NASHVILLE -- January in Nashville ushers in two forces for chaos: erratic weather and irrational legislators. Both are hugely disruptive. Neither is surprising anymore.
But even erratic weather, sometimes careening between thunderstorms and snow in a single day, is easier to cope with than the GOP. Unlike human beings, weather isn't supposed to be rational.
Neither, it seems, are Republicans, at least not anymore, and a blue city that serves as the capital of a red state had better brace itself when the legislature arrives in town.
Last year, when Nashville's Metro Council voted not to support the state's bid for the city to host the 2024 Republican National Convention, retaliation was widely understood to be inevitable, according to Nashville's NPR affiliate, WPLN News.
Now we know what shape retaliation will take: Last week, on the first day of the new legislative session, Republicans in the Tennessee House and Senate introduced legislation that would cut our Metro Council in half. If passed, the law would overturn not only a 60-year history but also the will of the Nashville people, who voted in 2015 to keep their 40-member council intact.
The Metro Council is larger than the legislative branch of every other American city except Chicago and New York, cities that dwarf Nashville. There are good arguments for reducing its size, which is the result of compromises made in 1962 when residents of Davidson County voted to form a metropolitan government, but that's a different question. What matters here is that state lawmakers are once again interfering in the self-governance of the blue city that drives the economic engine of the entire red state. And they're doing it for absolutely no reason but spite.
There is, of course, a long history of legislative pre-emption in Tennessee. The tactic is also used by Democratic-controlled legislatures, but it is especially egregious in Southern states governed by Republican supermajorities. Just last week, another state lawmaker here introduced a bill that would bar local governments from helping residents fund out-of-state abortions -- a policy that members of Nashville's council have already proposed.
It's no surprise that the party of voter suppression and disenfranchisement is also the party of undermining local governance. But it's worse this year, or at least it feels worse this year, because this year Nashvillians can't count on representation at the national level, either.
The South used to be the land of the yellow dog Democrat -- someone who would vote a straight Democratic ticket even if the Democratic candidates were yellow dogs -- but those days are long gone. There are still legions of Democrats here, as well as a growing number of voters who are left of the mainstream Democratic Party, but they are clustered in college towns and growing cities like Nashville, where they live and work shoulder to shoulder with old-school conservatives and rabid Donald Trump supporters alike.
But thanks to a brutally gerrymandered election map, we didn't send a moderate Democrat, one who could reasonably represent the interests of both Nashville liberals and Nashville conservatives, to Washington this year. Instead, the newly mutilated Nashville is represented by three of the most militant right-wingers the state has ever elected.
Andy Ogles, for example, is the newly elected congressman from Tennessee's redrawn Fifth District, a seat held for two decades by Jim Cooper back when the seat still included all of Nashville. In Washington, Mr. Ogles immediately allied himself with the nihilist wing of the Republican Party, voting 11 times against Kevin McCarthy in the speakership contest. In Nashville, then, we have gone from being represented by a member of the Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats to being represented by a founding member of what might well be called the Dead Dog Caucus.
In dismembering Nashville to create three Republican voting districts, in other words, the Tennessee General Assembly managed only to nationalize its own brand of chaos. And maybe that was the whole point.
Mark E. Green, an ardent Trump supporter who represents Tennessee's Seventh District, which now includes parts of Nashville, is a vocal 2020 election denier. Mr. Green is one of 34 Republican members of Congress who exchanged text messages with Mr. Trump's White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows as the far-right flank of the party sought nominal justification to overturn the results of a free and fair election. Even after the Jan. 6 riot, Mr. Green voted not to certify the presidential election.
But wrecking American democracy is not enough for the Dead Dog Party. Last fall Mr. Green flew to Brazil to do the same thing in that much more fragile democracy. In a trip paid for by the American Conservative Union, he met with Brazilian lawmakers pushing to change election laws. The meeting's agenda was to discuss "voting integrity policies." We know what happened next: Thanks in part to one of Nashville's representatives in Congress, antidemocracy riots are now an American export.
Meanwhile, here at home, Mr. Green has just been named chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
The New York Times