Can You Be a Democrat Only at Night?


So can you honestly call yourself a Democrat if you make a good living aggressively thwarting Democratic values in the courts and in the legislature? I ask that after reading Woods' column this week on Waller attorney Mike Stewart, who is running in the August Democratic primary to succeed state Rep. Rob Briley. As Woods points out, Stewart's firm lobbies for a motley cast of bullies and polluters, including the Tennessee Road Builders Association, Wal-Mart and Bells Landing Partners, which is aiming to bring the tacky commercial culture of Cool Springs to a pristine corner of Davidson County. These are not the types of interests that typically ally themselves with the Democratic Party. Stewart himself is not a lobbyist, but his law practice puts him in the trenches alongside some of the most powerful interests in the state. His most notable client happens to be a little outfit called Eastman Chemical Company, and he recently won this corporate client a sweet tax refund. It seems like Waller is full of proud, active Democrats who attend goo-goo Green Hills fundraisers at night while avidly sucking on the Republican teet by day. Our good friend James (The Dream) Weaver sits on the finance council of Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Bob Tuke, even though he boasts on his website of representing "responsible parties at over 40 Superfund sites." He also offers his sage counsel to power plants, mining facilities and pipelines. Meanwhile, Weaver's Waller colleague, the ubiquitous Tom Lee, recently helped a gaggle of commercial real estate barons keep a fat tax break, which came at the expense of a state fund that protected the wetlands and funding for needy children. I don't begrudge Stewart, Weaver and Lee for vigorously representing their clients, but it seems a little disingenuous for them to play active roles in the Democratic Party when their economic existence comes at the expense of the party's supposed principles. If you're a Democrat, you're supposed to care about the environment, or at least pretend to. That commitment could be fleeting, convenient and symbolic, if you so choose, but you can't pay for your Mercedes representing “responsible parties at over 40 Superfund sites.” That's pushing it. Let's flip it around: Could you call yourself an active Republican and work as a paid consultant to the SEIU? A pro-life architect and design the national headquarters for Planned Parenthood? Or am I just being a bit too innocent? Maybe one's political values are just a conversation starter at a Belle Meade cocktail party.

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