I met Marsha Blackburn about 16 years ago when I was in Nashville on business around 2002, when she was running for a U.S. House seat after six years in the Tennessee Senate.
She won that race and has been on the rise ever since. Now she’s the Republican nominee for an open Senate seat and, Tennessee being the red state that it is, her chances of getting it are good except that she’s running against a very likable former governor.
All sorts of folks are watching this race. Some of the coverage frames this conservative candidate in very predictable ways.
The New York Times also did a piece on her recently but the focus was an odd one. The article was more on what she was not saying than on what she was.
KINGSPORT, Tenn. — Inside the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce one morning last month, a few dozen voters sipped coffee and listened for 45 minutes to Representative Marsha Blackburn tick off all the reasons that this traditionally Republican stronghold in northeastern Tennessee should support her in one of the most high-stakes Senate races this year.
She praised President Trump. She warned of an invasion of liberal policies and a Democratic takeover of committees if Republicans lose the Senate. She stressed securing the border, fighting MS-13 and lowering taxes. She highlighted her work as a Republican House member to “get government off your back.”
But one issue was entirely absent — the one that had made Ms. Blackburn famous in Washington, and infamous in Democratic circles: abortion.
We learn that she’s more into state issues these days; no great surprise in that she’s running statewide. Then we see why the Times is interested in her.
It’s a noticeable shift for a politician who three years ago took an incendiary turn in the nation’s culture wars. Amid a divisive battle over the funding of Planned Parenthood, Ms. Blackburn led a congressional committee investigating allegations that the group had tried to illegally profit from the sale of fetal tissue, which the organization denied. Ms. Blackburn fanned the flames by making the audacious charge that the group was selling “baby body parts on demand.”
It was a particularly ugly chapter in a bitter national debate…The episode gained national attention and cemented Ms. Blackburn’s reputation as a hard-right firebrand.
Let’s see: “Incendiary,” “divisive,” “ugly chapter,” “fanned the flames,” “audacious,” “hard-right firebrand.” I see where this is going.
So, Blackburn is a cultural conservative (religion angle alert) who is going to light fires? So the news, right now, is that she is trying to tone things down a bit.
Playing down abortion issues has advantages and disadvantages for Ms. Blackburn, political experts say. It blunts her most extremist edge, which could help her in a general election against a centrist opponent. But it also removes a signature issue from her arsenal, in a Bible Belt state, and some G.O.P. strategists said it would be surprising if she ultimately does not try to capitalize on it.
This is a story? Speaking of the Bible Belt, is there any mention of Blackburn’s faith? She’s a member of Christ Presbyterian in Nashville, a church affiliated with the conservative Presbyterian Church of America.
Anyway, as the article points out below, Tennessee is a state where even the Democrats are conservative.
More than half of Tennesseans believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, according to the Pew Research Center. Republicans and Democrats oppose legalized abortion in Tennessee in roughly equal numbers … (but) The abortion issue does not resonate as a top political priority for some prominent traditionally Republican donors.
Thomas Cigarran, a principal owner of the Nashville Predators hockey team, has previously donated to Republicans, including Mr. Corker and Mitt Romney, but he will host a fund-raiser for Mr. Bredesen at his home later this month. He said he and other Republicans are looking for a pragmatic and bipartisan leader, not an ideologue.
So Blackburn is a far-right extremist whereas Bredesen is the reasonable, amiable middle. I know that Blackburn (understandably) refused comment for this article, but couldn’t one of her allies been interviewed as a voice speaking up for Blackburn? This article is arranged to make a clear case for one person’s unsuitability for the job.
The article is one more example of Kellerism, a term created by tmatt several years ago (based on statements by a former top Times editor) to portray an attitude among many pros in the MSM. In this case, abortion rights — or at least a moderate view thereof — is the prevailing narrative and other points of view don’t deserve space or explaining. Why do fair coverage of dangerous people who are wrong?
The bottom line: Blackburn has won seven times in the Volunteer State. She also opposes Planned Parenthood whenever possible and that is going to going to make her some enemies.
One of them is Facebook, after she took on its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, in a Senate hearing for censoring conservative and religious speech. She took on Twitter last fall after it blocked one of her campaign ads.
I’m looking for a thoughtful profile of this woman that gets behind the rhetoric to find out whether she really is a Stone Age throwback or a rather typical Tennessean. She was the first Tennessee woman elected to the House who didn’t have to get there via a husband’s coattails. It’s true her district is conservative, but the Nashville suburbs aren’t exactly neo-Nazi territory.
But like the abortion card, neither candidate seems to be pulling the religion card either. Bredesen is also Presbyterian but he has been seen attending Mass with his Catholic wife.
This is going to be an interesting race, no doubt, as you have a centrist and a conservative running for one of Tennessee’s seats. One candidate holds positions that are anathema to the Times editorial pages, so it would seem fair — maybe even professional — to work harder to be fair toward her. This article failed at that job.