Five Divisions In The State Of Tennessee

I’m going to go back to a story that JR Lind wrote a few weeks ago about the election regarding the race in the 4th District. Of course, we know that Scott DeJarlais won, but I think there is some fantastic information for candidates running in rural areas in Tennessee.

Let’s fire up the time machine, shall we:

In the 4th, people count on traditional outlets — and in many places, small hyperlocal ones — for their news.

They get their TV news from stations in Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga, but they read papers from their own county seats.

If Stewart expects traction on this story, he has to hope those small-town papers run with it.

This is a sexy story. It’s one with a tea party congressman, a doctor, a figure from the young conservative onslaught of 2010, who encourages a woman — again, his patient — to have an out-of-state abortion. It should change the electoral dynamics.

But, to mangle another cliche, if a tree falls in a forest and it’s only covered online, does it even matter?

And let’s move back into the present where Steve Steffens writes a compelling piece this morning which looks at rural, urban and a state-wide initiative. He talk mainly about the state as a whole and building alliances, but he makes a very good point that there are still people that are looking for someone like Ned McWherter to save the day. I hate to tell you, campers, but   this is a new time. Governor Ned, as Steve said, isn’t going to walk through the door and we need to start looking at younger leadership. He was just what the state needed during his tenure. What we need now is new ideas, support for that ideology and building/maintaining alliances that will last. The issue also comes down to just because you did it one way 20 years ago doesn’t mean it is going to work today. That’s a reality.

There can be a relationship where established older leadership can work and pass the baton to newer leaders. Both components are equally important.

And I’ll stay on topic about rural development and politics.

Steffens writes:

Rural areas are hurting, and we can’t abandon them.  If anything, we need to help these folks and help them realize that while they have been voting GOP on culture, it is KILLING them economically.  I believe we can do this; if we can’t, then there is no hope for them OR their culture.  We cannot win on culture and we MUST find away not to play into culture.  As I said early, that worked for Ned because it was Ned; it ain’t working for anyone else.  West Tennessee outside Memphis and Jackson is DYING and we have to reverse this trend.

Areas in rural Tennessee aren’t necessarily dying and I think I would use the word financially reeling from decades of neglect, but when it comes to distribution of news and messaging, there is a profound isolation. How can you vote for state-wide issues and policy when televised news is coming out of state? When newspapers are behind subscription paywalls that are covering news from the capitol. And it’s not just patches of west Tennessee, it’s happening across Tennessee.

Mary left this comment earlier today here that deserves more attention from the northeast part of the state:

Speaking of E TN, Upper East TN is TOTALLY ignored. In 2000, though the Dems held the legislature in the state, when it was time to redistrict, Repubs up here whined until the Dems let them redistrict up here. The result was that Sullivan Co looks like swiss cheese with parts of one district in the middle of another, and district 1 running a narrow sliver from Bristol to west Kingsport. The Dem areas were split, and that’s how we lost Nathan Vaughn. This is important, because Ramsey, Mumpower (now a lobbyist),Lundberg, Shipley, are from this region. You might say this was a self-inflicted wound.
So, when there’s talk about the “3? divisions, there are actually 4. We just get ignored.

I told her in the comments and have written here before that I truly believe we have five divisions. West, Middle, East, Shelby County and Northeast Tennessee. I wrote this two years ago and I haven’t really changed my mind although I would tell you that a lot has happened in the past two years since that post.

These are just some observations that I honestly think are connected. What is really interesting is they are coming from all across the state of Tennessee.

4 comments for “Five Divisions In The State Of Tennessee

  1. November 8, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Thanks for keeping me in the loop, as always. Overall, your article encouraged me, because I think we’re going to have to tailor responses to change and reform with context in mind (rural/urban, diversity, natural resources, access to communications & logistics, etc.). The right tool for the job, so to speak.
    On a somewhat related note, excellent article here from The Atlantic on “local” U.S. politics and how redistricting/mapmaking is changing the rules of engagement. You’ve probably already seen it, and/or aware of the issues. Thought I’d throw it in, just in case…

  2. Brenda Ables
    November 8, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Part of the problem in district 4 is that people in the rural areas who don’t have access to cable TV have to rely on satellite TV which only gives access to Huntsville AL stations. They know more about AL elections than TN.

    • November 8, 2012 at 1:08 pm

      Brenda, you are absolutely right! It is happening all over the state! Should we compile places that are news deserts?

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