The State Legislature just passed a law written specifically to try to force Vanderbilt to do what the Legislature wants. Vanderbilt is the largest employer in Middle Tennessee. They have the best trauma unit in the area. And their Board of Trustees just met and declined to force the University to do what the Legislature wanted. It’s nickname has been, for as long as I’ve lived here, the 800-lb. gorilla. Oh, and did I mention that the Trustees read like a Who’s-Who of conservative moneyed types?
I have no doubt that the Republicans will remain in power for a while. But as of tonight, I now have deep doubts as to whether these Republicans will or if the fiscal conservative money will start flowing to challengers to the social conservatives.
This will be the fight to watch. Because we had just been talking picking on poor people and women. Now we’re talking about money and people who can’t even explain what their bills do trying to tell people with money what to do.
it’s a perfect storm of all of Tennessee’s terrible, albeit charming, weaknesses. We have conservative politicians who don’t trust universities because they think they’re full of godless hippies–failing completely to understand just how traditionally conservative a place like Vanderbilt is. You have smart, well-educated conservatives who will be appalled at the notion that people so stupid and hick-y would dare tell them what to do. You have people like Ron Ramsey who have a chip on their shoulder about schools “better” than the one he went to. And you have conservative business people who are now nervous that the state legislature might find all kinds of conduct of theirs worth… let’s not call it “legislating.” Let’s call it “advising them to get out of the pickle they’re in.”
That is a powder keg. And I’m not sure how it’s going to explode. Haslam hasn’t vetoed anything, but he’s never faced a bill that so clearly had implications for the types of people who fund re-election campaigns.
If he does veto it, that will tell us something.
If he doesn’t veto it, that will tell us something else.
Plus, I forgot to see what happened with the PAC legislation this afternoon, but if they’ve taken the limit off of donations, and then passed this legislation… oh, ho ho ho ho. I know it makes me a bad liberal, but I love the unlimited PACs. Look at what Gingrich and Santorum were able to do to Romney. And now imagine the walking-around money that the TNGOP just pissed off.
I could be wrong, but I think we’re about to see a social conservative/fiscal conservative civil war.
Also, I think this gives you a hint of how precarious Beth Harwell’s position is. This kind of anti-university vitriol splashes on her.