Back home: in the State of Tennessee alone “opiod” abuse is killing each year as many people as were killed in Kenya’s Post Election Violence of ’07-08

This is a quote from an email bulletin I received today from the Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives.  She is an impressive woman I knew back in the local Republican Party in Nashville during the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations when I was in law school:

Earlier this month, I announced the formation of an Opioid Abuse Task Force to combat the epidemic of opioid addiction in Tennessee. In 2015, more than 1,400 Tennesseans died from opioid abuse and there are currently more opioid prescriptions in our state than there are people. We cannot let this problem get any worse, and that’s why I am proud of my colleagues for working swiftly to come up with solutions to this problem.

Back then in the late 1980s the state government was run by Democrats with Republicans gaining ground in federal offices and presidential campaigns, as in most of the South.  East Tennessee, where my mother grew up on a family dairy farm on the outskirts of a small town, had a Republican tradition as upland area that had been pro-Union or at least non-successionist in the Civil War, whereas the Confederate areas stayed fairly Democratic.  For this reason Tennessee had an unusually competitive two party system with genuine efforts to sway overlapping groups of potential voters.

In more recent years, although I have not had the opportunity to be around much the GOP seems to have gradually consolidated control and the Democrats have receded into the cities.  The GOP has simultaneously moved steadily to the right from being a center-right/right coalition back 25ish years ago and power has devolved from the party organizations to voters in open primaries (as in most Southern states voter registration in Tennesssee is not by party).  As politics has moved right, the culture has moved “left” as in the rest of the country and much of what we “conservatives” thought we wanted to conserve is not so much in evidence anymore, as reflected in part in the dislocations associated with things like the opiod epidemic.  

The opiod epidemic is a pretty fascinating story of policy, political and cultural failure–needless to say it’s embarrassing as hell to talk about and that much harder to solve.

Fortunately Donald Trump, leader of his new Republican Party spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Greater Washington today and promised a huge military build up to go along with the pre-existing program of paying pharmaceutical companies for the opioids.  So not to worry–next week back to our regularly scheduled programming about elections for Africans.