What's a Bona Fide Democrat?



After embarrassing themselves by nominating far-right extremist Mark Clayton for U.S. Senate, Tennessee Democrats have launched into an internal debate over how to prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future. The obvious answer is to strike clowns like Clayton from the party’s primary ballots as illegitimate. But how do you define a bona fide Democrat? Should the party develop a set of litmus tests that would-be candidates must pass to qualify as ballot-worthy Democrats?

There’s much disagreement over this, with some Democrats saying it’s impractical and dumb, while others argue it may be a can of worms but it beats the alternative — which is another nominee like Mark Clayton. It’s the subject of my story in the current Scene.

The Tennessee Equality Project’s Chris Sanders has some ideas.

“We’re for marriage equality and we’d like to see every candidate and every office-holder support that,” Sanders tells Pith. “But it’s probably not realistic to say at this point that every Democrat in Tennessee would support marriage equality. It is realistic to ask that none of them push discriminatory laws. That is a place where a lot of Democrats could meet.

“Do no harm is the first rule. Don’t make the situation worse.”

OK, that’s something for Democrats to think about. But now that we’ve heard from the LGBT community, what about pro-choice groups, labor unions, trial lawyers, environmentalists, and all the rest of the Democratic interest groups? You see the problem here.


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