In a healthy democracy, U.S. senators should be held in esteem. Their six-year terms insulate them from the cruder aspects of politics, allowing time for reflection and thought. Unfortunately, neither Tennessee senator has any interest in being thoughtful.
Instead, they are blocking, with barely an explanation, the renomination of Marilyn Brown to the TVA board. Brown has served in this role since 2010, and her tenure has been marked by competence and accomplishment. A professor at Georgia Tech, Brown has expertise in energy policy and production.
No one doubts her competence. In fact, a glance at her career makes it abundantly clear that she is a qualified and capable member of the board. Corker and Alexander are opposing her nomination simply because they can. It’s the lowest form of power, raw and unjustified.
In a joint statement, Alexander and Corker said, “We respect her professional credentials, but we encourage the president to send another nominee with credentials better suited to the TVA Board.” Brown has already served two years with TVA, and her credentials are impeccable, leaving anyone who reads the senators’ remarks at a loss to comprehend their doublespeak.
Alexander said, “This is another example of the Obama White House not listening. I told the White House in advance that the TVA board needs a nominee with a better understanding of the relationship between low electricity rates and better jobs in the Tennessee Valley.”
Corker went further, saying, “TVA needs leaders who enthusiastically support the mission of producing economical electricity and have an abiding appreciation of its important economic development role and impact on the well-being of Valley residents. Unfortunately, during my discussions with Dr. Brown, it was clear she does not share that point of view.”
Corker does not describe Brown’s view nor provide any substantial criticism of her view. In fact, there is little reason to believe either senator actually cares about nor understands Brown’s policies.
They recognize her independence and strength, and she intimidates them. Corker and Alexander are yes men, and Brown has more spirit than they can handle.
Our senators are more comfortable with a nominee like also-ran gubernatorial candidate Mike McWherter, an attorney who runs a beer distributorship. Brown has been overseeing nuclear energy production at TVA for the past two years, but it’s a guy who sells beer kegs who has impressed our elected officials.
Other nominees include Alabama attorney Joe Ritch, Memphis accountant V. Lynn Evans, and a self-made investor from Kentucky, Peter Mahurin. While all these people have impressive business experience and accomplishments, none suits the job as well as Marilyn Brown—yet only Brown is getting resistance.
What are Tennessee’s senators afraid of? Do intelligent and accomplished women frighten them? Does a rational energy policy scare them? Corker and Alexander seem to believe energy prices are set by dictate and not by market forces. After lording over the pomp of Blackberry Farm and the U.S. Senate for so long, perhaps Tennessee’s Republican elitists really do believe they control the price of electricity.
We have watched our political elites stumble through interminable and pointless wars, episodes of lawless brutality and financial crimes too massive to have comprehend, so maybe it does make sense to trust petty tyrants with seats in the U.S. Senate. We’ve gotten away with leaving fools in charge for this long.
Sadly, power generation and distribution are complex matters that don’t dumb themselves down for the convenience of politicians. It might be possible to bluff our way through financial disasters and political disgrace, but the laws of physics cannot be overturned. A reckoning will come, and the facade of simplistic Republican politics will crumble.