For several weeks (those being all the weeks since the November election) I’ve been watching these Northeast Tennessee Republicans strutting around, prematurely crowing and using bad eggs for chicken counting. One could almost predict their lack of humility and faith in foregone conclusions would come back to bite them.
Add the talking asses, and it’s almost Aesopic, huh?
The Steel Magnolia was certain this debacle would lure me back to blogging about politics. Well… okay, consider me lured, but was this really a debacle?
The answer depends on where you’re standing, doesn’t it?
For the Democrats, some suspect the maneuver will bring more hostility and less cooperation from Republican lawmakers. (For the sake of this argument, we’re pretending the Republicans were going to cooperate with Democrats in the first place – you know, they’d reach across the aisle and extend a hand of friendship. Then, right after they appointed me Queen of the Eastern Division, the entire Assembly, both House and Senate, would rise up, singing songs of love and happiness and governing the state in an atmosphere of harmonious, bipartisan goodwill. I figured, since we’re using our imagination here, I may as well get a title.)
The reality is, and Republicans made this very clear, they intended to use their majorities to secure both chambers, control all committees and advance their agenda just as Democrats have done in the past.
As I see it, Democrats had nothing to lose. (Well, they probably won’t be able to borrow money from David Oatney, who, as a result of this deceitful treachery, can no longer trust Democrats, any Democrat, ever. They also shouldn’t expect a Christmas card from Jason Mumpower.) But overall, I’m guessing they’d consider this more of a coup than a debacle.
Republicans, on the other hand, have lost their absolute power: the kind of absolute power that would enable them to appoint all committees, pass or kill the bills, and eventually (under the future administration of a Republican Governor) provide all GOP lawmakers with an official Republican pinky ring, which Democrats would be required to kiss on every other Friday.
Yes, I imagine they would call this a debacle, and they’re understandably upset about it. When I say “upset” I mean they behaved like a bunch of drunk college kids at a football game (minus the face paint and beer helmets.) In fact, according to Jeff Woods, they raised such a ruckus that the newly-elected Speaker Williams was escorted to and from the podium by Highway Patrol officers.
Look, I feel bad for Jason Mumpower. (C’mon, how could I not? Poor guy. Even the Democrats felt like they should leave an extra wad of cash on his desk and buy him something pretty afterwards.) But how shocked and outraged can Republicans truly be? And for how long? It’s not as though these twists, turns, and last-minute power shifts are altogether unprecedented. They knew Democrats would be looking to keep a seat at the table – and some of the GOPers did participate in a rather nasty, but unsuccessful, campaign to unseat Williams in the last election. So, isn’t this kind of like kickin’ your dog and then being surprised when it bites you?
That’s not to say I approve of what Williams did. I don’t. In fact, I think he’s a snake in the grass – not because he broke rank, which doesn’t bother me – but because he lied consistently, intentionally and apologetically. In my mind, there is a huge difference between being “politically unreliable” and being dishonest.
Kent Williams was both, and there will be consequences.
The State Executive Committee (failing to see the wisdom in keeping friends close and enemies closer) will undoubtedly toss Williams out on his rear. (This is in keeping with the “Submit to Our Will or Else!” philosophy they adopted a few years ago, though I do hear they’ve been so inspired by the floor testimony of Representative David Hawk, they are now considering a newer, updated “Vote for Caucus-Approved Republicans or Just Go to Hell” philosophy.) During the next election, they will attempt to oust him (again) with a well-financed challenger. This time, they’ll probably succeed.
For now though, Williams, who obviously was not nominated for his outstanding leadership abilites as much as he was voted, by the Democrats, as “Republican most likely to flip and roll over,“ will lead the House. The Democrats will advance from their previous position of “wasted desk space” up to “Official Pain in the Ass of the Republican Caucus” And Bill Hobbs, being the diabolical genius that he is, has alread, turned the crushing defeat into a fund raising opportunity.
And there’s a remote possibility that this will work out just fine. It may even be a good thing IF Republicans put on their big boy pants and accept the defeat graciously… (Of course, they’d have to slip Robin Smith a Valium and send Brian Kelsey off to stick his nose in a corner somewhere to make that happen.) If the Democrats could do some “bridge building” by using their newly acquired “ass-paining” powers responsibly (such as only to impede those more misogynistic and decidedly archaic policies the Republicans have) or at least agree to keep Naifeh on a leash. Well, if they really wanted to reach across the aisle, they could also throw in a muzzle… though Naifeh strikes me as the type who could chew right through it.
But eh, I’m not counting on it. Neither should you.
The truth is, since the days when the Red Snapper stuffed ballot boxes and accused political candidates of being “pet coons” for the “Commies” or Gov. Dunn (R) made a sport of pissing off a Democratic Legislature, these things (the hostility, deal brokering, maneuvering, dominant party bosses, backbiting and partisan warfare, all of which make our leaders more alike than they could ever be different) have been and will always be presemt at all levels of politics. And honestly, in the grand scheme of things, this House election or the infighting that will surely follow isn’t all that significant, extraordinary, memorable, infamous and no, not even a true debacle. It’s just politics. And until We stop focusing on the dirty aspects of it: neither will our leaders.
Therefore, as Queen of the Eastern Division, I move that we send this discussion to… well, wherever they send Stacey Campfield’s bills… and turn our attention to more important issues, such as the big-ass deficit in the state budget and what to do about the scores of Tennesseans who’ve lost their jobs, their homes their health care and are seeing basic necessities move beyond their reach.
Now, can I can an Amen er… second on that?