Is there hope for the Tennessee Republican Party? It's fairly well established that the party's establishmentarians are waging war with Tea Party insurgents for control of what, in the wake of the Civil War more than a century ago, was
once called the "Grand Old Party."
These days the adjective "grand" would surely occur only to the most rabid of
Republican partisans as a self-description.
The Republican congressional wing has long since settled into a mode of obstructionism that would cause such leading Republicans of yore as Theodore Roosevelt and Robert La Follete to roll over in their graves — and they may have done so, a plausible explanation of earthquakes and weather disturbances for those party Neanderthals who decline to accept the evidence for climate change.
In any case, the past weekend here in Tennessee witnessed the revival — however tentative — of what seemed to be actual bipartisan sentiment among Republican spokespersons. The occasion was the visit to Tennessee of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who stopped off in Memphis on Friday to boost the reelection prospects of Senator Lamar Alexander, before heading off to Nashville as the featured speaker of the state Republicans' annual "Statesmen's Dinner."
It's not just what Christie said — which was interesting enough — but what some of his red-state Tennessee hosts said in the shadow of the blue-state Republican governor's still substantial presence.
Here is Alexander attempting to characterize his home-state party: "We've kept an open door, tolerated differences of opinion, and listened to everybody." If "huh?" was the only appropriate response to that bit of wishful thinking, here's how the senator described Christie: "He's proud to be a Republican, but he also is a good enough governor to earn the respect and support and votes of independents, Democrats, and Republicans, just as our candidates do in Tennessee." (They do?)
All that, however, was a warm-up for Christie himself, who endorsed Alexander against Tea Party challenger Joe Carr thusly: "I want to stand next to people like Lamar Alexander as often as I can, to remind Republicans, independents, and Democrats that the problems in our country are not partisan problems, they're American problems, and we need to come together as a country to fix them. And we're not going to do it by continuing to have the kind of divisive activity you see by some folks in both parties in Washington, D.C. The good news for Tennessee is, all of you are smart enough not to send anybody like that to the United States Senate. And let's not start getting dumb like that now, okay? We don't need to do that. Let's stay smart, and Senator Alexander is somebody who brings people together."
Lest anyone miss Christie's drift, he said more of the same in Nashville. Apropos the process of governing, for example: "I don't know when compromise became capitulation. I don't know when it became wrong to talk to the people on the other side of the aisle and become their friends."
We're not credulous, but we like the sound of that paean to bipartisanship. Can they keep it up?