the delegates in which he acknowledged that some of them were for Trump and some against but that he interpreted the dissidents’ "vote your conscience" mood as mandating, above all, defeating Hillary Clinton and that only voting for the nominee could achieve that. That, plus news that Marsha Blackburn had advised Cruz to "shake it off," seemed to resolve any divisive tendencies within the delegation.

And on coronation night any final rebellious impulse was quelled by a variety of factors, including explicit Ryder-like advice to the convention from Tony Perkins, the anti-abortion conservative, and the good effect from pro-Trump speakers, notably including daughter Ivanka, followed by the piece de resistance, a 76-minute teleprompter-fed address by Trump in which he kept to talking points and gave no pretext for a walkout.

**Ryder, incidentally, finds himself at a crossroads. For the second time in his lengthy service as the state's national GOP committeeman, he sees himself having to leave that role. The first time was in 2004, when Van Hilleary challenged Ryder's position and forced the GOP state com
Ryder at the Big Bang - JB
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  • Ryder at the Big Bang
mittee to honor and not waive a technical term-limits clause.

Ryder would mount a challenge in his turn, four years later, ousting Hilleary. But this year, having served two complete four-year terms, he is gracefully acceding to Chattanooga businessman Oscar Brock as a successor. Ryder's own horizons depend somewhat on the results of the presidential election. He served as a delegate for Trump, who made a point of expressing gratitude upon learning of the fact, and thus has some cachet for a cabinet-level position should Trump win. Another possibility is that Ryder might advance to party chairman if Reince Priebus should step down.

Coming up: a retro view of the convention and an analysis of nominee Trump’s performance in his Thursday night acceptance speech and of his prospects going forward.

TRUMP — The Memphis Flyer Podcasts from the RNC #3

Posted By on Fri, Jul 22, 2016 at 11:00 AM


Donald Trump promises to end violence and make America rich again — FAST. Jackson Baker and Chris Davis talk about it. 

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