Polly Sigh’s Prophecies for 2010

Dr. Polly Sigh, professor of political seance emeritus at the University of Maynardville, has kindly provided, through an exchange of e-mails and a call to her satellite cell phone, a look back on Tennessee political and governmental events of 2009 and a look forward to events of 2010.
One thing that strikingly combines the two, she observes, is Gov. Phil Bredesen’s announcement toward the end of 2009 that he will call a special session of the Legislature in January 2010 to enact laws designed to help Tennessee win as much as $500 million in federal funding for education in unprecedented competition among the 50 states.
Noting that the governor was deliberately secretive about how he proposes to spend the anticipated federal funding windfall during 2009, Polly prophesies that Bredesen will announce this in the coming week now that the new year is underway – presenting a spending and policy mix that will ultimately appease a majority of legislators of both parties and win passage after lawmaker-appropriate posturing.
“Phil Bredesen, who was always an unlikely politician in many ways, will thus be able to exit office with a legacy beyond budget cuttting,” Polly sighed. The spending plan, she said, will cover things from pre-kindergarten to higher education.
She says that, with such a show, Bredesen actually may wind up being designated Tennessee “Political Person of the Year” at the end of 2010 in the wisdom of Convent Shun All, the remote East Tennessee mountain retreat where scholars devote themselves to reading political blogs, watching political TV shows, studying political polls, conferring with political analysts and otherwise ignoring events that do not relate to politics.
Looking back, the wisdom of Convent Shun All is that the 2009 Tennessee Person of the Year was Kent Williams, a Carter County Republican elected speaker of the state House of Representatives last January and then declared persona non grata by the GOP because he won the office with Democrats united to support him while Republicans were united against him.
“Kent Williams personifies the state of Tennessee politics in 2009,” Dr. Sigh summarized. “He was elected to the House over a more belligerently Democrat-bashing opponent in a Republican-certain seat, elected speaker over a more belligerently Democratic-bashing opponent in a Republican-uncertain House, then acted as a bipartisan leader while advancing the Republican policy agenda – thus annoying partisans of both sides while leaving a bipartisan majority believing that ‘things could be worse’.”
Looking ahead, the Polly prognostication is that Williams will be re-elected to his House seat as an independent, then officially restored to the Republican fold shortly after the election.
Looking back, Polly accurately predicted at the end of 2008 that Bill Frist – who she said could be elected by acclamation as governor if he chose to run – would choose not to run.
“I think he has better sense,” she said at the time.
Looking forward toward what happens with those who lacked better sense, Dr. Sigh sees the races for the Republican and Democratic gubernatorial nominations as developing into closer contests than conventional wisdom, as opposed to Convent Shun All wisdom, would suppose as the year begins.
Still, she says – with some hesitation and only after some prodding in the phone conversation after uncharacteristic dodging in e-mails – that conventional wisdom is probably accurate:
Bill Haslam will wind up as the GOP nominee, though after an intense primary that leaves the party’s conservative/right wing raging, and Mike McWherter will wind up as the Democratic nominee, after a primary that leaves the party’s progressive/left wing whining.
Should that be accurate, the clash in November would be between two moderates, Polly predicts. Whining Democrats will be more likely to go with their party guy, figuring things could be worse, she foresees, while some raging conservatives will refuse to go along with their party guy because he is impure in the eyes of those who enjoy having a good Tea Party. The upshot, she says, is that independent voters, as usual, decided the election and, given that Haslam, has more money for message, he wins.
Other Polly predictions, after some extrapolation based on her thoughts about individual races, include:
State House makeup after the elections: 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats, 1 independent.
State Senate makeup after the elections: 19 Republicans, 14 Democrats.

This column also appears in Sunday’s News Sentinel.

Leave a Reply