Weekly Obsession: Lowe Finney and tales of future past

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 2:05pm

The fortunes of the Tennessee Democratic Party have fallen so far that prominent Democrats you’ve never even heard of are chewing off the chains that bind them to the state’s most irrelevant millstone.

State Sen. Lowe Finney — a 37-year-old rising star in statewide Democratic politics — announced Wednesday that the upcoming year will be his last on Capitol Hill, deciding that four more months of being completely immaterial to the way the state is governed was enough. Indeed, going back to Madison County to do whatever Lowe Finneys do when they aren’t caucusing with the other half-dozen Democrats who remain in the Senate like faded paintings in the gallery of an artist who once mattered.

The Tennessee Democratic Party is such a desolate wasteland that its future has now become its past, and its past is now its present.

And its present is about as exciting as a rewrapped package of socks under the Christmas tree.

Not to disparage the Senate Democratic Caucus, many of whom have given years — and in some cases, nearly a century — of service to the state of Tennessee. But that’s just the problem.

With Finney, the average age of a Senate Democrat is 64.

Without him, it’s 69.

Perhaps the most relevant statewide Democrat is House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh — a man who briefly considered running for governor, much as one briefly considers throwing oneself down a staircase, and then decided that being funny on Twitter was a much more valuable and productive use of his time.

There were once thrilling young Democrats on Capitol Hill. Sen. Andy Berke was a darling of the Tennessee Left — such as it is. And Berke, with a wisdom beyond his years, looked around the Senate, decided he was tired of debating the barking fearmongers on the right while simultaneously trying to drag his fellow Democrats into some semblance of organization or, indeed, coherence. Berke bolted Nashville and is now the mayor of Chattanooga, a perfectly lovely city that gets visits from the president of the United States.

And Finney may do the same; rumors abound that he might want to be mayor of his native Jackson.

Certainly, there’s a chance Finney is setting himself up to take a run at, say, senator, but that would require his party to clear the field of conspiracy theorists, second-rate sitcom stars of the early 1990s and relatives of once-respected Democrats. Given the party’s recent statewide efforts, let’s hope he isn’t banking on that.

Indeed, some Democrats have suggested their party not even make an effort at running for senator and governor in the next cycle. Given that the state’s last two statewide efforts were the homespun, affable and completely not-ready-for-prime-time Mike McWherter for governor and the moonbat senatorial candidate Mark Clayton, some political observers wonder if they were not making an effort before.

Meanwhile, Republicans, having conquered the state, are going to build their bench again, launching an effort to put more Republicans in local government, thus creating the next generation of GOP leaders.

Democrats would be wise to try something similar, as all of their young talent is heading for home anyway.

But such positioning would require something we haven’t seen from the Tennessee Democratic Party in years: a strategy. The rump party that lorded over the state for more than a century seems content to live in its past.

Because its past is all it has left.

7 Comments on this post:

By: drusie on 8/8/13 at 7:22

Whoa! What about Memphis Democrat Sarah Kyle for governor? She won statewide before as Public Service Commissioner. Big city mayors in TN are all Democrats. The last two TN governors were mayors after all.

By: Libertine on 8/8/13 at 8:29

The biggest problem for politicians wanting to run on the Democrat ticket in Tennessee is the Democrat Party nationally.

In order to run as a Democrat politicians have to support Obama's failed economic policies that have tamped down any hopes of recovery or economic prosperity which have hit blacks and women particularly hard.

Democrats must support Obama's spying on US Citizens with no cause or warrant that have eliminated our first and fourth amendment rights.

Democrats must support Obamacare which has doubled the cost of health insurance premiums for the working poor.

Democrats must support a President who lies about every blunder in his administration such as fast and furious, Benghazi, Solyndra and countless other issues.

Those who would govern as Democrats should just run as independents so they can distance themselves from Obama.

By: govskeptic on 8/8/13 at 9:58

drussie: I would point out Mrs. Kyle has never been a Mayor, nor has she run
in the last several years. She won a statewide seat when it was a
given a Democrat would win no matter the candidate, and her being
a Memphis citizen was an edge up during those days. None of her
past, other than being a life long liberal as is her husband, is relevant
in this state's present environment. She will have trouble raising any
money from even the top Democrats running against the incumbent.

By: Loner on 8/8/13 at 2:23

Good afternoon, Nashville.

"What must the Tennessee Democratic Party do to right its ship after years of losses?"

It will take a great deal more than "righting the ship". The wreck lies at the bottom of the sea....it's been down there since 1968. Raising the Democratic Party of Tennessee from its watery grave would be a monumental task with little chance of success.

When Richard Nixon flipped the core values of the Party of Abe Lincoln to those of the Party of Jeff Davis, the Republican Party sold its soul to the Devil. The Southern white segregationists flocked to the re-branded GOP.... and they pulled their kids out of the public schools and opted for faith-based education...the mean-spirited kind. The rest is history.

If the Democratic Party wants to become competitive in the South, it must start with good, honest and competent candidates; that's a sine qua non....that and an army of zealous campaign workers.....good luck with all that.

By: Loner on 8/8/13 at 2:53

It's nice to think that there are voters in TN whose values are not centered around what I cal, the Confederate 4G's: God, Guns, Gays and Guvmint.....and that's anti-Guvmint, of course....and anti-Gays.....but, I doubt that such open-minded people are anywhere near the voting majority.....as long as that fundamental dynamic exists, the GOP will rule the Volunteer State and its Southern sisters.....sorry, but that's the ugly truth. my friends....don't blame the players, blame the game.

By: Libertine on 8/8/13 at 5:20

By: Loner on 8/8/13 at 3:23

Good afternoon, Nashville.

"What must the Tennessee Democratic Party do to right its ship after years of losses?"

It will take a great deal more than "righting the ship". The wreck lies at the bottom of the sea....it's been down there since 1968. Raising the Democratic Party of Tennessee from its watery grave would be a monumental task with little chance of success.

When Richard Nixon flipped the core values of the Party of Abe Lincoln to those of the Party of Jeff Davis, the Republican Party sold its soul to the Devil. The Southern white segregationists flocked to the re-branded GOP.... and they pulled their kids out of the public schools and opted for faith-based education...the mean-spirited kind. The rest is history.

If the Democratic Party wants to become competitive in the South, it must start with good, honest and competent candidates; that's a sine qua non....that and an army of zealous campaign workers.....good luck with all that."

The Democrats ruled Tennessee long after Nixon was elected. We had a two term Democrat Governor just a few years ago.

President Obama sends his children to a fundamentalist Christian school, it that mean spirited?

By: Loner on 8/8/13 at 7:06

Libertine, you are just plain wrong....your ignorance, and your arrogance are shamefully glaring...here are the facts:

In the 1968 Presidential election, the state of Tennessee cast 11 electoral votes for the Republican candidate for POTUS, Richard M. Nixon.....TN flipped over to the segregation-friendly GOP in that election. The flip-flop began at the top and worked its way down to the the local levels of politics.

In 1968, Nixon received 472,592 votes, Hubert Humphrey received 351,233 votes.

The racist, George Wallace, received 424,792 votes in TN that year....he nearly won the state's electoral votes, that's how racist the Volunteer State was at the time...as long as widespread racism and homophobia exist in the South, the GOP will retain power there....it's now the Party of Jeff Davis and company, the biggest losers in American history.

My source on the numbers:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1968

Wise up, wise-ass....engage yer brain before putting yer mouth in gear.