Tuesday, May 29, 2018
An Important Lesson in History ....Coup: The Day the Democrats Ousted Their Governor, Put Republican Lamar Alexander in Office Early, and Stopped a Pardon Scandal Hardcover – November 7, 2017 by Keel Hunt (Author), Lamar Alexander (Author), John L. Seigenthaler (Foreword) (Vanderbilt University Press)
Imagine an America in which partisan politics takes a backseat to the good of its people. A government in which the Democratic majority recognizes corruption, draws a red line, finds strength in unity and proceeds to extricate this cancer from its highest rank in a fashion that stays true to the Constitution and makes us stronger as a nation. Would this be a fantasy world, given the state of our country today? No. In fact, this was the reality of January 17, 1979, the day Tennessee Democrats acted with bold effectiveness to save their state from the release of dangerous criminals who paid the exiting Governor in exchange for pardons. This unprecedented series of events, a veritable Coup in America, is recounted in fascinating detail by former journalist and Tennessee native Keel Hunt, based on over 160 interviews from key players in later years.
Tennessee, the state of the progressive Gore family dynasty and controlled for fifty uninterrupted years by a grass-roots Democratic persuasion, faced a corruption crisis of epic proportions led by its 44th Governor, Ray Blanton, whose legacy was forever tarnished by a brazen indifference to ethics and morality. What was this red line he crossed? Mr. Hunt eloquently lays out a timeline toward suspicious activity that sparked an FBI investigation uncovering a series of cash payments for pardons and liquor licenses, ultimately leading to prison sentences not only for himself, but also for his chief legal counsel and two aides.
Mr. Hunt’s connections to this time period included a ten-year stint as reporter and city editor for the Tennessean, Nashville’s main morning newspaper, and his participation in the successful campaign of Governor 45, Lamar Alexander, who assigned Mr. Hunt as his Special Assistant and speech writer. These professional and personal connections perhaps gave Mr. Hunt the ability to reap such candid and heartfelt accounts from the key players, making Coup an insightful and intriguing documentary on paper.
Resurrecting an epic moment in political history decades later must have been a monumental exercise. Documenting this series of events and exposing layers of complicated personal struggles felt by Democrats and Republicans alike, is not only important for history’s sake, it’s essential for America’s sake. By revealing the personal considerations of elected officials, Mr. Hunt educates citizen readers of what humanity lay within those who governed Tennessee at that time. More importantly, it would behoove the government officials of today’s partisan-paralyzed capitol machine to read Mr. Keel’s account, in order to remind themselves of what should be on their minds, and what should never depart from their hearts and souls, as they sit in their coffered perches and steer our country toward a path that is sometimes questionable, at best.