I write this having just returned from the final debate between Governor Bredesen and Congressman Marsha Blackburn, our two Tennessee candidates for Senator locked in a race that recently was too close to call. But in the past weeks, yet another storm of political tribalism erupted in Washington D.C. when then Judge Kavanaugh was faced with allegations of sexual assault which he emphatically denied.
Suddenly, many senators were forced to proclaim their allegiance to one side or the other; they had to stand with her or back him. For many, this was clearly a tough decision to make. Senator Flake and Senator Collins were good examples of this as they tried to save face with constituents.
But I never expected that this would be a difficult decision for Phil Bredesen, and I am dismayed at the stance he finally took.
Sure, Bredesen’s stance to back Kavanaugh was borne out of political calculation. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court scandal, what has been called the “Brett bounce” has caused a surge in Republican political activity, and Bredesen has fallen behind in the race by eight points, according to a recent CBS poll.
Bredesen knew he needed more conservative votes, so he decided to take the risk of alienating his more left leaning supporters. This would reaffirm his stance as a moderate and increase his overall chances of winning. It was a gamble, and Bredesen took it.
There is just one glaring problem with this decision. Sexual assault is not a moderate issue. Even mere allegations of sexual assault, unproven or not, against any candidate for any office of power in Washington DC, is a serious development. To fall in line with Republicans by stating that the allegations “didn't rise to the level of you would disqualify somebody from the Supreme Court” is a worrying response to this situation.
Furthermore, it seems quite hard to rationalize just how beneficial it was to take this stance. It certainly was no help for Bredesen today under the hot lights of the Baker Center. The Kavanaugh questions segment was easily Bredesen’s weakest part of the debate, with many of his answers failing to be definitive. Marsha Blackburn, though her answers were characteristically undiplomatic and vitriolic, were far more definitive by comparison and stayed on message during this section. The Kavanaugh section remained a stumbling block for Bredesen until its conclusion. It was clear to see that this has been a very expensive concession to make for the sake of short-term political gain, and I sincerely doubt it was worth it. Whether it gleans any Republican votes remains to be seen.
To conclude, I still support Bredesen for Senate. I hope that together we can overcome this partisan tribalism to imagine a Tennessee that does better for all Tennesseans.
P.S. please go out and vote. Early voting begins October 17!
Mateos Hayes can be reached at email@example.com.
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