The big Tennessee primary election day is tomorrow, Aug. 7. Here is an opportunity for progressives to make their voices heard in the hopes of turning the state a bit more purple.

The Tennesseean is not optimistic about this. The venerable publication predicts that by the end of the balloting, the Volunteer State will be as red as it ever was — or perhaps even redder:

Kent Syler, a political science professor at Middle Tennessee State University and former Democratic political operative, said his party will struggle in Tennessee as long as President Barack Obama remains in the Oval Office.

He noted that Tennessee was one of the few states to support Obama’s 2008 Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, more than it supported President George W. Bush’s re-election bid four years earlier. Obama easily defeated McCain nationally as voters called for change in the White House, but Tennessee marched to a different beat — and hasn’t stopped.

Republican campaigners are using “a formula that’s worked since 2010: You simply take a picture of your opponent, put a picture of Barack Obama next to him and maybe throw in Nancy Pelosi, and go with it,” Syler said. “As long as that keeps working, that’s what we’ll keep seeing. I honestly can’t see any reason it would stop working in 2014.”


Now, that very well may be, and if progressives don’t make their way to the polls Thursday, the negative predictions certainly will come to pass. But if those who call themselves liberal or leftist and believe in people and justice for all DO cast ballots, I fully believe we can make a positive difference in the future direction of this state and ensure that those candidates who do win know that we are here and we are active, attentive, and not about to take what they do lying down.

Personally, I do not believe Tennessee is intractably red. The Klan is here, as is the Tea Party — it will be interesting how the Teahadist Joe Carr fares in his bid to take down GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander. But most Republicans I have met in Davidson County and through my travels in East Tennessee this summer are comparably moderate. They may not be in favor of marriage equality or equal pay for women, but neither are they donning hats with tea bags swinging from the brims. There are GOPpers I have met willing to subvert the prevailing paradigms and smash a stereotype or two: One is Joshua Rawlings, a libertarian millennial running for the State House of Representatives in Nashville’s 51st district, is running a campaign that includes support for legalizing medical (and perhaps recreational) cannabis, and he tells me there are others in his party at least willing to listen on a host of issues.

We can and must talk with these people. Reasonability exists within them, and where dialogue can take place, there is hope for blue Tennessee to get a seat at the table and perhaps serious change for the future.

But it starts with casting your ballots and taking the steps to ensure the most heinous Redsters don’t get the chance to take office. If Alexander beats back his Tea Party opponent, progressives must ensure that they show up for the general election in the fall to support his blue challenger.

If nothing else, we send a strong message: Looky loo, we’re blue, and we are in this game. We have a voice, we use it and we will hold whoever wins accountable for representing all of us in Tennessee. At the present, that’s the clearest path to jumpstarting the purplization of what could be a great place for all to thrive.

The list of candidates is here. Do your duty.

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