Over at The Atlantic, Richard Florida is talking about when metro areas could expect to be back at peak employment. The map he's citing is a little crude, but I think it's an important bit of information to have in the backs of our minds, as we look at the coming legislative session and the shifting political landscape.
Nashville and Knoxville have recovered from the blow of the Great Recession — but we're heavily invested, both communities, in healthcare and technology and education — the kinds of jobs that we need in the new economy. Clarksville has also recovered, though this is less surprising because of the stability of having a military base. Jackson, Memphis, and Chattanooga are a little slower, but on track to bounce back in the next year or two. The big splotch of red that means it's still going to be five more years, if not longer? Ron Ramsey country.
As I wrote in my book The Great Reset, economic recoveries are uneven, long-scale, and generational in nature. Any return to normal will "unfold not from top-down policies and programs but gradually, as millions upon millions of people respond to challenging economic times by changing the ways that they live."
You can see the challenge for Republicans. If your political philosophy is that everything used to be fine and we just need to get things back to how they were, it's not going to work. People can't do the things they used to do. And while noting that top-down policies and programs aren't going to work might feel very Republican, if people need to radically change, they need educations to do that. How can we get more folks in Ron Ramsey country into college? How can we convince employers like Beretta to move not to areas in the state where we already have jobs, but over to east Tennessee?
At least East Tennessee has a strong advocate in Ron Ramsey, but they've had a strong advocate for a while, so whether he can find a way to transform all his personal political power into power for his region remains to be seen.