Hey, Tennessee Democrats, how does it feel to be an orphan? That's a term that describes a minority party in a state that is overwhelmingly controlled by the opposite party. In New York, for example, Republicans are the orphan party, with little or no clout. In Tennessee and certain other red states, it's the Democrats who are the orphans.
Why "orphans"? Because in this "Citizens United" era of multi-million-dollar PAC politics, the large money is being invested in close races and in pivotal electoral swing states, not hopeless causes. The old saying "the rich get richer" was never more true. And in Tennessee, the Democratic Party is dumpster diving and eating government cheese.
The clearest indication of this is the fact that Mark Clayton, who won the Tennessee Democratic senatorial primary, is a gay-hating, conspiracy theorist. He did have the good fortune to be the first name on the ballot and to win 30 percent of the vote and the right to represent the party against incumbent Senator Bob Corker. It's unlikely that 30 percent of the voters even knew who he was. They just thought, "Nobody's going to beat Corker, and I don't recognize any of these names, so I'll just select the first one." (The Democrats quickly distanced themselves from Clayton, but the damage was done.)
Former sitcom actress Park "Empty Nest" Overall finished second, with 15 percent of the vote, but Park Overall is a name that sounds like it might belong to a nutty person. Mark Clayton sounds All-American. Oops.
The problem was that none of the Democratic candidates got enough money to do any statewide campaigning, so few voters had heard of any of them. That's because in most statewide races, Tennessee Democrats are orphans. No money, no visibility, no chance.
If you need further evidence of the power of big money, consider the fate of Tennessee House GOP caucus leader Debra Maggart. She had the temerity (with the support of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Governor Haslam) to oppose the "guns in parking lots" bill. The NRA promptly lavished $100,000 on her primary opponent, compared Maggart to President Obama (sure death in East Tennessee), and accused her of being anti-gun rights. See ya, Debra. Hello, Tea Party. Five other Republicans were also defeated in state House races by more "conservative" candidates.
If you think last year's GOP antics in the state legislature were scary, wait till this year. There will be no stopping the Christianist social engineers and the gun-rights nuts.
And no porridge for the orphans.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation announced last week that the I-55 "old bridge" across the Mississippi would be closed for nine months, beginning in 2017, so that the department could build new exit and entrance ramps. This is a really horrible idea, with potentially disastrous economic, public safety, and even national security ramifications ...
It's deep in a November night in Memphis, and I'm awakened by rain. It's coming down hard, sounding like a million pebbles hitting the roof. The gutter I've been meaning to clean is overflowing outside the bedroom window. A flash of lightning illuminates the room, and I do what I've done since I was a boy: count the seconds 'til the thunder rolls. I get almost to 10 before I hear a distant rumble. Two miles or so. Someone else's lightning ...