Both local political parties held semi-official TV viewing parties for Monday night's first presidential debate between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The GOP group convened at Tony's Trophy Room in Collierville, and the Democrats met at the Trolley Stop Market in the Edge district.
The Democrats have been acting under the handicap of having no official local party organization, inasmuch as the long-troubled Shelby County Democratic Party was formally decertified recently by state Democratic chair Mary Mancini of Nashville. But they seem to be compensating for that fact reasonably well, operating under the auspices of other ad hoc party groups in mounting a get-out-the-vote operation for the November 8th election.
Two events boosting Clinton's presidential campaign were held in the run-up to the debate. On Saturday, there was a rally in conjunction with the opening of Hillary-for-President headquarters on Poplar. Ninth District congressman Steve Cohen was the keynote speaker for the affair, and he dutifully paid tribute to both candidate Clinton and President Obama, while roasting Republican contender Trump, whom he saw, among other things, as being in a working relationship with Russia, "a foreign nation that is one of our most powerful enemies, or the antithesis of what America is about."
Cohen was a speaker also at another pro-Clinton event on Sunday night. This was organized by state Representative Raumesh Akbari (D-District 91) and billed as an "African-American Rally for Hillary Clinton."
Held at Christ Missionary Baptist Church on South Parkway, the event drew a decent-sized crowd and was addressed by a number of local notables, including — besides Cohen and Akbari — state Representatives Joe Towns, Larry Miller, and Johnnie Turner; state Democratic Party secretary Gale Jones Carson; Shelby County Commissioner Walter Bailey; city council members Martavius Jones and Janis Fullilove; Pastor J. Lawrence Turner of the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church; and Young Democrat president Alvin Crook. Moderating the event was TaJuan Stout Mitchell.
In addition to party-oriented GOTV appeals, the affair was notable for the extent to which the speakers drew connections between the pending outcome of the current presidential campaign and safeguarding the legacy of the civil rights movement. "It is imperative that we vote, not just for our future, but to honor our past," said Rev. Turner while chronicling African-American heroes from Medgar Evers and Fannie Lou Hamer to President Obama.
"Just as many of us rose before dawn in 2008 to make history by electing the first African-American president, we, too, must rise in 2016 to make sure that his legacy lives on," Turner said. He scoffed at Trump's attempts at moralistic criticism of the Clintons. "He himself had five children by three different women. If he was African-American, they wouldn't even sell him a ticket to let him tour the White House!"
Fullilove recalled teaching at Southwest Community College in 2008 and requiring her students to go vote or risk losing a letter grade on the semester. She also contended that in 1968, when she was an 18-year-old student at Booker T. Washington High School and participated in a march after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, she was shot at by a Memphis police officer, with the bullet passing through the knotted pony-tail of her hairdo. [See also "Janis Fullilove: Shot at and Downed by a Memphis Policeman in 1968?"
In his remarks, Cohen repeated some of his prior criticisms of Trump as self-serving rather than public-spirited, and, in warning of future consequences if Trump should be elected, the Congressman spent considerable time on the issue of the current inheritance tax, which, he said, Republicans call the "death tax" and seek to eliminate, though it affects only a tiny portion of the electorate, whose assets run well into the millions.
• The Shelby County Commission, whose members in recent months have been involved in an on-again, off-again power struggle with the administration of County Mayor Mark Luttrell, have returned to that theme with a passion.
In heated discussions during last week's meeting of the commission's general government committee and this Monday's regular public meeting, various commissioners alternately tangled with and bargained with county CAO Harvey Kennedy regarding two proposed ordinances that would essentially increase commission control over the county mayor's hiring and firing authority.
One ordinance would establish time limits on the administration's ability to employ interim employees; the other would in effect give the commission veto power over the administration's ability to discharge any member of the county legal staff. Both are works in progress and are discussed in this week's Flyer Viewpoint (p. 13) by Commissioner Van Turner, a co-author of the ordinances.