Comment: Rutherford

Sunday, December 5, 2010 at 10:05pm
By John Rutherford

The 2010 midterm election was intense and hard fought, and as the American people voted for the checks and balances of divided government on the federal level, Tennessee voters increased Republican majorities in both houses of the General Assembly, and elected Bill Haslam, a Republican, as our state’s next governor.  

When either party controls both houses of the General Assembly and the governor’s office, the moderate majority of Tennesseans get a bit nervous. Moderate voters, independents in particular, believe unified control leads to ideological arrogance and legislative over-reach.  

Voters in Tennessee are less about demagoguery and more about pragmatism. Tennessee Democrats are more conservative than national Democrats, and Tennessee Republicans are more moderate compared to the national GOP as a whole. And unlike in Congress, the political center in the General Assembly has not collapsed. There is significant ideological overlap between the parties.

But there is a danger, with a growing toxic and extreme partisan environment, of some dissipation of the center. Some legislators, especially those newly elected through Tea Party support, seem to believe that compromise is collaboration, when compromise is actually the key to governing. Republicans should understand that this year’s victory should not be misconstrued as an ideological mandate. Our political system does not work if politicians treat the process as a war in which the overriding goal is to thwart the adversary. Nor does the political system work if politicians treat members of the other party as enemies to be destroyed.

A clear sign of Republican moderation in the state House is the nomination of Rep. Beth Harwell of Green Hills for speaker over the far more conservative Rep. Glen Cassada of Williamson County. With Harwell as speaker and the moderate Haslam as governor, state government has a chance to actually be hospitable this coming session.  

One party rule does not mean the minority is muted, nor does it have to mean gridlock. Voters expect the two parties to work together on issues of great significance like building a jobs based economy. The job of legislators and the governor is to define the common ground that exists on any given issue and then build on it. 

Real power in the General Assembly resides in the center, especially if centrists will reach across party lines to build a moderate coalition. There are many areas where the center can lead in proposing new solutions for our state. Now the question remains whether the two parties will work together and whether they truly understand the will of the people.  


John Rutherford is a freelance public relations project manager and writer based in Nashville and a former association executive and Democratic strategist 

9 Comments on this post:

By: rldavenport@com... on 12/6/10 at 8:19

This is just more predictable drivel from a Democratic strategist when Democrats lose control of a legislative assembly, either on a state or national level. When Democrats are in control, they are not concerned with compromise; they want to impose their ideology and maintain their control. You cannot deny that that was the case when Jimmy Naifeh was Speaker of the House.

I agree that compromise can be a good thing in many situations. But I just chuckle when Democrats call for compromise when Republicans take control and they were not willing to compromise when they were in control. It's undeniable, Mr. Rutherford.

By: govskeptic on 12/6/10 at 9:17

Didn't take many sentences in this LTE to know direction it was coming
from. Compromise is me swapping my vote on your bad bill, if you
will vote for my bad bill! Naifeh was long-long serving and was nothing
but a partisan dictator toward every bill that went through the House.
Clearing the decks from he and Williams was what this past election
was all about. Virtually none of our Tenn Press every complained
about any of the dictates at that time, but have now decided to second
guess every move by both the Governor and Legislature. I suggest
they get over it and get back to their agenda of saving the state/nation
from any conservative thoughts or proposals!

By: yogiman on 12/6/10 at 10:49

It seems the late model democrats should read the emend from the tombstone of a Army officer of 1890 where he stated;

"Through this inscription I wish to enter my dying protest against what is called the Democratic Party.
I have watched it closely since the days of Jackson and know that the misfortunes of our Nation has come to it through this so called party therefore beware of this party of treason."

By: AmyLiorate on 12/6/10 at 11:41

But there is a danger, with a growing toxic and extreme partisan environment, of some dissipation of the center. Some legislators, especially those newly elected through Tea Party support, seem to believe that compromise is collaboration, when compromise is actually the key to governing.

You can thank the national leaders for nurturing the issues that lead to the extreme partisan environment. They were not centrists, moderate or working on collaboration.

We're not even sure that they understand why November went the way it did. The hubris of Reid and Pelosi may kill your party. At the local level people like Jim Cooper are guilty of enabling it.

Our political system does not work if politicians treat the process as a war in which the overriding goal is to thwart the adversary.

Thwart the adversary? Oh, you mean like Jimmy Naifeh propping up Kent Williams!

Mr. Rutherford do you think John Wilder serving for 36 years as Lt Gov. and 20 year speaker of the house Naifeh with his lobbyist wife were always above partisanship?

While in power all those years did work the state districts so people close to their representatives? No they gerrymandered ridiculous patterns to ensure their own party's interests. They did NOT make objective and neutral boundaries.

Actions we will judge the party on, not rhetoric.

By: AmyLiorate on 12/6/10 at 12:06

oops, serious sentence proplem:

While in power all those years did Democrats work the state districts so people are close to their representatives?

By: yogiman on 12/6/10 at 4:50


You can throw Bart Gordon's name in that pot with Jim Cooper. Fortunately, he realized he wasn't going to get re-elected and didn't run... for defeat.

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