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Capitol View commentary: Friday, January 21, 2022

Capitol View
Posted at 11:59 AM, Jan 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-21 12:59:42-05


By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL 5 Political Analyst

January 21, 2022



This week marks the one- year anniversary in office for President Joe Biden.

For the candidate who got the most votes ever to be President, how and why have things gone so wrong so quickly?

What can he and his administration do, if anything, to turn things around with the 2022 mid- term elections now ahead?

What new and continuing challenges, foreign and domestic lie ahead?

Are Republicans likely to retake both the House and Senate? What role and impact, good and bad, will the continuing presence of former President Donald Trump play?

Our guest on INSIDE POLITICS this week, to provide insights and answers those questions, and others, is one of our favorite guests, Dr. Thomas Schwartz, Political Science professor at Vanderbilt University.

We thank Dr. Schwartz for joining us again.

INSIDE POLITICS airs several times each weekend on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Those times include:

7:00 p.m. Friday.

5:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.

1:30 a.m. & 5:00 a.m. on Sunday.

THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 182 and on NEWSCHANNEL5’s over-the-air digital channel 5.2. We are also on DISH TV with the rest of the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK.

One option for those who cannot see the show locally or who are out of town, you can watch it live with streaming video on Just use your TiVo or DVR, if those live times don't work for you

This week’s show and previous INSIDE POLITICS interviews are also posted on the NEWSCHANNEL5 website for your viewing under the NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS section. A link to the show is posted as well on the Facebook page of NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Each new show and link are posted early in the week after the program airs.

Finally, I am now posting a link to the show each week on my own Facebook page, usually on the Monday or Tuesday after the show airs.


With the pandemic still raging, it remains the variants versus the vaccines as to whether the future will see COVID-19 move into an endemic stage.

That’s when the virus is like the annual flu (still deadly, but manageable) if we greatly increase vaccination levels around the world along with continued testing and more antiviral therapies.

If we don’t do that, COVID-19 will continue to have lots of opportunities to continue to mutate leaving us uncertain if one of them might undermine our vaccine protections.

The latest variant, the highly contagious omicron is reported to be peaking in some areas, although nationally, that may not be true say some health experts who add the next few weeks will be difficult.

Closer to home, health officials say they see signs that a plateau in the virus is coming in Tennessee , although more new cases, hospitalizations and, unfortunately, deaths will continue.

Because of the increased use of home testing for the virus, government health officials admit they no longer have the most accurate figures about the spread of COVID-19, and therefore it may linger here in the state longer than in other places because of our still low vaccination rate.

Meanwhile the number of new COVID-19 cases in Tennessee is now high enough in ALL 95 Tennessee counties, that even under the much more relaxed covid protocols approved by Republican lawmakers late last year, a mask mandate could be imposed if desired on a county by county basis.

But that won’t happen because Governor Bill Lee, who long ago checked out of providing any leadership in this matter, has declined to sign and issue the emergency order required to allow the mask mandates to be reinstated.

All this is occurring while the health system is at its weakest point ever during the pandemic, beyond being burned out and increasingly short staffed. It also appears lots of students , teachers and staff came back from the holidays with the virus, with case numbers in Metro Nashville schools the highest yet.

Wilson County schools is facing a similar problem, while in Jackson over in West Tennessee, some schools are being temporarily closed or going to remote learning.

New state law makes it more difficult to close or go to remote classes, so the recent rash of cold snowy weather that is shutting down schools due to cold temperatures and bad road conditions, may also be helping to slow down the virus spread. A lack of adequate staffing due to illness and covid burn out may also be a factor with dozens of districts in Middle Tennessee closing schools due to the challenge.

In fact nationwide, due to the omicron virus surge, what is being called “The Great American Sick Out” is now impacting over 9 million Americans, a figure that is triple what it was just a month ago.

At the same time, some of the health and education “geniuses” in the Tennessee General Assembly see a new opportunity to institute a backdoor voucher system in counties which don’t meet the state requirement of 180 days of in person instruction each academic year. Such a bill is moving in the State Senate.

