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.