The current issue of Time has an article on the “politics of nothing” trend and, as often is the case in these days of cookie-cutter partisan campaigns, that which rings true on the national level may apply here in Tennessee.
The proposition is that the two major parties both have accomplished much of their biggest goals.
Republicans don’t have much of an agenda beyond opposing anything President Barack Obama supports because they’ve been winning battles on taxes, welfare and crime since Ronald Reagan days.
Democrats don’t have much of an agenda either, thanks to Obama’s first-term success on education reforms, Wall Street reforms and, of course, the Affordable Care Act.
So now there’s partisan gridlock in Washington with no real chance for that changing, leaving the parties to fight over “relative scraps” —or creating inconsequential issues in attempts to rally their respective bases.
Examples of the latter include an Iowa uproar over a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate squabbling with a neighbor over trespassing chickens, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell taking heat in Kentucky for featuring Duke University basketball players instead of University of Kentucky basketball players in a television commercial, and an Illinois gubernatorial candidate paying $100,000 to join a wine club.
Here in Tennessee, well, at least we have the Great Gordon Ball Plagiarism Controversy.
In case you missed it, state Republican Chairman Chris Devaney is demanding that the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee abandon his “fraudulent campaign” because a bunch of stuff on Ball’s website was copied from Democratic senators in other states.
Ball says that the cut-and-pasting, initially pointed out by BuzzFeed, was done by a volunteer staffer and that he read and approved the material with no idea that it came from other Democrats. And, doubtless to Devaney’s amazement, he’s not going to quit the race and endorse re-election of Republican Lamar Alexander by acclamation.
The proclaimed plagiarism seems fairly boilerplate rhetoric on such things as a balanced budget amendment, “putting Americans back to work,” investing in infrastructure and the like. Alexander would likely agree with a good bit of the copied commentary if it were provided him without attribution.
Instead, he joined Devaney in declaring Ball was embracing the “Obama agenda.” Coincidentally, of course, an oft-repeated campaign mantra of Alexander and the state GOP chief in discussing Ball is that he would be “one more vote for the Obama agenda.”
This is not exactly a novel concept. A standard GOP tactic for years has been to cut and paste pictures of Obama and place them beside any Democratic opponent. Heck, in some Tennessee Republican primaries for state legislative seats this summer, Republicans were accusing one another of supporting the Obama agenda in one way or the other — complete with cut-and-paste pictures.
Indeed, a quick Google search finds a recent PAC news release that begins: “Freedom Partners Action Fund announced today that it is launching a new six-figure ad campaign in Kansas showing that a vote for Greg Orman is one more vote for President Obama’s reckless agenda.”
Has someone plagiarized someone here? Surely not.
A similar standard Lamar line in the current campaign is to declare that Ball, if elected, will “put his desk right over there next to Harry Reid and make it one vote easier for Barack Obama to lead our country in the wrong direction.”
There’s an echo here from Alexander himself a dozen years ago when he was running against Bob Clement, repeatedly declaring the Democrat would move Alexander’s desk, if elected, from the Republican side in Senate seating “over between Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy and go off in the wrong direction.”
Can you plagiarize yourself? Surely not. And maybe Senate seating arrangements could be categorized as politics of something instead of nothing.
Ball, meanwhile, might be accused of stealing issues from Joe Carr, who was defeated by Alexander in the primary. Echoing Carr, Ball contends that Alexander is for amnesty and Common Core, while he is opposed. For some reason, Alexander hasn’t yet pointed this out.
Interestingly, there are a couple of “relative scraps” on the issue front that separate the opposing Senate candidates in Tennessee this year. Ball would vote to raise the federal minimum wage, for example, while Alexander opposes.
At the state level, the Republican supports Amendment 1 the November ballot to amend the state constitution so the GOP Supermajority can enact more stringent anti-abortion laws. The Democrat opposes.
At least that’s something.
Note: This is an unedited version of a column written for Sunday’s News-Sentinel. The edited version is HERE.