There is a general recognition that the transition of Tennessee from a state whose politics were long balanced between Democrats and Republicans into yet another Southern Republican monolith dates from 2008. That was the year when a once obscure state senator from Illinois named Barack Obama completed a zenith-like rise to power, which took him through a brief U.S. Senate career into the presidency in the space of a very few years.
That was the year, too, when the state's established network of Democratic activists and officials had largely coalesced around the rival presidential candidacy of former First Lady and then-Senator Hillary Clinton. Though she came out ahead in Tennessee on the "Super Tuesday" primary of 2008, her loss to Obama in the final analysis may have led directly to the unraveling of the Tennessee Democratic Party, which proceeded with geometric speed, beginning with Obama's disinclination to campaign seriously in Tennessee and continuing with the rapid attrition of Democratic officials in every subsequent statewide election.
It remains to be seen whether any help for Democrats is to be had from this year's version of "Super Tuesday," coming in March, and featuring in the Democratic primary both Hillary Clinton and what could well be a viable effort from the latest upstart from the grass roots, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. We welcome their effort, in any case, and hope whichever of them becomes their party's nominee will not forsake Tennessee in the 2016 general election.
Meanwhile, the Republican primary will be attracting its share of statewide attention with several GOP candidates likely to put in appearances in our neck of the woods between now and March. All in all, the idea of a two-party system, dormant in these parts for some time, will be at least temporarily alive and well in Tennessee, and we welcome that, too — even if it just turns out to be an interlude.
We are long past the time when the wives of prominent men were identified by the public (and even by themselves) via the prefix "Mrs." followed by the husband's name. That tradition, once commonplace, disappeared decades ago with the acceptance (still ongoing) of gender equality and with recognition of the obvious —and increasing — reality that women have distinguished lives and careers of their own.
Frances Hooks, who passed away last week, was a perfect bridge between the former and current ways of perceiving spousal identities. There was never any doubt that she was a continuing and invaluable pillar of support for her late husband, Dr. Benjamin Hooks, during his own meritorious lifetime as minister, lawyer, judge, federal commissioner, and NAACP national director. But she was, both during and after her husband's lifetime, prominent in her own right as an educator, guidance counselor, church and civil rights leader, and original member of the Women's Foundation for a Greater Memphis.
Beyond all that, Frances Hooks was a paragon of graciousness and a source of constant joy, encouragement, and a relief from the daily rough-and-tumble of life to all who knew her. May she rest in peace.