Friday, August 31, 2001


There are those, it turns out, more simon-pure than she is.

Posted By on Fri, Aug 31, 2001 at 4:00 AM

You may think that Marsha Blackburn, the arch-Republican state senator from posh Williamson County, the same Marsha whose Paul Revere-like emails from her legislative desk summoned up a host of angry protesters at the state Capitol in Nashville last July 12trh, can do no wrong with members of the anti-tax movement. Fahgitaboudit! Believe it or not, there is a group of politically active citizens so much further to the Right and so ideologically Simon-pure as to be capable of putting even Sen. Blackburn on the griddle. As witness Wednesday night, when Blackburn drove by herself all the way to Memphis at a friend’s invitation to address members of the Shelby County Libertarian Party at Pancho’s Restaurant at the Cloverleaf Shopping Center on Summer. Don’t misunderstand, she was the subject of much stroking and congratulations for her role in organizing the mass turnout at the Capitol last month, which critics maintain was a crude intimidation of the parliamentary process and which admirers contend was democracy in action. Blackburn didn’t quite get called “Joan of Arc” (local anti-NBA-Arena protester Heidi Schaefer, who was in attendance, got that honor), but Blackburn was called “heroine,” “ patriot,” all of that. She may not have been prepared, however, for two questioners who were starting from Ground Zero where she was concerned, cutting her no slack for reputation or previous service. One made it clear that, whatever else Sen. Blackburn may have done, she was still one ‘a them tax-drawing drones sitting up there in Nashville at the people’s expense.. Another questioner, dripping with skepticism, demanded to know if she would abide by the U.S. Constitution (as defined by himself, of course). She allowed as how she would. “Are you sure?” the man demanded. “We’re going to hold you to it!” The same man offered her a hoary catechism wrapped in a trick question. “Do we live in a democracy or a republic?” he demanded to know. Marsha answered quite sensibly, “A little bit of both,” thereby evading the semantic trap her questioner had set, ultimately for himself to fall into. Blackburn, it turns out, has an acute sense of the New Age politically and of her role in it. She is aware that the conventional strict-constructionist conservative may choose to insist that ours is a republic, but she knows full well that the mass callout which she helped organize on July 12th (a variant of which was hazarded here locally on Monday at a Shelby County Commission meeting considering a tax increase) was a democratic phenomenon, a throwback to the Power to the People and participatory-democracy models which today’s conservatives have inherited from yesterday’s leftists. (According to the strict-constructionist “republic” model, you see, the people’s elected deputies should have been left alone and untroubled on July 12th, to reflect at their leisure on the merits of income-tax legislation.) Blackburn said she was in no wise emulating Sen.Robert Rochelle, who is circuit-riding the state at his own expense to proselyte for tax reform (i.e., the income tax). “I just happened to get an invitation down for ths one event,” she said. As to her future political plans, the senator from Williamson County said she would have to wait for redistricting to determine whether she might contemplate a congressional run (she is just now in Democrat Bart Gordon‘s 6th Congressional district but could conceivably end up in the 7th District of Rep. Ed Bryant, who would dearly love to run for the Senate if senior Republican Fred Thompson doesn’t seek reelection. And “friends” have continued to sound her out about a gubernatorial race. (Evidently, just as she is judged less than pure by strict constructionists, so is GOP favorite Van Hilleary considered not quite ideal by some purists on the Right.) “I have learned to say, ‘Never Say Never,’” Blackburn said, “but, of course, it is getting somewhat late in the game.” Of two lodgemates among the legislature’s conservative contingent who had offered criticism of her actions last month, Blackburn was forgiving. “I think he’s a fine man who’s done many wonderful things,” she said of Sen. David Fowler (R-Signal Mountain), who said on the night of July 12th that Blackburn was “out of the loop” and had lost “all respect among the conservative, low-tax caucus.” She was equally kind toward Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville), who had said of Blackburn’s alarm-sounding emails, “She hollered fire in a crowded theater.” Norris was “a decent man” trying to do the right thing, Sen. Blackburn said.

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