Urban/Rural RealignmentSome pundits who cover Tennessee politics have apparently taken to the notion that the Rural Republican Caucus was merely a stunt designed to put an end to the continual drawing-out of the Kent Williams saga. I do not think that to be the case, because I think Rep. Judd Matheny hit the nail on the head as to why many members of the Tennessee House of Representatives feel the need for a separate rural caucus:
Often on the biggest issues, it's not Democrat versus Republican," said Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma. "It's urban versus rural."
The axiom which Matheny cites is true in nearly every political environment and in every part of the country. I am personally convinced that the "red-blue" divide which still exists in this country is as much urban vs. rural as it is ideological. The split which caused the creation of the new legislative caucus-and that figures in nationally in our political climate-is also symptomatic of a deeper sense of economic and social dread.
As has been written in this space before, the last Depression began on the farm and in rural areas long before the markets tanked. Rural Tennessee was manifesting signs of a serious economic downturn in the present instance months, and even years before that situation began to be reflected in the collapse of banks and brokerage firms (such as Bear Stearns), and the tanking of the major stock and commodities markets. Now that the markets have deflated, the combined economic and social situation has given way to a larger sense that we collectively must fight to keep something of a passing old order:
[T]he economy isn't the only reason for our unease. There's more to it. People sense something slipping away, a world receding, not only an economic one but a world of old structures, old ways and assumptions. People don't talk about this much because it's too big, but I suspect more than a few see themselves, deep down, as "the designated mourner," from the title of the Wallace Shawn play.
If rural as well as urban elected officials both must preside over a state of affairs which they clandestinely believe to be nothing short of the unraveling of the natural social order of things, than rural members of the House need to do what they can to insure that the interests of the countryside and the people of small-town America are protected in the drastic changes that are taking place.
If Tennessee and the Union are now being run by a bunch of city people who know nothing of the folks in the middle (and certainly that is now the case with the federal government), elected people from rural areas can only represent their constituents effectively if they speak with one united voice.
Our country is undergoing the death throes of constitutional government as our forefathers understood it, and if we are to survive in this new era which we appear to be entering, there must be political realignments which are more reflective of the situations in which different segments of society now find themselves.