When I hear otherwise reasonable people get appalled at Rick Santorum winning the Tennessee GOP primary yesterday or responding with consternation to news that some GOP legislators, including former CM Jim Gotto, see a UN conspiracy to take over Tennessee cities through community planning, I ask myself, "How can someone stick their head in the sand to the point that they fail to predict the dangers inherent to a red state?"
I mean, come on. Santorum (if not Newt Gingrich) is the perfect magnet for conservative Tennessee voters, and they are legion. It is an undeniable fact, nearly self-evident, that Tennessee is conservative red-meat for Republicans. Surely, the small enclaves of progressives, who clutch together like refugees on rafts, see that. There is always the possibility of collective self-denial.
Moreover, anyone in Middle Tennessee who has watched Jim Gotto on council knows him as a partisan right-winger and Church of Christer: a volatile mix that makes one prone to see the world as black-and-white, as us-against-anyone-who-may-disagree, as take-no-prisoners. Mr. Gotto has been one of the most uncompromising and ruthless politicians I have ever seen. So, his recent flirtation with rolling back local autonomy over planning fits his MO. It also benefits a lot of potential wealthy donors; that point was made when the Nashville Chamber of Commerce supported Gotto's bill before furiously back-pedaling away from that support yesterday.
Maybe someone like Karl Dean or Diane Neighbors should have done more to upbraid him when he was spouting off in his tenure as council representative on the Planning Commission. And "progressive" Metro Council members should be grilled on how they let Gotto get away with running unopposed for the powerful position of Planning Chair in the first place. (Perhaps because he busted his butt for the same developers and developers' lawyers and developers' lobbyists that "progressives" rubbed elbows with?)
So, I'll not feign righteous indignation at yesterday's GOP primary results or at the antics of our red-state General Assembly. The worst mistake we can make is responding as if these are people who will listen to reason spoken down to them from atop pedestals of forgetfulness and false security. We live in a dangerous state. It is a Machiavellian state, a Hobbesian state-of-nature where battles for supremacy knock down the scaffolding pretension constructs.
The second worst mistake we can make is the favored strategy of the Democratic Party, which seeks compromise with partisans who are not interested in compromise and who do not have to compromise since the voters here have given them absolute control of the state and significant control of cities like Nashville. Taking the middle road and becoming half-way conservative will not satisfy right-wingers. They'll just shift the goal posts to prompt liberals to shift half-way again. Giving them too much credit is fatal. They swarm like a plague of locusts, and with indifference they will destroy everything around them in the name of redeeming it for a divine kingdom on earth.
I do not want to seem to too hard on progressive rationalists. In fairness, I'm a recovering Southern Baptist who watched the plagues of fundamentalists swoop in and mow down green fields of moderates' lives, leaving little but stubble and despair, even for those who hadn't a liberal bone in their body. I see the same pattern manifesting with wave after wave of Church of Christ CMs who come through the the Metro Council bent on making Nashville a cultural battleground safe for their constricted litmus of Christianity and for their tight band of politics.
But if some want to believe that moderation can happen here or that they can work with the current leadership to produce progressive results, I wish them luck. They're going to need it.
UPDATE: Jamie Hollin notes the hole the Nashville Chamber of Commerce dug for itself:
We should all take some measure of comfort in the fact the Chamber is incapable of getting bills through ....
equally beneficial to citizens, they left the sponsor, Rep. Jim Gotto and by extension–Red Tape Brigade–Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, high and dry. Leaving sponsors out to dry is a no-no in politics. I suspect they will be suffering from retribution or it will at least cost them in other ways.