I’d love to start a national campaign where if an election is uncontested people write in “Groucho.” If Groucho wins the race must be run again with new candidateS.
We moved to Joelton, Tennessee in 1978, where we rented. Then Davidson County (Nashville) in 1980 when we bought our first house.
It was right after that I started to vote for Groucho Marx.
Honestly, it was a joke. There were more candidates running for uncontested relations, than not. My reasoning was, “Why bother?” So I would write in “Groucho Marx.”
Later both of us started working at our local poll station. I was asked, “We know you’re writing in Groucho. Why are you doing that?” Tongue so firmly planted in my cheek I replied, “You know all the good politicians do, right? Groucho can do that!”
Point being, why bother voting for anyone when no one runs against them? And how is that representative governance?
After the big “no surprise to us” expulsion of two black legislators, and a one vote close to almost kicking out one white woman, the two blacks became like Obi Wan. “Strike me down and…” the contempt on the faces of those who kicked them out when they returned was obvious.
Several announcers, while we watched the news story develop, commented that a lot of Tennessee ballots during election years have many uncontested races.
Tennessee has always had an oligarchical nature to some extent, going back to before the Civil War when plantation owners ruled, or after Reconstruction when they took back control in various ways. Some ran prisons and also captured former slaves, brought them before corrupt judges with bogus charges, and legally they could be slaves because they were in prison. Conditions made slavery seem kind.
When we moved to Tennessee it was explained to us how important tradition was. You don’t run against the guy or gal who has been there for years. Tradition assured not just them being elected, then reelected, but limited any alternate candidate getting anywhere, or even got on the ballot.
Tradition dominated everything, even our dining experience. We stopped getting recommendations when we moved because they would send us to the traditional establishment where the cornbread sucked, beans were overly cooked mush (even by southern standards), portions were mediocre and the waitress the kind you wished would tip YOU according to how bad the service was.
We stopped asking for recommendations from locals because their recommendations were the worst. Nothing survived the southern sense of, “This is the way we do it.”
Politically, when we got there, it was the same. “Tradition” was voting for the Democrat, except East Tennessee. Democrats were the ones most often running unopposed. Now it’s mostly Republicans. Since the party was more New Deal-ish nationwide, Tennessee Democrats learned not to rise above controversy’s surface, politically. That would be suicide, which it was eventually was as perceptions changed. Even LBJ’s “lose the South” claim had yet to sink in and sink voting tradition. And this was more than 10 years later.
Perceptions, even in Middle Tennessee among locals, tended to change ssslllllooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwllllyyyy.
”Tradition” because, dating back to pre-Civil War, Southern Democrats WERE the slave owners, were “tradition.” So our Democrats had learned to keep their head down, smile, and not pop up above the surface of controversy too much, if at all.
I swear some had developed gills.
Not so much scandal wise, anyone who knows about Bill Boner knows. The name was quite apt when it came to that kind of scandal. Millie and I kind of got to know him, working on his paid phonebank one election. His wife Betty was a marvelous person, didn’t deserve the shaming. Not that much has changed, considering the former mayor of Nashville: Megan Barry.
Why was voting Democrat THE tradition? Well, Tennessee was occupied practically before any other state. More than 100 years later resentment when we moved there it was obvious that resentment was STILL the tradition for some.
BTW, Davidson County is fairly progressive, over all. I’ve heard Memphis too. If this had happened in almost any other of the counties the two black pols would probably never have been reinstated.
I stopped voting Groucho quite a while ago. It was getting crazy and nasty, like a neighbor about 3 miles down the road who loved to put up huge bill boards threatening those who passed by with a shotgun if they came into his business wearing a mask. Irony being the guy who started the store died from… COVID. Listen now to some of his family and one would think his death was some deep state conspiracy.
There are some really great people in the state, and recently the has been more push back than we ever saw before. Wonderful to see tradition being shaken. May there be more.
But I still think Groucho really would have done a better job many times. And he’s dead.
“Inspection” is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 50 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions.
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