Jackson Baker’s “Post Mortems” in the Memphis Flyer has some pretty good conclusions on what happened August 5.
First he posits that the Republican governor primary with three strong candidates “generated much of the GOP turnout.” On the other side, with only one candidate, Mike McWherter, “the Democrats had no governor’s race at all.” Four other Democrats vying for the position dropped out.
Some might argue that the Cohen/Herenton race would have brought out more Democrats. But he believes that a lot of the Democrat turnout was really Republican crossover voting against Herenton. “The underfunded erratic effort based on a slogan – Just One – (by Herenton) presupposed the existence of a barrier that had vanished long ago,” Baker writes. Black voters have been happy with Cohen, he argued, and were in a “comfort zone” perhaps not feeling the need to get to the polls.
Where Joe Ford failed to ignite Memphians for Shelby County mayor, Mark Luttrell at the top of the GOP ticket set the stage for a slate of excellent candidates with a high recognition, well respected reputation. Ford hurt himself with the “onus of having gone back on a pledge to his then fellow commissioners, rendered as a condition of their naming him interim mayor, not to seek a regular term as mayor.” Hard to miss a promise that big jettisoned for his own interest.
Baker thinks that race was not so much a factor with white Democrats and Memphians who, he notes, tossed over incumbent candidate Regina Newman, “arguably an exemplary trustee,” against another white candidate while black Republican Paul Boyd beat his opponent Sondra Becton.
I beg to differ on the “exemplary trustee” and there were problems with Becton’s past firing while she was Probate Court clerk. However Newman did win the Commercial Appeal’s endorsement while the paper refused to back either probate court clerk candidate, a backhanded dismissal of problems with Becton and you could say, quiet endorsement.
The final conclusion Baker comes to is reflected in the 8th district race with Roy Herron. “You will look in vain for any use of the word ‘Democrat’ as a signifier.”
“It is worth remembering the argument of linguistic philosopher George Lakoff, in his various treatises on the ‘framing’ of ideological debates: namely, that adopting the memes and code words of the opposition reinforces the opposition, not oneself, and defaults on the obligation to present an alternate vision or version of reality.”
In other words, it’s a bad time to be a Democrat.