MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee Republicans have been flexing their political muscle for more than a decade. Now, they are about to take even more control by carving up congressional districts to possibly give them one more seat in the U.S. House.
State House speaker Cameron Sexton finally confined Monday what most political observers had been saying for months: that Republicans plan to split Nashville’s 5th Congressional District multiple ways. The expected result would be to freeze longtime Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper out of a seat. That would mean the GOP would control eight of the state’s nine House seats – and leave Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis as the only Democrat in the Tennessee delegation.
Such is the spoils of a Republican controlled legislature and their ability to gerrymander districts to benefit one party over the other. The move also has national implications as Republicans seek to take back control of Congress after this year’s midterm elections.
Both Cooper and Cohen can complain about the proposed redistricting plan – but there is little they can do about it. For his part, Cohen also wants his ninth congressional district to cover all of Memphis, which is unlikely to happen – since Republicans are not in the habit of granting Democratic wishes.
Voters are supposed to pick their representatives. Not the other way around. But until enough Tennessee voters get tired of the Republican heavy-handedness, nothing is going to change.