In Defense of Labels

I am in a political quandry.

We all say it’s great that here in Nashville our elections are “non-partisan”, blah, blah, blah. I tend to agree, but it makes you work much harder to figure out which candidate fits your political philosophy, and even when you think you’ve got it figured out, there’s always that nagging doubt that you thought you were getting a Bredesen and instead you got a Boner.

I am politically conservative, but probably more moderate than your average Freeper.  I really don’t want to argue this with you, I am what I am.  I want to give you the framework of my quandry.

Because all political speech is bland and vanilla, the only way you can tell much about a politician is by looking at who is supporting him/her.  For instance, my kids go to a private school near Vanderbilt, and the neighborhood surrounding the school is one of the most liberal in Nashville (if you go by the yard signs).  Even before the Iraq war, there were lots of “War Is Not The Answer” signs in this neighborhood.  Every now and then you’ll see a “Hate is Not a Family Value”, “Love Your Mother” or some other such slogan in the yards.  This area is definitely not Bush country.  So, when I drive through that neighborhood, I pretty much know who the most liberal candidate running in a election by the signs.  This year, it appears to be Karl Dean.

OK, check.

I can likewise drive through Lynnwood Blvd in Belle Meade and see who the old money supports. This year, it’s Clement and Dozier.  Sometimes I agree with Belle Meade-ians, sometimes not. Dozier would probably be OK, he understands the plumbing of Metro government.  Clement, although I personally owe him a favor, is not my first choice, because he is a politician’s politician; he refuses to rock the boat – and sometimes, when your city is in transistion, that’s a recipe for disaster.  Change is a-comin’, and we need a mayor who can manage it.

This is my quandry.  I really like David Briley.  I KNOW he’s a Democrat, but  ALL the candidates are Democrats (welcome to the big city).  But Briley says all the right things.  He doesn’t seem to be a raging liberal.  If you go by what he’s said in his campaign, he’s probably not going to turn Nashville into another San Fransisco. AND he’s very supportive of professional sports in Nashville, which is important to me.

Yet, many people who support him are quite liberal, and that gives me pause.  So, in the back of my mind, I have to think, does he have some kind of secret agreement with the MoveOn.org types, where he’ll pretend to be moderate until he gets elected, then he’ll go to war with WalMart, open up an office of Needle-handing-out, double the property tax rate to pay for single-payer health insurance? (I know these ideas sound great to some of you, but, like I said, this is not a discussion of those things.  This is about me and my preferences).

I’ll probably still pull the lever for Briley, but I’ll have a nagging feeling until after the runoff (if there is one).

Or maybe I’ll surprise myself and vote for Howard Gentry.  But, without seeing a bunch of yard signs for him, I have no idea who is supporting him.  And that scares me a little.

This is why I wish we had partisan elections in Nashville. Primaries force candidates to play to their base in varying degrees, and by the time the general election rolls around, you pretty much can map out how liberal or conservative a candidate is.

As it is, you REALLY have to have a lot of trust.  After Bill Boner, Don Sundquist, Bill Clinton, and George Bush, trust towards politicians is not something that comes easily to me. 

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4 Responses to “In Defense of Labels”

  1. Volunteer Voters » Nonpartisan Palaver Says:

    […] The Shoot The Moose blogger is confused by Nashville’s nonpartisan electioneering ways. He is confused by the lack of Ds and Rs behind the names of the candidates and pines for a simpler time: I am politically conservative, but probably more moderate than your average Freeper. I really don’t want to argue this with you, I am what I am. I want to give you the framework of my quandry. […]

  2. Bob K Says:

    Slarti,
    I’m struck by the number of Dean signs in Belle Meade and Green Hills. I think he has managed to convince both progressives and the business-owning class that he’s one of them. That’s actually a pretty good recipe for success in this town if you can pull it off. What will be interesting, should he win, is which group will discover that they supported the wrong man.

    The reason I think that you’re seeing lots of Dean signs in the neighborhoods surrounding Vandy is because Briley’s campaign is in the tank. They’re going to plan B. Otherwise, Briley would be their first choice.

  3. nm Says:

    A couple of thoughts:

    1) to the extent that you’re concerned about Briley’s bona fides, you might want to pay attention to what he’s expended his energy on to date, both in his job and in his efforts to improve some of the East Nashville public schools. I think there’s a pretty complete and comprehensive record there of how the man operates and what sort of things are important to him. (I’m not connected with his campaign and haven’t decided who I’ll be voting for yet. I’m just saying that I think he’s easier to get a fix on than, a couple of the other candidates.)

    2) I’m sorry, Slarti, but you think that wearing a political label is going to tell you how a candidate will act while in office? ROFL. Bob Clement and Dennis Kucinich are both Democrats, you know.

  4. Freddie O'Connell Says:

    Honestly, I like non-partisan local races. I like having to consider everyone an independent, regardless of prior affiliations. Some people will still dig for those prior affiliations so they can remain attached to a D or an R somewhere in a prior political incarnation, but even that requires a minimum of political effort, which I think is good.

    For the record, I’m supporting Briley not because of some liberal bona fides scorecard I keep in my pocket next to the little red book so many conservatives assume is there, but because he comes to the game with an extraordinary mixture of competence and candor. Seriously: Try having a one-on-one conversation with any of the 5 major candidates in this race and see which one strikes you as the most legitimately full of public service rather than lip service.

    And as someone with an academic and professional background in technology, it warms my heart that he actually gets it and understands how important it will be to successful 21st century cities. Saying you love technology is one thing; having a plan to engage the private suppliers of bandwidth to expand broadband access shows vision. And that’s just one small piece of one niche issue.

    As someone who similarly bristles at being politically pigeonholed, I’d honestly say there’s no conspiracy at the heart of Briley’s agenda and candidacy. I’m more interested in consensus than conflict, so I’d be happy to discuss further offline (especially since we’ve had interesting back-and-forths across a few online resources in the past…)


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