Sunday, August 04, 2002


Faced with an all-the-way-down-the-ticket-but-for-the-top Republican sweep, reliable ol' David Kushma, Editorial Page Editor of the Commercial Appeal, comes up with this. It was smart voters using the split ticket!

Let's pat ourselves on the back, fellow Shelby County
voters, for displaying our political sophistication in
splitting our tickets and electing Democrat A C Wharton
mayor and Republican Mark Luttrell sheriff. Not quite. It was AC Wharton's election to lose. He kept low, kept other Democrats in the back, especially Mayor Herenton, got serious media support, didn't screw up and let demographics do the job. He did it right. Flinn, on the other hand, screwed up. The only tactic he had was to challenge the front-runner. But he got very bad advice and payed for it. Wharton is a widely respected man, across the spectrum; Flinn was an unknown. Challenging him with the "reverse deniable smear" was a very bad move. He also got nearly zero support from his own party, which was probably a good 5-10% loss right there.

Wharton's landslide victory surely was aided by the fact that the
campaign waged by his Republican opponent, George Flinn, was as inept
as it was mean-spirited - strangely so, since I wouldn't apply either of
those adjectives to Dr. Flinn personally. You wonder whether the
out-of-town hired guns whose expert political counsel he paid so much
for ("Go for the jugular, Doc; the voters love that!") are laughing up
their sleeves right about now.
Inept? Oh yeah. Mean-spirited? Only to the advisers and to the CA. Read that last sentence again.

Flinn spent nearly $1 million of his own fortune in a futile effort to
replicate the temper tantrum that masqueraded as last May's primary
election, which put Flinn at the top of the local GOP ticket and ousted
two longtime, moderate Republican county commissioners.
Still with the "wealthy trying to take over" schtick. Never mind that Wharton spent about $900,000. Notice the "ousted" verb. Mean ol' Flinn knocking over the good guys. He must be bad.

...hard-right voters sometimes can prevail in a low-turnout GOP primary,
but that there usually aren't enough of them to carry a competitive
general election.
Most of us are more concerned with preparing for Shelby County's
future than with prolonging the whining about the downtown arena or
declaring ourselves at the mercy of sinister "elites."
More subtle "us v. them" dynamic at work. "Hard right voters" are "them," and not concerned with the welfare of Shelby County like "us." It's a common construction, a trick, and not often noticed by in-a-hurry readers. But it leaves the impression, and the point, behind.

County voters fired two competent incumbents, General Sessions
Criminal Court Judge Jim Robinson and county school board member
Karen Hill. But even in obscure down-ballot races for county row offices,
such as Juvenile Court clerk, voters appeared to make important
distinctions on the basis of issues rather than party or personality.
And again, notice here how party affiliations aren't mentioned. That leaves readers with the vague impression that cross-party voting happened, when the truth was something else. Nice try, Dave!

Kushma then goes on to cover some other points, wrapping up this political event. He mentions Democrats:
At the same time, U.S. Rep. Bob Clement won the Democratic Senate
primary without breaking a sweat or spending much of his campaign
Where was the CA in covering Clement and his challengers? Certainly not giving them the kind of coverage that, say, no-hoper but income tax supporter Jim Henry got. This was a theme of this election's coverage--avoiding the Democrats and ginning up the Republican differences to make them look unpleasant. I will add, though, that there were a whole lot of "no challenger" Democratic races, which might mitigate against the CA's apparent bias.

Kushma closes by tweaking Shelby Countians, noting that "their" US Congressional representative, Marsha Blackburn, now comes from outside of Nashville. Somehow that's a bad thing, even though most of the past four decades have seen the folks from the small-town, rural, eastern end of the district suffering under the urban, big-city Memphis representatives normally elected. Seems it's bad for us, but not a problem for them.


Until next time,
Your Working Boy

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