I spent the day in the field with Team Flinn. And I’ve gotta tell you, it was a great experience. I’ve never witnessed field work from the perspective with which I had the good fortune to see it yesterday, and it was a humbling experience. I’ve never been one to undervalue good, old-fashioned shoe leather before, but I’ve never really seen The Sweet Science on display as it was yesterday when I rode along with Team Shea.
And the end result? A very good man got elected to the Memphis City Council despite steep opposition. When I told a good friend whose opinion I respect to a level that approaches hero worship that I would be riding along, he told me “I wish Shea had a chance”. To that very good friend, I can only say that sometimes… The best man really does win. I can honestly say that I’m proud of a city whose voting population realizes the value of such a man and elevates him to a position where he can serve the people of this city. And I can only think of one time that I’ve been as truly happy to be at a victory party as this one— It was the day we sent Steve Cohen to Washington DC, an event that propelled young Mr. Flinn to the Tennessee State Senate as an interim senator.
He was far from the only good person elevated to a position to serve the greater good on a day that will go down in history as the day that we elected one of the stronger city councils that Memphis has ever had.
Jim Strickland scored a decisive victory, racking up such an impressive win over Bob “Vote Bob” Schrieber that he likely coul have gone the distance even if only his early voting totals were applied toward the final tally. Having lost to Carol Chumney for the District 5 seat in 2003, he finally got his richly deserved and overdue victory.
Bill Morrison didn’t land a decisive victory, or any victory at all— But he was close enough to guarantee a runoff that will see the very best operatives in Memphis politics at his disposal. That’s a damn impressive turnout, considering that he was competing for votes in a field only slightly less crowded than a Kennedy family reunion at the shake joint.
The news was not uniformly good— Mary Wilder managed to siphon off just enough of the vote to keep Desi Franklin from the victory she deserved. My advice to all those who did anything to aid Mary Wilder in her abortion of a campaign— Bust your asses to make sure the Democrats mnage to win every single runoff. For you damn sure don’t want to be remembered as the Judas Goats that aided in the victory of Reid Hegepeth. And at this point in time, it is hard to regard it any other way.
Edmund Ford managed to keep the dying Ford Faction on life support until the next runoff, when he will be defeated by James Catchings. Catchings is in the advantageous position of never having sounded utterly bugshit crazy during public meetings and never having been tainted by scandal.
Janet Fullilove and Wanda Halbert both scored convincing victories over their opposition, much to the surprise of absolutely no one. Joe Brown, Myron Lowery, Scott McCormick, and Barbara Swearengen Ware all held onto their seats.
And now, for the biggest race of the night.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been asked why I offered no commentary on the mayoral race. And that is simply because I had no guidance to give on it.
Were the city to be attacked by a weapon of mass destruction, I’m not sure I could say with any certainty that it would have a deeper negative impact than the last several years of Herenton’s occupation of the top office in this city. While he has performed some legitimately good tasks, including the redevelopment that turned some of this city’s most blighted spaces into its most coveted, it’s impossible to ignore a soaring crime rate that has once agained turned this city into #1 for all things terrible and last place for everything good. One cannot ignore the ego with which he invokes God as someone that has such a vested interest in his victory that the FEC should really screen him for donations, nor can I ignore the election season political Viagra that was an ill-advised football stadium so that we may give the Tigers a nicer venue to lose in.
Does this make me a “hater”? Well, if one must reduce political rhetoric to the level spewed by a three hundred pound Springer guest in a tube top and a “Please wax your business before wearing this” miniskirt shouting at the older brother who refuses to quit pimping her, then perhaps it does make me a “hater”. I hate seeing the good people of this city constantly denied the rich future that they deserve. I hate seeing a 50% plus dropout rate in a city being run by a former school board superintendent that seems to not have any idea what to do about it if he even cares enough to take action— Something that he has as, of yet, not proven. I hate the idea that anyone who opposes the kind of wholescale corruption and cronyism that we’ve come to expect of Mayor Herenton is dismissed as a “hater”. And I damn sure hate that his ideology is spread not through open and frank discussion, but through patronage in the form of $80,000 per year make-work jobs that seem to have no clear purpose when it comes to actually serving the people of this city.
But most of all, I hate seeing this city reduced to a state where race is the deciding factor in electoral politics. Just as the Republican Party has decided that it can thrive without a single black vote as long as they solidify the angry white vote, Mayor Herenton runs a photo negative version of the “Southern Strategy”, making a calculated wager that he can show all white voters that aren’t real estate developers nothing but scorn and derision and maintain his grip on power as long as he solidifies the black vote.
Does the lack of melanin in my skin make me a supporter of Carol Chumney? No. It is my earnest belief that she is at her best when serving as a hairshirt for the political structure that exists today— Not as the new leader of the power structure.
A dear friend of mine wrote that Herman Morris played the role of spoiler— Instead, I turn that idea on its head. Had Chumney not been enslaved by her own ego, she would still be on the City Council (Granted, Jim Strickland likely would not be) and we could have taken care of several of our problems with one vote.
I was loathe to report my support for Herman Morris before the election. Certainly not out of any sense of shame— Just the opposite. I watched the way things were playing out and saw that he could be portrayed as the “acceptable black candidate” in this race. There were reasons for my support that go far beyond skin deep. I genuinely liked the man and liked the platorm to the point that I coudn’t be bothered to give a steaming pile of Dubya what color his skin was.
And so I felt that, as happens from time to time, our endorsements could do more harm than good. Much as when Tom Guleff ran against Mark White in the 2006 GOP congressional primary. I genuinely like the man— But an endorsement from me would have done more to harm him than help him.
And that is the quandary I found myself in throughout this race. Expressing my admiration, my support of the candidate of my choice could easily undermine him with a cross section of the electorate. I will be a great many things to the candidates I support. “Albatross around the neck” (That’s a “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” reference for all those who haven’t studied fine literature) isn’t even in the top 100.
Am I entirely unhappy with the results in the mayor’s race? No. We were in a situation where the worst case scenario is four more years of what this fine city has already survived sixteen years of. I can always wish for more, and I want the people of Memphis to rise up and demand more than what they’re given now.
Mayor Herenton has a nasty habit of shitting into a bowl, sticking a spoon into it, and serving it up to us, telling us it’s actually chocolate soft serve ice cream. And no matter what the election results are, we must demand more as a city.