Let's face it: These are difficult days for the Democrats of Hamilton County and Tennessee. When a lifelong Democrat like Bill Knowles jumps ship, you know something isn't right.
If the Democrat Party doesn't perk up and organize itself more competitively and ride the political tides more skillfully, many will simply reclassify themselves as Republicans or Independents. As Cal Thomas has pointed out, more Americans are rejecting both parties and becoming Independents.
The problems of the party started with the issues surrounding race. Remember the Dixiecrats? While the Democrats embraced the equality of the races, the Republicans just basically laid low and let the Democrats decimate themselves over the issue. The solid Democratic majority in the South was in a knife fight, and the Republicans knew it could do nothing but help them.
I am not saying the party did wrong. It was one of those "do right even though its unpopular" issues that always result in temporary setbacks. Democrats can thank goodness they got a loyal black following out of it all.
Race was not a dominant issue nationally, so the more liberal and progressive parts of the Democratic philosophy kept the party alive and well in the North and West.
Then came the emotional-button issues of things like prayer in the schools and posting the Ten Commandments that created even more problems for democrats in the Bible Belt South. Truth is, the Republicans have milked every possible drop of juice out of every emotional-button issue of the past few decades.
The strength of the Democrats declined at the state levels, where redistricting occurs. Few people realize that those who draw district lines can usually determine which party will prevail in each district. This is why you now have a Republican majority in the legislature and the Hamilton County Commission. In 1978 when I was elected, we had eight Democrats and only one Republican! Today the Republicans have a majority.
Local Democrats must avoid killing off themselves, as in a recent Democratic Executive Committee meeting where there was a move to expel Jim and Annie Hall who have done as much for the party and Democratic candidates as anyone in this area. We must keep the image of the party in mind at all times. Interparty fusses repel people.
Stuart James, former Democratic Party chairman, says there is a current move to run Ward Crutchfield for City Council. Ward is my friend and always will be whether he is in trouble or out of trouble. But after a felony conviction, he knows as well as anyone that such a race would hurt his party. No matter how much he loves politics and misses it, he has been around long enough to not make that mistake.
In a recent letter on a local news website, a citizen said, "I'll give you three simple reasons a Democrat should be elected to nothing: Billy Long, William Cotton and Ward Crutchfield." I would dare to say each party has a similar number of former elected officials in trouble, but we tend to play up those of the opposite party.
Over the long haul, the party that prevails will be determined by who has the best ideas to advance the common good. The Democrats need to make sure that is their No. 1 priority.
Email Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com.