Opinion » Editorial

Tennessee’s Senatorial “Moderates”

Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander may be the best progressives can hope for in today’s political climate.

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We have had our differences with Tennessee's junior U.S. Senator, Bob Corker — particularly over his repeated interventions against the United Auto Workers during the UAW's campaign last year to represent workers at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant. We understood that Corker had been instrumental in attracting the plant to his hometown and that, like numerous other Tennessee figures in both parties, past and present, he had a commitment to the state's Right to Work law, which allows workers to remain independent of union membership.

In conducting his own high-volume campaign against the UAW, Corker interfered too directly and too insistently with the union-representation election, we thought, and we said so in no uncertain terms. We were also concerned that Corker's over-zealous effort — supported by other Republican officeholders including Governor Bill Haslam — would contravene Volkswagen's stated international policy of making management decisions in tandem with "workers' councils."

In any case, the plant's workers were induced to reject the UAW bid. By now, the matter has receded into our rear-view mirror, especially in view of the fact that the UAW has since been permitted to maintain a presence at the VW plant and to lobby there for eventual recognition.

So we can revert to what had been, by and large, our admiration for Corker's studied attempts to maintain independent views on most matters and to swim against the tide of partisan polarization in Congress, maintaining good communications with the White House and with congressional Democrats.

We are never going to agree 100 percent with either Corker or his GOP Senate colleague, Lamar Alexander, but — even though neither would admit to being covered by the term — both can be considered "moderates" on today's badly skewed political spectrum, as can Haslam, for that matter. Political realities being what they are in red-state Tennessee, they may be the best we can hope for.

We congratulate Corker on taking over the reins of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as we have previously congratulated Alexander on his chairmanship of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Both can provide useful service — and balance to some of the more extreme views in their now-predominant party. In particular, we trust that Corker's counsel on the ever-mounting specter of ISIS and other Middle East issues will be seasoned with the same careful judgment that caused him, correctly, to advise disengagement from full-scale war in Afghanistan and, in particular, from the corrupt regime of Hamid Karzai.

John Jay Hooker

We learned this week that another distinguished Tennessean — John Jay Hooker, former gubernatorial candidate, friend of the Kennedys, orator, and tireless campaigner for unpopular issues — has terminal cancer and will be focusing his formidable mind and will on lobbying for legislation in Nashville to allow individuals the right to voluntary termination of life. We don't necessarily agree with that position, but we admire the courage and invincible determination of Hooker, who once gratified our editorial staff with an extended visit that showed off his good will and his formidable persuasive qualities. We wish him well.

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