I moved to Nashville from Los Angeles a couple of years ago because LA, once the dreamland of the Mamas and the Papas, had turned into a cesspit where no one would want to drive a convertible anymore lest, stuck in traffic, a homeless man on a fentanyl-meth cocktail ended up barfing on your passenger seat, if he hadn’t already fallen into it and you.
It wasn’t just the traffic that was hellacious. It was the lifestyle. The city was going into drastic decline, tents lining every other sidewalk, homeless communities actually in competition with each other, and no one was doing a bloody thing about it. Watts was still Watts after fifty years, despite endless promises.
California dreamin’ was becoming too much of a ree-al-it-tee. And local government—filled with the most mediocre, virtue signaling, timorous “progressives” this side of Minneapolis, Seattle and Portland—only made it worse.
I was even getting nostalgic for the smog we had when things were better.
So I decamped for Music City.
At first, it was nirvana. Getting to know people was easy. Folks were polite to each other, even friendly. Coming from LA and having been born in NYC that was a miracle in itself. Although Nashville was blue and Tennessee red, everyone seemed to get along. Sure the locals complained about the traffic, but I had to laugh, considering where I came from.
And the storied honky tonks were total fun. Where did all these great musicians come from and how come I hadn’t heard of them before? They didn’t call the place NashVegas for nothing.
On top of that, the town was crawling with entrepreneurs with an unemployment number hovering around two percent. Race relations seemed pretty okay—better than the North anyway. Everyone wanted to come here and who could blame them? It was the “it city.”
One time, attending a monthly Republican luncheon, I ended up sitting next to this pleasant-seeming fellow named John Cooper who, I later learned, was running for mayor as a Democrat but was supposedly an ecumenical type, a businessman who wanted to represent everyone.
He won, and I ran into him again at the local Whole Foods where I reminded him of his pledge to lower spending. (Nashville government, despite its huge tourist revenue and go-go economy, was impoverished, either through mismanagement or the corruption you read about in Robert Penn Warren novels.)
A smiling Cooper assured me he would. He was sitting with a woman going over what looked like an Excel spreadsheet.
Everything was, as they say, tickety-boo.
Cooper Shuts Down
Then the roof fell in, meaning COVID, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, the whole nine yards of 2020 Hell.
At first, Nashville seemed to be avoiding the worst of it. I worried for the country but secretly gloated. At least things would be livable here with our decent, relatively middle-of-the road government—Mayor John Cooper and the Republican Bill Lee in the governor’s mansion.
But soon enough demonstrators were marching down Broadway past the honky tonks, wreaking havoc that was not as bad as elsewhere but bad enough. (A cowboy boot store was looted.)
A wannabe Antifa-type tried to burn down the courthouse, but still the cops were restrained. Demonstrators played the inevitable bongos in front of city hall as the virus and chaos spread. Rumors flew that next time the looters were coming to the upscale suburbs and in some instances they did.
Mayor Cooper, proving to be something of a liberal bluenose in the name of public health, curtailed the honky tonks, but the public and the tourists were having none of it, rocking and “countrying” on anyway, trying desperately to have some fun after months of home incarceration.
Cooper doubled down by not only shutting the bars, but not allowing restaurants to serve alcohol after ten p.m. thereby essentially gutting the tourist trade. Soon the owners of the more famous honky tonks were suing the mayor for locking them down.
Lee’s ‘Protect My Care’
Consciously or not, Governor Lee acquiesced in all this, saying not a word, but found himself in a mess by selling out red Tennessee via an operation called Protect My Care.
Turned out all the “scientific” medical links on that site urging Tennesseans to follow those “care” rules were not “scientific” at all. They were linked not to hospitals or clinics, but to extreme progressive sites like Act Blue, Democratic group also hosing up cash from Black Lives Matter.
One of them called Forward Tennessee quickly, almost comically, cleansed its site of the obvious progressive rhetoric (not quite getting it all) when they were unmasked on YouTube by a man from neighboring Franklin. YouTube—you will not be amazed—quickly censored and made unavailable two of this man’s videos, all within one day.
All of this has made the confused Lee, who had already been drawing ire from state conservatives, look bad, if not a dupe. (This contrasted with Marsha Blackburn who has been particularly stellar and steadfast in the Senate and continues to be so. most recently getting the NBA to back down on their training facilities in Chinese concentration camp areas.)
Meanwhile, in the grand tradition of that other mayor Rahm “Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste” Emanuel, Cooper—in the company of, with a few exceptions, a lemming-like city council—moved ahead incredibly swiftly, almost without discussion, with a staggering 34 percent increase in property taxes.
The excuse was, of course, COVID plus the tornado that swept though East Nashville a few months ago, but the result was putting myriad businesses already on a weak footing on a weaker one and probably, in many cases, in bankruptcy. No effort was really made to examine why theoretically rich Nashville was in trouble in the first place, even less to attempt to correct it.
Also, not surprisingly, a petition has been circulated to recall Mayor Cooper and the council members who supported his tax. Lawsuits are flying.
How that will all turn out is unclear but Nashville is now teetering on the brink of being another textbook case in the decline of an American city of which we there are now so many we will soon need an abacus (choice deliberate) to keep up.
So Nashville is not the place I moved to even two years ago. Does that mean I’m about to leave? No, it’s still immensely better than where I came from. The decimation of Santa Monica and West Hollywood occurred after I left. Nothing remotely like that has happened in Nashville. I will stay here and fight to do my little bit to keep it that way.
Maybe next time we’ll elect Carol Swain mayor. She’d be great.
Roger L. Simon is an award-wining author, Oscar-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media. Most recent books are “I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Country, If It Hasn’t Already” (non-fiction) and “The GOAT” (fiction).