Weekly Obsession: It’s time for Nashville to secede from Tennessee

Monday, July 29, 2013 at 10:05pm

Years ago, The Tennessean’s late great Jerry Thompson noted that the United States was in the habit of giving countries that it invaded substantial amounts of foreign aid.

At the time, Metro was going through one budget crisis or another — this was in the pre-Itness days of boom-time budgets — and Thompson suggested Nashville should secede from the union and then immediately surrender to the mighty forces of the U.S. and apply for foreign aid.

He was joking, which was obvious when he suggested that Antioch would be the capital of this short-lived Republic of Nashville. The capital would obviously be Green Hills.

As far as reasons for secession go, Thompson’s was pretty good — it was a practical matter rather than the foot-stomping tantrum more common to secessionist threats these days, which is more about people not getting their way politically.

So let’s dismiss the notion that Tennessee or Nashville should leave the United States.

But should Nashville leave Tennessee and join the long list of potential 51st states?

After decades of benign neglect from state government, Davidson County has suddenly become the legislature’s petri dish, a regular experiment in how much onerous meddling a local government can take from the state.

The local school board wanted to vet charter schools in its own way, so the legislature pushed for a state-level authorizer.

The Metro Council wanted a non-discrimination ordinance, and the state made such a thing illegal.

Metro — and its predecessor governments — had long had control of the whys and wherefores of the state fair. The legislature created its own fair board.

With an ever-redder legislature and a staunchly cerulean Metro Council, the two bodies are bound to butt heads again and again over the best way to operate the state’s capital city.

It will be frustrating for both and exhausting for the rest of us — so why not just cut the ties. This doesn’t have to be contentious or violent; it can be a velvet divorce.

Carving out an enclave of deeply Democratic Nashville will necessarily increase the power of the Republicans statewide. Nobody outside of Memphis will miss the Tennessee Democratic Party — not that the TNDP has been accomplishing much anyway — and all those Democrats can find new gigs in Nashville’s single-party state, giving them an opportunity to have a hand in governance, which they’ve (hopefully) not forgotten how to do.

There are some logistical concerns, of course. Tennessee would have to find a new capital. Hohenwald is lovely, and they are already used to having a bunch of old elephants stomping around. Gov. Haslam will be rid of the problem of what to do with all the state buildings; he can just quitclaim them to Nashville instead of to the real estate company he invests in. Nashville wouldn’t have to form its own legislature, though, because the city council is already bigger than the state senate.

Congress will have to agree to this plan, of course. Fortunately, Tennessee laid the groundwork in this regard as well. While waiting for statehood to be approved back in the 1790s, the original Tennesseans chose two provisional senators and sent them up to Washington, presumably to annoy Congress into approving Tennessee’s admission. Nashville can send John Jay Hooker — who has a well-deserved reputation for making people listen to ideas they may think are a bit cockamamie — and Vic Lineweaver, who probably isn’t doing anything.

(It’s no more ridiculous than the fact that Wyoming — with 25,000 fewer people than Nashville — has two senators.)

Of course, this is all very drastic, and once the General Assembly comes back, they might have other more pressing things on their plate, because there’s probably somewhere we can’t carry guns yet.

On the other hand, after 160 years, our annual guests on the hill may have worn out their welcome. Sometimes it’s best for both sides to go their separate ways.

10 Comments on this post:

By: BigPapa on 7/30/13 at 7:29

Nashville shouldnt succeed, we should just cut Memphis out of TN. Our entire state would vault us into the up in every positive category. Cutting away that anchor would serve us all well.

By: dogmrb on 7/30/13 at 7:35

Vic Lineweaver will be checking his mailbox everyday for his Senatorial appointment notice if this goes through !

By: JeffF on 7/30/13 at 7:37

After decades of benign neglect from state government

I am still laughing at the thought that this is the fault of the Republicans who have been in charge just 6 years. It sucks when one group loses its disproportionate control over the governance of others, especially when folks consider it their birthright.

Personally I love hearing the bitching and moaning about Republicans coming from state social service employees in the fast food joints in Metro Center. I would hate to lose that few minutes of joy out of the day if the capitol were to move away from these "ladies" homes.

By: gm0168 on 7/30/13 at 11:15

This is the dumbest argument I've ever heard.....Nashville and Middle TN get whatever they want from this state. People in West TN and East TN get so fed up with hearing Nashville this and Nashville that. I heard one man say recently that just the word Nashville made his "stomach churn". Nashville couldn't make it without the generous handouts the city gets.....just look at the millions they got for keeping that idiotic ABC series filming here and check the list of real movies by real directors having to go to other states because the "well ran dry". As far as Memphis leaving, I'm sure folks there would love to get out of this Republican backward ass state, but this state wouldn't last long without the tax $$ that comes from by far the largest county in the state. Reading this article is 5 min I'll never get back

By: pswindle on 7/30/13 at 11:37

Wimp Gov. Haslam has to being in hatchet men to control TN to his liking. He can't really govern so he pays someone to do it for him. Nashville is just his little play thing. His mind is on Flying J and how he can stay out of jail.

By: joe41 on 7/31/13 at 7:39

Nashville is the engine that drives Tennessee. Look at the numbers. Without Nashville and it's suburbs, the State would not be growing.

By: ChrisMoth on 7/31/13 at 9:15

joe41: Exactly. By every metric of public services, education, per-capita income, economic development, etc., Nashville is a shining beacon to all of Tennessee. I guess it is ?jealousy?" that drives the state to take steps to dismantle our forward energy? It certainly is not reason and logic, as far as I can tell.

The family went to Gettysburg this past summer - and I can tell ya secession is not the answer. It's hard work, but we have to keep listening to our friends in the state. I'm sure they have some good ideas. Actually, in education, before everything became so strane in the last year or two, the state led the way with Common Core standards, AP testing for all, teacher quality. It's a gemisch as all things human are - but overall I think we'll look back at much of these as positive steps.

Chris Moth, 2020 Overhill Dr

By: pswindle on 7/31/13 at 11:55

I can't remember when a Governor or Education Secretary has tried to destroy Nashville with their cocky ideas.

By: Libertine on 7/31/13 at 12:55

Secession for Nashville sounds like a great idea. Once complete the so-called "enclave of deeply Democratic Nashville" could expel any conservatives who tried to slip in clinging to their guns and religion. City Paper columnists could write the new Nashville Constitution to ensure there would never be a positive mention of religion, guns, self defense, right to work laws, or freedom of speech and thought. To help govern this new Utopia, the residents of the new Democratic State of Nashville could recruit legislators from Detroit, DC, Memphis, and Chicago to lead it into state of Urban enlightenment that those cities are experiencing.

Maybe in this new urbane oasis of Middle Tennessee the City Paper would be able to connect with its audience enough to attract some local advertising.........

By: i.am.a.taxpayer on 8/2/13 at 8:40

Nashville is out of step with the rest of the state because it is far ahead of most of the state. Even so, it is behind many progressive cities. At least it is still far more progressive than most of the state.