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Without bothering to notify the state Democratic Party, a group of lefties is organizing to influence the 2010 elections. According to an email to the group from its leader, Liberadio(!) co-host Mary Mancini, Unite TN is "off to a fantastic start" and hopes to do pretty much what the party is supposed to do--organize, develop messages and get out the vote.
A few minutes ago, we asked party chairman Chip Forrester for his reaction to this group's formation. He'd never heard of it. Whoops! That's awkward. "Let me give Mary a shout and find out what's going on and then I'll get back to you," Forrester was forced to say.
Forrester just phoned back to offer this fantastic spin. "I see this as another asset or another weapon in our arsenal for 2010. This group will be organizing and doing substantive work around the campaign cycle that will complement what we're doing," he said.
For her part, Mancini isn't talking about her activities. It's a big secret. Why does her group feel the need to do what the Democratic Party is supposed to do?
"I'm not prepared to answer that right now," she says. "When are you planning on writing about this? I'd like to do some semblance of organizing before this goes out there."
Too bad. The list of United TN sympathizers includes Megan Barry, Mike Jameson, Jason Holleman, Jerry Maynard, various SEIU folks, and assorted moonbeams. So-called progressives, mostly in Nashville, have become increasingly disgruntled with the party apparatus. They see party leaders as too conservative and failing to sufficiently support liberal causes. Forrester's election as chairman was seen as a victory for the party's liberal element. Now the goo-goos seem to have turned against Forrester as well.
"It looks like Mary Mancini thinks she can organize the lefties to take over the state," says one of the smug anonymous Democratic insiders who whisper constantly in Pith's ear. "There isn't a single group of their list that will give them any money. Also it sounds like they think they can take over the work of the Tennessee Democratic Party. Why aren't they working with Chip instead of forming a new group?"
Here's Mancini's email outlining Unite TN's goals. In the opening, she refers to Won. That's Won Choi, a Nashville activist who fancies himself as Tennessee's Jim Carville.
Won and I want to thank you all so much for your time last Thursday night. With you valuable input, Unite TN is off to a fantastic start.
As we discussed on Thursday, the mission of Unite TN is to formally establish a collaborative and effective group of statewide progressive organizations and individuals that can accomplish electoral and other civic work with political sophistication and technical competence.
With redistricting looming, Phase One of Unite TN will be to ascertain through an electoral landscape analysis which races are competitive. In the areas where these races are competitive, we will build a Unite TN model that, with your help, can be rolled out statewide in Phase 2. Phase One will last until November 2010.
The Unite TN model is to Activate, Organize, and Brand:
Activate - In many areas, Tennesseans who share our values are disgruntled, hidden, or isolated. Unite TN will reach out to leaders in the identified communities and give them the tools and training they need to reconnect with these Tennesseans. Reconnecting will lead to activation which will help to build the capacity needed to sustain progressive ideas, causes, and organizations.
Organize - In Phase One, training and activation will be organized around Get Out the Vote and election protection work. Also in Phase One, local ballot initiatives or issues in these competitive communities will be identified to help engage and motivate voters.
Brand: Unite TN will be about building Unite TN - we will define who we are based on our values and priorities, which we know to be traditional American values and priorities. No longer will we allow others to define who we are nor will we use their language to define who we are. Unite TN will strive to organize around the values and priorities that unite our members, which we know are more comprehensive than the values and priorities that divide us.
Below is the beginning of what with your help will undoubtedly grow into a comprehensive list of progressive organizations in Tennessee. Please take a moment to look at the list and email me any additions that come to mind so that I may add them to the master list.
Again, thank you so much for all you do. We will be planning our second meeting soon so that we may address in more detail some of your questions as well as the administration and organizational set-up of Unite TN.
All the best,
TN Equality Project
TN Disability Coalition
TN Citizen Action
Election Protection/Voter Rights
League of Women Voters
Nashville Women's Political Caucus (NWPC)
TN Women's Political Caucus
Land Trust for Tennessee
TN Clean Water Netwok
TN Conservation Voters
TN Environmental Voters
TN Scenic Rivers Association
Faith Leaders for All of Us
Interdenominational Ministers' Fellowship
Nashville Jewish Federation
[Note to Jerry Maynard - can you list out the denominations you suggested at the meeting?]
National Physicians Alliance
TN Health Care Campaign
Tennessee Medical Association
TN Nurses Association
TN Hospital Association
Coalition For Education About Immigration
TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition
TN Association for Justice
TN News Service
Planned Parenthood of Middle & East TN
Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region
Nashville Hispanic Chamber
Mid-South Peace & Justice Center
Statewide Coalition for Community eMpowerment
TN Peace & Justice Center
TN Justice Center