published Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Democrats seek strategy change

Joe the Plumber visits Chattanooga

The 2008 presidential campaign is long over, but the man the nation came to know as “Joe the Plumber” has got plenty to talk about.

Wurzelbacher garnered national attention during the campaign when he asked then-Senator Barack Obama about taxes on small businesses, launching himself to iconic status in the conservative movement. He visited Chattanooga with Kevin Jackson, a conservative writer and political commentator.

The two are touring the South to challenge the way accusations of racism are used in political commentary. Wurzelbacher, who is white, and Jackson, who is black, say the media is responsible for making racism such a hot-button political issue — not the general public.

“When you ask a question like where Obama was born you’re automatically a racist,” said Wurzelbacher. “We’re not going to be hemmed in by what the liberal media wants us to be.”

“Yes, there’s racists in the country,” said Jackson. “But the overwhelming majority of people are so nonracist. They could care less.”

The two spent the day in Chattanooga, speaking on local talk radio and at a town hall event.

If there are going to be more Democrats elected to office in Tennessee, there needs to be a fundamental change in strategy, emphasized Hamilton County Democrats at a reception for the party Tuesday night.

“As Democrats we’ve had a muddled and confused message,” said Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester, the event’s keynote speaker. “We need to be more concise and clear about what we stand for.”

That message includes supporting social services and preserving laborers’ collective bargaining rights, Forrester outlined.

About 150 people turned out for the reception, during which the newly elected officers for Greater Chattanooga Democratic Women’s Group and the Hamilton County Democratic Party were sworn in.

In his talk, Forrester also decried Republican efforts to do away with teachers’ collective bargaining rights and cut Medicare.

“They’ve thrown teachers under the bus. They’ve thrown Medicare under the bus. And what worries me most is that they have thrown our election system under the bus,” he said.

Before Forrester spoke, the newly installed chairman of the county, Paul Smith, party gave an introduction, in which he highlighted the need for more Democrats — and women — on the Hamilton County Commission.

“There’s a bunch of men, and not a single woman. No wonder they don’t even know what women’s health issues are and have to backtrack,” he said, referring to the commission’s recent consideration of blocking the county’s family planning funds.

Attendants said momentum will be critical to garner more votes for Democrats in the heavily Republican state.

“Our main goals should be getting Democrats in office but I really hope we can expand the role of women in the Democratic Party,” said Democrat Juliane O’Neal. “It’s just really, really hard to get a Democrat elected here.”

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