Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s imperious declaration on Twitter that she intended to “grill” Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was met by a collective roll of the eyes in the Twitterverse. The idea that Blackburn, who holds a bachelor’s degree in home economics from Mississippi State and has only occasionally risen to the standards of mediocrity throughout her political career, somehow qualifies as an intellectual sparring partner for Jackson, a Harvard Law graduate and accomplished jurist, is too pathetic to be laughable. This was followed, of course, by Blackburn asking Jackson to define the word woman, a banal attempt at a “gotcha moment” that will earn the senator a prominent spot in the annals of fatuity. And to her credit, Blackburn once again proved herself to be completely immune to the blizzard of derision these and subsequent comments about Judge Jackson brought to her and the embarrassment she once again brought to the State of Tennessee.
In the bigger picture, one is left to wonder how a politician with no discernable talent for or interest in the actual job and who has occasionally and credibly been accused of corruption has managed to hold high office. Indeed, the entirety of Tennessee’s sitting federal legislative team, nine of eleven of whom are Republicans, represent a lackluster crew who have done little in their respective tenures other than parrot misleading information on television and social media and collect a hefty paycheck for part-time work.
The Center for Effective Lawmaking is a non-partisan think tank operated by the University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University that uses a formula to assign a numerical value that represents a legislator’s ability to move a bill through Congress. In the 119th Congress, Blackburn earned a score of 0.519 and ranked 38th of 54 Republicans, putting her in the 29th percentile. Rutherford County’s own Scott DeJarlais scored 0.072 and ranked 167 of 205 and the 6th District’s Rep. John Rose scored 0.03 and ranked 193rd. The highest scores went to Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) in the House of Representatives at 10.302 and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in the Senate who scored 3.589.
Some who read this opinion are “people managers” by profession. As such, they know that their primary mission is to engage the best and brightest who will further the interests of the organization. No hiring manager would bring in a new employee for an important position who landed at or below the 29th percentile in any job-related metric, and in our capacity as hiring managers, we the voters of Tennessee and elsewhere have failed miserably. Tennessee’s members of Congress are neither the best nor the brightest. In the case of Blackburn, who is among the more vocal and attention-craving, far from advancing the interests of the nation in general and Tennessee in particular, she has tarnished the institution of government and shamed the state.
It's an open secret that special interests and the cash that flows from them play a big part in the placing of politicians. And again, one has to wonder if the Kochs, Mercers et al feel that they’ve been short-sheeted by the current crop of dim bulbs in the chambers of Congress. Extending that question into the realm of conspiracy theory, though, it could be said that they’ve gotten exactly what they’ve paid for; a means to cause the collapse of government, not through the workings of some diabolical genius, but under the weight of its own indifference, incompetence and hubris.
But in the enduring and well-established absence of any significant evidence of voter fraud or compromise to our electoral process, it’s still safe to say that voters have the last word, and we need to articulate that loudly and clearly this year, again in 2024 and beyond. Government is a place for skilled, intelligent and passionate individuals who will work to protect and serve their constituents, not themselves or their dark money masters, and who will give the job their best effort. Voters need to make smart and informed decisions and realize that the greatness of a democratic republic is not built on catchy sound bites from Twitter or Fox, but on compromise and progress.
It's time to clean the House and the Senate as well as all levels of state and local government and bring in a team of high-performing professionals, Tennessee. We owe it to our children and grandchildren and to the future of the country.