Weekly Obsession: Thank you Sen. Niceley, please adjust your tinfoil hat

Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 10:05pm

It’s encouraging that the silliest proposals coming out of the legislature are hacked off at the ankles before they ever get too far.

The end-run around the 17th Amendment proposed by Frank Niceley isn’t going anywhere. His notion that U.S. Senate candidates be selected by the two parties’ legislative caucuses was a masterful piece of concern trolling — he said it would prevent another Mark Clayton-esque debacle for the Democrats, a party that the Strawberry Plains Republican holds in high regard, surely. He also repeated the oft-parroted line that after the power to select senators was taken away from state legislatures, the federal government became less accountable to the states. The 17th Amendment, for what it’s worth, is exactly 100 years old this month and yet the Republic survives.

What Niceley’s proposal really was about wasn’t federalism or state’s rights — it was about ensuring the Right Type of Republican was ultimately elected by the people of Tennessee. After all, in our deep crimson state, the Republican nomination is tantamount to election.

The reddening of Tennessee hasn’t changed the Volunteer State’s propensity to select safe and soft moderates in statewide elections — not the fierce populist firebreathing True Believers like Niceley.

Two of those reviled moderates more or less ensured Niceley’s bill would die. The governor pulled out his velvet hammer and very nearly almost all-but-threatened to perhaps consider using a veto on the bill.

Meanwhile, Speaker Beth Harwell said she heard from Sen. Bob Corker, who expressed his displeasure from the bill.

Niceley and his fellow worshippers of the unfettered free market should love the way this bill died. Two men, acting in their own rational self-interest, brought to bear their influence, resulting in, ultimately, a greater good. The people of Tennessee will still be trusted to select nominees to represent them in the greatest deliberative body in the world.

Niceley noted that his proposal served its intended purpose — Corker and fellow senator Lamar Alexander started paying attention to the legislature. Whether or not it portends any substantive change in the relationship between the state and its elected officials in Washington remains to be seen.

If anything, Niceley’s bill was among the most subtle of the proposals in the General Assembly designed to realign the federal relationship.

Sen. Mae Beavers is the champion of most of these actions with her various delusional nullification proposals; her latest would create a large committee of lawmakers to study federal law to determine which federal laws Tennessee might overturn.

In the interest of preserving the precious time of the legislators and the tax dollars of Tennesseans, here’s an eligible list of those laws:


Thankfully, we haven’t gone so far as the lawmakers in our mother state to the east. North Carolina is considering a measure setting up an established church with the logic that the First Amendment prohibition against an establishment of religion applies only to the federal government and any court cases incorporating the establishment clause are void as it comes to the states because they were decided by federal courts.

A power struggle between the states and the federal government isn’t new, of course. It’s as old as the Republic itself, as is general suspicion of strong central government.

What’s new is that suspicion has grown into tinfoil conspiracy and crackpot constitutional theory. There isn’t reasoned debate. Instead there is fear-mongering and fuzzy logic fused into honest-to-God legislation that is treated seriously — if only for a time.

Perhaps Niceley was correct. It is a good thing that Corker and Alexander are paying attention to what the state legislature is up to. Maybe the latter will finally start acting like adults.

5 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 4/5/13 at 5:24

This bill would have applied to both parties in the selection process and not just
for the GOP. It's a trick that Mayor Bloomberg tried to put in place in NY but was
soundly defeated by 10 to 1 margin. This bill follows the upcoming State
Constitution vote on selecting Judges, which is another attempt at making the
Governor and Legislator the selector as to who is on the ballot versus the
voters having the ultimate say so. It's sad the ones we have voted into office
have no trust or respect for the very folks that put "them" into office.

By: pswindle on 4/6/13 at 9:19

With each day, the legislative and Haslam are slowly taking away our rights and the people of TN are letting them get away with it. Where O' Where have all of the democrats gone?

By: pswindle on 4/6/13 at 12:03

What happens to people when they get a little power? It looks like most of the Legislative Branch can't handle power. They go a little crazy, and their behavior is totally nuts.

By: Ask01 on 4/7/13 at 3:59

pswindle, the majority of Democratic politicians, I believe, are still licking their wounds from the debacle caused by then Governor Sundquist trying to introduce an income tax. While Sundquist was Republican, the primary backers were Democrats. The majority of Tennesseans opposed such legislation, and jumped parties.

Then, when President Obama was elected, the hidden racism emerged along with the white hoods and rednecks, driving the rest of the supposed Democrats into the Republican fold.

Just wait, though. I believe once the depths of Republican/Tea Party attacks on the working class sink in, and they suffer adequately, there will be another revolution and the Democrats will be swept back into power.

By: Badbob on 4/7/13 at 4:56

Consider 3 top subjects - universal background checks/assault rifles, women's rights and taxes, the Republicans are squarely contrary to the will of this country and Tennesseans.

Day by day, a few people come to the understanding that Fuex Noise are liars spreading fear and hate in the name of helping the richest 1% of this country. Some day this country will wake up from the self-induced ignorance of GW Bush and wonder what they heck we were thinking.