Fallout From the August Election and Predictions for November 

Jesse Jackson with Booker T. Washington students.

Photographs by Jackson Baker

Jesse Jackson with Booker T. Washington students.

Here we go again. The voting round that concluded on August 2nd with a virtual Democratic sweep is the second local election in a row in which a resurgent Democratic Party has demonstrated quantifiable strength at the polls, just as it did in the May 1st county primary election, when the Democrats totaled 44,768 votes against 30,208 for the Republicans.  And here again, too, comes some of the skeptical second-guessing that followed that outcome, the tenor of which is that an apt reading of the numbers actually proves the opposite of what the election results seemed to indicate.

My resourceful and distinguished friend John Ryder, the former general counsel of the Republican National Committee and as eminent a Republican as can be found in these parts, assayed forth in The Commercial Appeal last weekend with an analysis of the August 2nd election that mirrored his conclusions about the previous one. 

On the prior occasion, Ryder juggled some numbers from past elections in order to demonstrate that, as he insisted, the voting curve actually favored Republicans and that Democrats would discover on the then-far-off date of August 2nd, that conditions boded ill for their party.

But, just as the Ides of March inexorably came for Caesar, the 2nd of August would come in for Ryder and other GOP optimists — with the aforementioned result, a sweep for Democratic candidates in countywide races and a measurable gain for them in other positions.

Predictably, however, Ryder managed to find solace in the numbers. More Republicans across the state of Tennessee voted for governor in their primary than statewide Democrats did in theirs, he noted, a finding that led him to conclude: "This does not bode well for the Democrats in the November election." Considering the difficulties incurred by Ryder since his similar prophecies in May, it may just be that his bod-o-meter is out of order and needs to be serviced.

Or he may be right, of course, in implicitly predicting a victory for Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Lee, who certainly emerged from the GOP primary as a likeable new face, and who, perhaps conveniently, lacked any political record and thus was immune to the knife-throwing tactics of his chief Republican opponents, Randy Boyd and Diane Black, who managed to slash each other into irrelevance.

Or maybe the problem was that Boyd and Black were engaged in a desperate contest to see who could more accurately pose as a loyal minion to President Donald Trump. Trump deigned not to confer his official favor on either, for better or for worse.

In any case, the Republicans' four-way gubernatorial race (which included also state House Speaker Beth Harwell) certainly generated more press attention than did the Democratic race between former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and the woefully underfunded House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. That could be one explanation for the numbers differential of the two parties' gubernatorial votes — which Ryder cites as gospel, despite declining to accept the Democrats' edge in mayoral-primary voting as an indicator back in May.

Whatever the  reasons for his thinking, Ryder seems implicitly to be predicting that 7th District Congressman Marsha Blackburn, an outspoken Trumpian with The Donald's full endorsement, will triumph over her Democratic opponent for the U.S. Senate. That would be former Governor Phil Bredesen, a middle-of-the-road veteran whose two gubernatorial terms were won with significant crossover votes from Republicans and independents, and who has been faring well so far in competitive polling against Blackburn.

Trump's coattails or more blue wave? Which bodes well — and for whom — in the November general election? It remains to be seen.

• If Jesse Jackson has his way, the blue wave will keep on rolling. The iconic civil rights veteran and former Democratic presidential candidate was in Memphis early this week on behalf of his Rainbow PUSH coalition's effort to encourage more voter participation in this year's election process.

Jackson spoke Monday 

morning to students at Booker T. Washington High School, urging them to register to vote and to stand against violence in their neighborhoods. Afterward, asked his reaction to the Democratic sweep in the county election here, Jackson said he was pleased to see "blacks and whites voting together" in recognition of their "common interest" in "a very difficult season of our lives as Americans."

Jackson said it was too early for him to get behind a specific presidential candidate in 2020. "We don't know who's running. It's too early." But he took the occasion to inveigh against the current electoral-college winner-take-all system of voting by states.

"The last time around, the loser won, and the winner lost," Jackson said, noting Democrat Hillary Clinton's 3 million popular vote edge. "We need a one-person, one-vote democracy," he said. "Let the winner win, and the loser lose, to be fair." 

As for the Electoral College, "we never could apply to it," he said in a bit of wordplay. What the country needs is "universal rights, not states' rights."  


• Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, a former local Democratic Party chairman who keeps a low partisan profile as a nonpartisan political official, was invited to deliver the opening statement Saturday at a "Hot Dogs in the Park" event in Overton Park celebrating recent Democratic election victories.

Strickland complied and launched into a congratulatory message to the sponsoring organization, the Democratic Women of Shelby County, and continued with several citations by him of progress on his mayoral watch, which he attributed in part to inspiration by the DWSC.

click to enlarge Commissioner-elect Tami Sawyer, a Democrat, is welcomed by GOP Commissioner Mark Billingsley.
  • Commissioner-elect Tami Sawyer, a Democrat, is welcomed by GOP Commissioner Mark Billingsley.

A group of four or five protesters, led by activist Hunter Demster, began heckling the mayor's brief remarks, yelling things like "Where's Tami?" (an apparent reference to the absence from the event of County Commissioner-elect Tami Sawyer) and "How many African Americans?" in answer to Strickland's claims of increased city contracting with firms owned by women or minority members.

In response to the heckling, event organizer Norma Lester called for a police presence, and a few squad cars pulled up, though the officers never entered the pavilion where the event was taking place and stood quietly, as observers on the periphery. After the initial heckling, there was no further interruption, and various newly elected Democratic officials contributed brief statements to the celebration.

• "Changing of the guard" was a largely unspoken theme Monday at what was the next-to-last full meeting of the Shelby County Commission before its newly elected  members are sworn in at the end of the month. Such Commissioners-elect as Democrat Sawyer and Republican Amber Mills sat onstage on the periphery of the meeting, as outgoing members struggled to complete a lengthy agenda of unfinished business. Most got processed, but two key items — one levying a new tax on Airbnb domiciles and another involving a proposed new housing development in Collierville — were kicked back to committee, with but one public meeting left to consider them. 

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