The last Democrat to win a statewide race in Tennessee might be reconsidering his political future.
Former Gov. Phil Bredesen recently told the Associated Press he may run for Bob Corker’s Senate seat in the 2018 midterm elections. (Corker has chosen to retire rather than run for a third term.) Here’s what I said last month, when I thought a Bredesen run would be too little, too late:
I’ll admit, this one’s a bit of a stretch. Bredesen is 73 years old. Like Bill Haslam, he was a two-term governor, serving from 2003 to 2011. Like [Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville], he’s a moderate Democrat. Bredesen was also mayor of Nashville from 1991 to 1999, prior to becoming governor. He is known for bringing the Tennessee Titans and Nashville Predators to town, and is an avid hunter, which could have potentially aided a senatorial run.
CNN’s Chris Cillizza thinks Bredesen would have a good shot at winning the seat, but I’m doubtful of any Democrat’s chances in the state’s current political climate.
Since then, I’ve changed my mind. Phil Bredesen is clearly the best possible candidate for Democrats seeking to win a Senate seat in the Republican bastion of Tennessee.
However, skeptics have a strong case in arguing Bredesen would be 76 years old by the time he assumed office. Like potential 2020 presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, age does not play in his favor.
Fifteen senators will be older than Bredesen at the time he would be sworn into office. One of them is Tennessee’s former two-term governor and current senior senator, Republican Lamar Alexander, whose seat is on the ballot in 2020.
Age is a pressing concern for at least four senators up for re-election in 2018. Some have implored Sens. Diane Feinstein, Orrin Hatch, Bernie Sanders and Bill Nelson, who are 84, 83, 76 and 75, respectively, to consider stepping down after their current terms expire. It is worth noting in both California (Feinstein) and Utah (Hatch), public opinion suggests both incumbents should retire to clear the field for younger candidates with more political momentum.
Feinstein has been in office for almost 25 years, and Hatch for more than 40. Such tenure is not to be taken lightly. While Bredesen would match them in age, he lacks the same depth of senatorial experience. A vote for him could be a vote for a one-term senator.
Sometimes the best option is indeed to install a fresh face at the dawn of a long career. But not always.
Could Bredesen serve longer than six years? It may be short-sighted to make this argument, but I honestly don’t care. We need as many people to protect us against the current administration in Washington as possible. Republicans, for the most part, refuse to stand up to the president, so getting a Democratic majority in Congress is the only reasonable way to contain Donald Trump’s frightening impulsivity — as well as his more traditionally conservative actions.
Even if Trump seems more comfortable than expected working with Democrats on at least some issues, such dealmaking is a minor consolation for liberal lions distraught from last year’s election. Republican majorities will continue to push for repeal of the Affordable Care Act and sweeping tax cuts for the rich — policies unpopular with a clear majority of the country. A Democratic Congress would be, well, more democratic.
Bredesen could very well be a one-term senator. Considering he may be the best chance Democrats have of turning a deep-red seat blue, it’s still worth it.
While Bredesen may have local name-brand recognition working in his favor, his lack of political activity since he left the Tennessee Residence might hurt his chances. However, he may be the most prominent Democrat on hand. Aside from Bredesen, the most well-known Tennessean Democrat is likely Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, but his popularity is contained to one region of the state. Who else is in the running on the Democratic side? Apparently, a random man who was robbed at gunpoint and spoke about it with the mayor of Nashville.
Even Bredesen himself has some reservations about running for office once more:
A lot of people have called me and said, “You need to think about this.” It’s not something I ever contemplated doing, but I’m concerned about where the country is going. Maybe there’s a role for me to play, maybe not. I will decide in the next few weeks. I’m very aware that a lot of my friends who were governors went to the Senate and are unhappy with that decision. That weighs on me a bit.
He is right to feel the way he does. There is a lot going against him, and every point of criticism I’ve discussed is valid. I still think he’s the best we’ve got and I sincerely hope he mans up and runs like hell for the seat. Tennesseans need an option to vote for a candidate willing to be his own person. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican running for Corker’s seat, has already made it clear she won’t. She would be a dangerous force in the Senate. What’s more, she’s likely to win.
According to a bombshell “60 Minutes” and Washington Post investigation, Blackburn co-sponsored a bipartisan bill that hampered the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to fight the opioid crisis — even though she hails from a constituency deep in its thrall.
Blackburn explained the bill as ensuring that “patients had access to the pain medication they needed.” Seems great, right? Well, not exactly. The bill also made it difficult for the government to keep an eye on drug distributors, causing the entire situation to go out of control. Now people who actually need these medications have to deal with stricter laws made to control distributors. For some, it makes life impossible to live. Blackburn also received $160,000 from big pharma, which was essentially her reward for the deal.
Just like her compadre, President Trump, Rep. Blackburn said nothing was her fault, trying to divert blame to former President Barack Obama. In response to the story, her campaign released the following statement:
Congressman Blackburn has a long history of working to combat the epidemic of opioid abuse, which has taken too many precious lives. She believes that Congress should continue its work to address the issue and conduct oversight. If there are unintended consequences from this bipartisan legislation — which was passed unanimously by the House, Senate and was signed into law by President Obama — they should be addressed immediately.
Don’t be fooled; Blackburn regrets nothing. She got her cut, and wouldn’t dare bite the hand that feeds. All this shows is that, for the right price, Blackburn can be bought.
Bredesen, on the other hand, actually fought to combat methamphetamine abuse during his executive tenure. He’s probably open to fighting opioid abuse, as well. If he helped pass such legislation, he’d reverse at least one of Blackburn’s many costly errors.
Help us, Phil Bredesen. You’re our only hope. You may not be the perfect candidate, but you are leagues ahead of anyone else Tennessee has to offer. Don’t let your legacy end with your service as governor. Let it continue by choosing to serve Tennesseans, and all Americans, in the United States Senate. No one else could possibly beat Marsha Blackburn, but you. ■