With 30 percent of the vote, Tennessee Democrats just nominated Mark Clayton, a completely unknown flooring installer who raised no money and couldn't bother to update his campaign website for four years for U.S. Senate. Clayton believes that NAFTA is building a super-secret highway from Mexico City to Toronto as part of a new world order conspiracy, that Arnold Schwarzenegger is planning a Nazi takeover of the United States, that FEMA is building prison camps for American dissidents and that Google is censoring his website. He is also Vice President of a pro-theocracy organization that has made it priorities to attack, among other things, reproductive choice and "gay Muppets."
In other words, if I lived in Tennessee and had to choose between the major party nominees, Bob Corker would have just won my enthusiastic vote for U.S. Senate. Bob Corker once literally sold protected wetlands to Wal-Mart.
This abomination's primary opponents included Larry Crim, who looks like he would play well enough in Tennessee, former sitcom star Park Overall, a strong progressive and fantastic public speaker, and TK Owens, random guy off the street who, one assumes, is probably not as off-the-rails crazy as Mark Clayton. Still, all of those candidates trailed not only Clayton, but this guy as well. Overall and Crim, in fact, each pulled about half as many votes as the conspiracy theorist flooring installer who didn't campaign.
Think about this for a moment: a man who thinks that Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to implement the final solution under a NAFTA new world order just beat Laverne from Empty Nest, in Tennessee. Really take a moment to let that sink in.
Recalling South Carolina's strikingly similar 2010 nomination of Alvin Greene, an unemployed man who lived with his father and was widely believed to be developmentally disabled, one must at this point be blunt: are southern Democrats really this hopeless, or are southern Republicans really this corrupt? Either way, this country's in a lot of trouble if Democrats don't get their act together soon.
The filing deadline for independents on the general election ballot was back in April. However, anyone qualified can still be certified as a write-in candidate. While their odds of winning wouldn't be great, they would certainly be better than Clayton's, particularly if national Democratic organizations could muster the nerve to back them over Clayton. A strong write-in might even benefit from Clayton's siphoning of the extreme right vote that otherwise would have defaulted to Corker. In fact, if a serious Democrat decides to continue the race, I'll be their first general election campaign volunteer.
More importantly, however, national Democrats need to learn from what happened yesterday.
Southern Democrats need national support not just in the general election, but in the primaries as well. Take a look at the candidate websites linked above. These are not serious campaign websites. These are monuments to amateurism. Where was the money? Where was the support? Where was the campaign?
This could have been avoided if Democratic organizations were more willing to get their hands dirty in primaries. Obviously, they can't go around picking sides in races in which two or more serious, viable candidates are duking it out. But is it really so improper to make sure voters aren't playing guessing games on their ballots, or to make sure there's no funny business going on? Supporting the party's eventual nominee is a fine philosophy, until that candidate is Alvin Greene or Mark Clayton.
Obviously, Democrats aren't very popular in the south at the moment. Barack Obama won just 57 percent of the primary vote in West Virginia, losing 42 percent to Keith Judd, a Texas man who is currently incarcerated. In Kentucky, 42 percent of primary voters chose "uncommitted" over the sitting president. In Arkansas, Obama lost 40 percent of the vote to a complete unknown. Dixiecrats, to put it mildly, do not care for this president.
But instead of fighting these perceptions tooth and nail, Democrats have opted to cede the south to people like Bob Corker. It's the new, unspoken "27 state strategy," and though it will probably work out well for Obama in November, it is otherwise a miserable failure thus far. If Richard Nixon were alive today, he could tell you how well a lonely win can work out.
Imagine what's going on down ballot. If you're a Democrat running for the House in rural Tennessee and you see Barack Obama at the top of the ticket and Mark Clayton under him, you're probably already thinking about calling it a day. Without a massive amount of outside help, you're screwed.
The 50 State Strategy needs to be brought back, soon, in a big way, and by liberal groups that aren't afraid to meddle in a primary once in a while. Short of a massive effort like that, we may well be living under a Republican majority for a very, very long time.
Correction: An earlier version of this piece quoted Senator Corker as having called Social Security and Medicare 'generational theft.' This was based on news and blog reports quoting Corker from a GOP weekly address in May of this year, a business roundtable event in Memphis in June of this year and a meeting of the Senate Aging Committee in May of 2011. At the urging of Corker's office, the author reviewed more complete transcripts, reports and videos of these events and came to agree that these reports had taken Corker's words out of context. It is more accurate to report that Corker has repeatedly characterized the current state of these programs as ones that will lead to 'generational theft.'"