Let Them Gather If They Want To

I stand with Jerry Falwell Jr., Donald Trump Jr., Ammon Bundy, Stephen Moore, Alex Jones, myriad Christian nationalist ministers, and the drive-by, gun-toting protesters harassing governors who issued shelter-at-home directives.

They are right.

They should be able to gather without following social distancing guidelines and at any time and place they desire. They should be able to hold their rallies, crowd their churches, and respond to President Trump’s call for “LIBERATE.”

We even think they should be joined by U.S. Attorney General and moralist Bill Barr, Trump-nominated U.S. District Judge Justin Walker, South Dakota Governor Krist Noem, Congressmen Matt Gaetz (without his gas mask) and Devon Nunes, Rev. Franklin Graham, QAnon conspiracy theorists, Fox entertainers Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity, zealot Russ Limbaugh, and their minions.

Let them get together, let them rub shoulders, let them swap the latest conspiracies, and let them drink and eat together.

After all, their close association could do nothing so much as to improve our gene pool.

It’s reminiscent of the old joke about the guy who moved from Tennessee to Mississippi and raised the IQ of both states.   That’s sort of a way to see the far right’s manufactured outrage and latest attempt to play the victim to stay-at-home executive orders by governors.

However, when they show up at the ER to be treated for Covid-19, they should be put at the back of the line behind the people who behaved responsibly and came down with it anyway.

Checking On Our Check

The check’s in the mail.

Or at least that’s what we assume as we wait for our federal stimulus check to arrive.  Maybe it’s one of the millions hung up in Washington so President Donald Trump’s name can be printed on them.

Those are the same signatures that Mr. Trump professes ignorance about although the idea has been traced back to him.

It’s the kind of self-centered political behavior that has no equal in the history of the presidency.  It’s more like the actions seen by lesser politicians, most often in local government.

I remember a time when some county officials called for checks paying taxes and fees to bear their name and office.  It was evidence for how much politicians like to see their names, but it didn’t take long for them to realize that it made no political sense because no one was happy when they wrote the checks.

There are still echoes of this “get my name on everything” political behavior.  There are plenty of forms that bear politicians’ names and it’s hard to find a website without their names and often their photographs.

These include the heavy PR on Attorney General Amy Weirich and Sheriff Floyd Bonner’s websites separate from county government’s umbrella website, however, none are as gratuitous as the one by Assessor Melvin Burgess, who even set up a website that included his name in its URL.

This means that unlike the Attorney General and Sheriff, whoever follows Mr. Burgess as assessor will have the immediate need and expense of changing the assessor’s office web address: www.assessormelvinburgess.com.

Meanwhile, City Council and the Board of Commissioners – who are in control of all the budgets – don’t have their own websites.  Instead, they are part of the official city and county government umbrella website which feature the mayors on each home page. The link to each legislative body is found under the general government tab where they are listed with dozens of other public departments

Party Purity As Slippery Slope

Enough’s been said already about the decision by the Tennessee Democratic Party to remove State Rep. John DeBerry from this fall’s ballot, but I can’t resist weighing in.

The 69-year-old legislator has 25 years representing his district, and there have been many times when we’ve disagree with his positions, particularly on culture war issues, but the decision by the state party is in a word, stupid.

You’d think that by now state party members would know how much Memphis resents anyone reaching into the community to dictate their opinions onto us.  Usually, it’s the Tennessee Legislature, but the same resentment applies to the Democratic Party removing the rights of voters in District 90 to decide who they want to send to the State House.

But here’s the cautionary tale: looking back at when the Republican Party went off the rails, it was when it blew up the Big Tent and called for party purity in all things.

Every issue, particularly in the wake of the Tea Party takeover of so many Congressional seats, was no longer a cause for reasoned debate or careful discussion about options.  Rather, it became about eviscerating anyone who deviated from Tea Party dogma and making sure everyone toed the line.  It was the beginning of the slippery slope that set up the Republican Party to evolve into what appears most often today to be a group of kneejerk sycophants.

At the local level, we saw a similar thing occur in county government when the Republican Party decided that county elections would be partisan.  Subsequently, votes that were once routine and uncontroversial were weighed down by political orthodoxy.

Coalition-building across political philosophies that had characterized modern Shelby County commissioners in the past was eliminated and in its place, every issue was distilled into whether it was true to party creed rather than true to public service.

The Tennessee Democratic Party – and the Republican Party, for that matter – should be more concerned about acting as a vehicle for mature debate rather than only see them as enforcers so unyielding and inflexible as to discourage differences of opinion.


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