The Senate next week also seems poised to oust one of its members, who was recently convicted on felony charges.Memphis Senator Katrina Robinson was found guilty of two counts of wire fraud. She claims she is innocent and has declined calls that she resign.


State lawmakers are moving quickly towards final approval of its once a decade duty to redraw its districts and those of our congressional representatives in line with the 2020 census.

After claiming to be conducting the most open and transparent process ever to redistrict, the Republican Super Majority has put the lie to that by failing to hold a public hearing or even seek public comment on the final plan now up to approval.

The GOP already knew what it wanted and has all along, especially in terms of redrawing the state’s nine congressional districts. The most controversial part of that is dismembering Nashville’s long Democratic 5th District into three, each with a majority Republican voting population. The ruse to support this is that it will give Nashville more voices in Washington. But that is highly unlikely pairing the city with overwhelmingly rural counties, spread out all over Middle Tennessee, whose residents have little in common with their fellow Davidson County Tennesseans except being listed together occasionally in severe storm warnings.

Black and brown voters may be particularly unhappy as the GOP gerrymandered districts will significantly cut their percentage of voters down from nearly 25% into the teens and near single digits across the three new districts.

In decades past, such radical changes in the racial makeup of congressional districts could be grounds for a successful challenge in the courts. But recent rulings by a increasingly more conservative U.S. Supreme Court make that much less likely. I think state Democrats will file suit regardless, and they may take some hope from a ruling in recent days by the Ohio Supreme Court although there are apparently other reasons why the challenge was successful there.

Regardless, the Tennessee Senate approved the new redistricting plan on Thursday and the House is expected to follow suit as soon as Monday, even as some other GOP dominated states have refrained from such a radical redraw, fearing an overreach and a voter backlash in the future.

Now there may be a change in Republican congressional redistricting tactics in some states. The Tennessee Democratic Party has been so weak and ineffective in winning elections state or district wide I can see why GOP state legislative leaders are willing the future risk.

Bottom line, the Tennessee GOP wants to maximize its already overwhelming political power in the state and continue the long tradition followed by both parties to have lawmakers pick their own voters rather than the other way around, which by the way, is how democracies are supposed to work.

Meanwhile, with the new lines all but approved, current and potential congressional candidates are assessing their chances.


In some contrast the Nashville Metro Council this week approved, without dissent, a redistricting plan for its 35 district Council seats and 9 positions on the Metro School Board.

After two approvals by the Council without debate, before the final vote, some members expressed unhappiness with how their districts are changed. But since the city’s charter prohibits the Council from amending the plan as submitted by the Metro Planning Commission, sending it to a voter referendum (perhaps with the Council’s own plan) if the plan is rejected, there was no move in that direction.

That is likely because the city’s Planning staff worked with councilmembers through three drafts of the plan before submitting the final recommendations. Council members praised the Planning staff for listening and addressing many, if not all, their concerns. Public meetings were also held to gather reactions and suggestion. Given the highly political nature of the matter, there is no perfect way to do a redistricting process. But Nashville’s sure seems a lot better than the highly partisan process at the state level.


One of core services of Metro government for its citizens in the Urban Services is picking up the garbage every week and the recyclables every month.

But Metro has been struggling for several years to get the trash picked on time largely due to its outside contractor which has gone into bankruptcy further complicating matters. Metro has also not kept its fleet of trash collection equipment up to date and when the pandemic has like everyone else struggled to be adequately staffed.

It came together in a perfect storm just before Christmas. That’s when the city announced it was suspending recycling collections to make sure it had what it needed to at least pick up the garbage. Nothing like the ripe smell of uncollected refuse to irritate unhappy taxpayers about not getting their tax money’s worth of important city services.

Of course, the timing was still not good. The holiday season generates more recycling materials than maybe any other time of the year (think wrapping paper and boxes, in particular). The fear was much of those potential recyclables would wind up in the trash further straining collection efforts.

That may have happened but efforts by city officials and some Metro councilmen to conduct and promote pop up sites in some areas helped.

