The Faultline to Watch

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.

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9 thoughts on “The Faultline to Watch

  1. Well, I think the chance of any of these legislators’ children getting into Vandy just dropped significantly no matter what their academics or gift giving status. Ooops about your law, medical or divinity degree there dear.

  2. I keep thinking the GOP will split along the fiscal-social conservative fault lines. We’ve been saying this for years though. It was always obvious during the Bush years that the social conservatives were incredible patsies, allowing themselves to be used by their pencil-necked betters with the Ivy League degrees.

    Yeah, definitely worth watching.

  3. And it’s not just this issue. The guns in parking lots bills crawled all over the Chamber of Commerce, another bastion of fiscal conservativism.

  4. I saw that! Well, wow. But, like I said, who wants to piss off the kinds of people who donate to reelection campaigns?

  5. Pingback: Good News Friday | Southern Beale

  6. Do not cross the 800 lb. gorilla.
    Certainly, some people, maybe the majority in the graduate schools, at Vanderbilt are dyed-in-the-wool liberals, but the all-comers thing is about creating an inclusive environment so said gorilla can draw the very best from every field. Being in Nashville is not necessarily a draw for an academic institution as competitive as Vanderbilt, so it’s very important for it to be a modern ivory tower-island in the backward sea of Tennessee. You mess with that goal, you’re messing with their aspirations and their bottom dollar. Not a good thing.

  7. Oh yes: the All Comers policy, reinforced after the expulsion of gay students from a Christian [sic] fraternity, is indeed about competing with the big boys. As is the graduate-without-student-debt policy (for undergrads) and the several changes on the Med Center side to expand “diversity” to mean more than color and class. Zeppos wants his One Vanderbilt to be a nationally-recognized force: have you seen the ads in the NY Times?

    I personally bleed black and gold, and when I first heard of this legislation I was pissed…but also very intrigued. The lege’s do NOT want to piss off that set of checkbooks.

  8. GreennotGreen, I think your analysis is exactly right. Not to mention the Med Center side. The thing I’m wondering about now–and I’ll have my eye on the Chamber of Commerce (though I wouldn’t be surprised if this happens at a more off-the-grid level than the Chamber)–is whether certain big employers in the state will start to more directly lobby politicians about social issue bills, for the very reasons you hit on.

    At some point, all this anti-Muslim, anti-science, anti-women stuff makes potential employees and students and doctors start considering other offers.

    I wonder if employers who want to have a national and international presence are going to start more directly saying “nope, this isn’t going to fly and our money will fight against it.”?

    Emmy Lou, I know. It’s like watching a bear swat a hornet’s nest. That never goes well for the bear.

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