Last month, passing through Memphis, I read Sunday morning’s The Commercial Appeal. Striking was how well in a single issue it gave a sense of the city and its people, something uncommon in a Virginia newspaper. And one column caught my particular attention; it reminded me about Shad Planking.
I really don’t care if anyone takes this personally. In fact, if they do, then maybe there is reason. In that Memphis paper, Wendi Thomas wrote of a coming storm: the Ku Klux Klan’s Easter weekend appearance in Shelby County. Like a lot of single issue voting blocs, this group had seized upon an insult to a founding father, Nathan Bedford Forrest, whose name had been removed by the city council from a Memphis park (where he rests today).
“Because nothing says Valentine’s like venom toward people of color, gays, Jews, immigrants and Catholics, on February 14, the Loyal White Knights of the KKK applied for a permit to rally outside the county courthouse.” – Wendi Thomas in The Commercial Appeal
The position that I found relevant to the Shad Planking was Thomas’s common sense appeal to ignore the fools; enjoy the weekend with friends and family instead. And it is pleasing to see that the same spirit has caused Democrats to blow off this year’s version of the once relevant event that has completely lost its gravitas, becoming a carnival side show appealing only the gullible. Its effects are contained by its isolation and I don’t mean geographical. Turns out that like the rally in Memphis this event is a tempest in a teapot.
“I can’t think that they don’t like bony fish. . . . We’re scratching our heads – are we not displaying good manners or what?” (the chairman of the Wakefield Ruritan Club) asked. “We’re just setting the table and inviting them to it.” – Washington Post
If the Shad Planking organizers want to broaden the event’s appeal, they should make the effort to reengineer the perception that the attendee demographic is aimed at political splinter groups with narrow appeal to or influence with the broader electorate. The “vendors” that do participate play to the audience. The audience defines the market and the marketplace defines the justification (or lack thereof) for participation. After Terry McAuliffe’s first Shad Planking, he swore privately that he would not return. Against his better judgment, he did. Looks like it didn’t take too much convincing to bail this year. There is just no reason for even moderate Republicans to attend. Be on watch for Lt Governor Bill Bolling tomorrow.
“Shad Planking is a Virginia tradition that has totally and completely and utterly outlived its usefulness.” – Mo Elleithee
The reporting in the Washington Post makes one wonder if they have really attended these past few years or are just making it up. The sign wars at the event became legend from 2005 through 2009 beginning with the Kaine demonstration. Democratic candidates were able to pull out all stops and plaster the countryside on the backs of volunteers years running. Republicans were never able to match the effort, forcing them to frame a tale for pulling out of the competition. An the Post has bought it hook, line and sinker. “Costly” sign wars? True if you have no real grassroots support it is expensive. For the Webb effort in 2006 there might have been one staffer. Costly? The Webb campaign had a hard time paying for admission to the event much less being able to pay for labor. And every last one of the 1000’s of signs was reclaimed to be used another day. The costs the Republicans are avoiding are to their reputations. The Post leaves readers with the impression the gesture is magnanimous. It is just good defense, as last year’s headlining loser, George Allen, might say.
The Post may have attended a different Shad Planking than the rest of us: “…But last year Allen decided to leave the signs at home and make a donation to the Ruritan Club instead. Cuccinelli will do something similar this year, though he’ll still be offering beer.” Beer? Cuccinelli didn’t offer any beer last year. In fact, he barely had a presence. That was Bolling who had the crowd lining up for the porta-potties. Fact is Cuccinelli’s followers are too narcissistic to offer up the kind of grassroots effort required to impress in the sign war. The check will help make up for the diminished attendance, though.
Then there is the iffy weather forecast. A thunderstorm or two might interrupt the afternoon. The parallels to the Memphis event continue to emerge.
One Klan member who only identified himself as “Edward” wasn’t pleased with the event. “I wish it hadn’t rained on us, and that we hadn’t picked Easter weekend. We’d have had a lot bigger turnout,” he said. – The Commercial Appeal
Yep, Edward, hang on to believing that’s the reason why more people didn’t show up to shed a tear for poor Nathan. Thing is, I am pretty certain Ruritan’s Robert Bain will add Democrats to his rationalization if the attendance doesn’t meet expectations. He just doesn’t get it that McAuliffe’s visit to Blue Ridge Community College in Weyers Cave tomorrow is simply more relevant and a much better use of his time.
Mr. Bain, if you want to run a carnival, bring in a midway with rides that appeal to children. It’ll be a much better draw than the kool-aid these charlatans are selling Virginia’s embarrassingly naive tea partiers.