Tuesday Mayor John Cooper said the situation has now improved enough to restore monthly recycling collections by February 1. He also indicated Metro plans to offer twice a month recycling collections within a few months.

I wondered what had happened to that service expansion which I remembered had been funded in the budget last June by the Council at Mayor Cooper’s recommendation. But all summer and into the fall, whenever I asked when twice a week- collections might commence I couldn’t get an answer. Obviously, the overall situation was so bad, increasing a service that ultimately had to be ended temporarily would have been even more disastrous politically.

While recycling is popular overall, the level of public participation in the recycling program has always been lower than hoped. But those who do participate tend to be the types who are more active in the community and therefore more likely to vote.

Suspending a service like recycling therefore is so fraught with ongoing political consequences, the sooner this matter is resolved, and service restored, the better it will be for Mayor Cooper and the Metro councilmembers seeking re-election next year.


The end of the year is when we normally look back to recall the important people in our community who have passed away.

But already, in just the first three weeks of January 2022, Nashville has seen a legendary trio of important figures who have left us. Two are long time outstanding jurists in Barbara Haynes and Gil Merritt. The other is Ralph Emery, the radio and television broadcaster who was essential in building the profile and popularity of one of our city’s most important industries, country music.

I did not know Emery or Judge Merritt well. I did appear on Mr. Emery’s morning TV show on Channel 4 in the mid to late 1990s. But I did so to analyze the results of political races, so we didn’t do much more than say hello. Growing up in Nashville I was well aware and in awe of Ralph Emery’s legendary reputation as a disc jockey and interviewer with WSM and later on the Nashville Network. When you rate an obituary in the NEW YORK TIMES when you pass away, especially being compared to rock and roll’s Dick Clark that says it all.

As for Judge Merritt, we had many mutual friends and attended several of the same events, but I never got to know him. Maybe being the longest serving justice in history on the U.S. Court of Appeals up in Cincinnati had something to do with that. I do recall, not long before he went on the bench, covering a news conference he held as a candidate for Congress back in 1975. The race was to replace newly elected Mayor Richard Fulton. The race did not end successfully for Judge Merritt. But looking back, nobody could have beaten Clifford Allen who rode a wave of voter unhappiness with rising inflation especially utility bills, to capture the seat.

Judge Barbara Haynes was someone I did know very well and count as a dear friend. Her obituary so reflects who she was. I smiled to myself about the aptness of how she is described as “a Judge, an instigator, a mentor and a change maker.” In some many ways, she was all of that and more.

For years Judge Haynes and I talked politics over the phone. Before each election we would meet for breakfast at the old Shoney’s restaurant near what is now Nissan Stadium. Her wisdom and insights about politics and people were always spot on and helpful.

Judge Haynes was also helpful to me in a legal matter. A client had refused to pay his bill and the matter went to court. I had worked with this client and I was there to represent my employer. One by one almost every judge in the courthouse recused themselves from the case, largely it seemed because they knew me. Judge Haynes did know me, but she took the case and help negotiate a settlement.

But what I will remember most about Judge Haynes was how kind she was to me after my stroke in 2012. Every week, a large brown package came by mail to my home. It was filled editorial cartoons, jokes, inspirational stories that took some time to assimilate and send. This went on for several years. I thanked her whenever I saw her and pass those same sentiments to her husband State Senator Joe Haynes when I saw her. I learned I was far from the only one who received such “care packages” from Judge Haynes.

That is the kind of person she was. May she, and all those who have passed, rest in peace.

One last note, I am sure her reunion with Senator Haynes in heaven is a joyous one. I can only imagine what Judge Haynes is already “instigating” up in there in the hereafter.

Even as finish this column, Jayme Coleman Williams, an influential Nashville African American educator, church leader and civil rights activist has died in Atlanta at age 103. I worked with Jayme on the Nashville Board of the former National Conference of Christians and Jews (NCCJ). She came to see me when she was board president in late 1990s to tell me I would be receiving the group’s annual Humanitarian Award. It is a high honor I have been trying to live up ever since, knowing I will never achieve what she and her husband, the late McDonald Williams accomplished during their time in service to this community. RIP, Jayme.