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Democrats' future with Bredesen
Jan 14, 2005 12:00 am
Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen has been busy fighting to make sense of the Gordian Knot that is our state budget and the TennCare insurance system for the state's poor and uninsurable.
The fiscally conservative Democrat has made tough decisions to cut back the state's budget and keep his campaign promise that he will not back a state income tax to maintain the status quo.
Bredesen now must decide as he heads into re-election in 2006 what – if anything – he will do to either fight or feed a growing interest in his potential as a national candidate for his party in 2008.
As a popular Democrat governor in a Southern Red State, Bredesen immediately made a handful of presidential candidate short lists inside the Beltway in the wake of last year's election.
As Democrats look for answer, they may turn to a Southern governor with a Northern accent and immense popularity Down Home as an option.
The real question is will Bredesen meet his national party's stare or look away to his life beyond public service.
Clearly, Bredesen has the Clintonian Big Brain most in his party feel is needed to be president of the Unites States as a Democrat. He is many things: a millionaire deal maker, a physicist by education, a hunter and an artist. His personality can come off as distant but his policies have endeared him to a state bent on not giving one red cent more than needed to government.
He is a fiscal conservative capable of keeping grassroots tax hawks and big business at bay with his policy decisions that strive to see state government do more with less by working smarter.
He also is able to keep the left in his party quiet by not giving in to the socially conservative agenda so inherent now to Southern politics.
It appears to work with the monied Right wing willing to keep the social Right wing quelled in deference to Bredesen's tax policy. For instance, Bredesen stayed an execution in Tennessee, a stoutly pro death penalty state, without drawing so much as a whine from Social Conservatives.
Where does Phil Bredesen fit in to the national Democratic Party. In his last appearance on the national stage just weeks ago, he chastised the party establishment.
"The next time around, we want a 50-state platform. We want a 50-state party," Bredesen said to loud applause before a caucus of Southern Democrats in Atlanta just weeks ago. "To my party, get out of Washington more."
His words mirror frustration his staff felt during the 2004 presidential campaign where the Kerry/Edwards ticket and the national Democratic Party abdicated Tennessee to the Bush juggernaut months before election day.
Bredesen believes Democrats can still win in the South. He has proven it can happen.
If the future of the Democratic Party does not fall on Phil Bredesen's shoulders it falls at the feet of Democrats like Bredesen. Many have seen their states and districts abandoned by a national party elite that disdains the American Heartland and is not willing to fight for the hearts and minds of the Wal-Mart nation.
Perhaps that is why it is presently possible to drive from one coast of this nation to the other without passing through a Blue State.