Nashville's Next Mayor May Be a Black Conservative Woman

Nashville's Next Mayor May Be a Black Conservative Woman
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File
Nashville's Next Mayor May Be a Black Conservative Woman
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File
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The last time Nashville’s mayor’s office made national news - a scant seventeen months ago - then mayor Megan Barry resigned after pleading guilty to felony theft relating to an extramarital affair she had with the police officer in charge of her security.

This time it’s for a better reason. After David Briley served as interim mayor, a full-term election is now in  progress. And that election is being shaken up by Carol Swain, a woman who is - of all things in traditionally Democratic Nashville, a blue stronghold in a red state - a no-holds-barred black, Christian Republican conservative.

Swain’s vitae resembles neurosurgeon/cabinet member Ben Carson’s, but is in some ways more extraordinary. She was one of twelve children born in rural Virginia in 1954, growing up in a shack without running water. Her mother, a victim of infantile paralysis who never made it out of high school, was physically abused by her stepfather. Her own father ended his education at third grade. Carol herself, shoeless and unable to attend on snow days, did not finish high school either. She dropped out and married at sixteen to have three children, one of whom died of sudden infant death syndrome. Five years later, she was divorced and tried to commit suicide.

But then everything slowly changed. In a remarkable bootstrap story she would likely ascribe to her faith, Swain earned her GED while working as a cashier at McDonald’s, then attended, in succession, Virginia Western Community College, Roanoke College (BA), Virginia Tech (MA), University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (PhD) and Yale (MLS).

But wait, as they say, there’s more. By 1990, at the age of 36, she was a professor of politics and public policy at Princeton for nine years to be followed by a similar position at Vanderbilt where she also taught law until she retired  in 2017. Along the way she was the author and editor of eight books and had her scholarly work cited by two Associates Justices of the US Supreme Court.

And, for the first time in 2018, she ran for elective office as a replacement for the benighted Ms. Barry. Swain committed late to that election and lost. Now, having educated herself in the process, she is trying again and seems to be making headway.

This is an amazing personal story, but it also has national significance. In a year when big city mayors, virtually all liberal Democrats, across the country from Los Angeles and San Franciso (rampant homelessness) to Baltimore (third world conditions with rats) are under heavy criticism, Swain offers entirely different, conservative answers to these urban problems. This has not been done by many candidates, black or white, in any of these cities for a long time where liberal policies have been conventional for decades.

Nashville, something of a boom town, is no exception.  Despite a tourist revenue bonanza from being Music City, it has perpetual budgetary shortfalls from overspending that make it unable to pay promised increases and possibly pensions to teachers, law enforcement and other necessary civic personnel. Transportation is a local disaster.

Swain promises to address all that but her primary issue is public safety. No one can thrive, no city can solve its problems, while its citizens are feeling endangered by fellow citizens. 

She has taken this directly to the African-American community that, perhaps because she is one of them, perhaps because she is a devoted church-goer, appears to be listening to her. You don’t hear too much yelling and screaming about “racist” cops the way you do in Chicago or South Bend either. 

It’s hard to quantify, but Carol Swain yard signs and billboards seem to be everywhere in the city’s African-American neighborhoods. They also surface with regularity on the luxurious lawns of the tonier suburbs south and west of the city. 

Ten total candidates are running for Nashville mayor but Swain has competition from only three, all of them being white men, one being the incumbent. Election Day in Nashville is August 1, 2019. Early voting has already closed. When the votes are tabulated, if no one wins a majority, a runoff will be held on September 12.

Roger L. Simon--cofounder and CEO Emeritus of PJMedia--is a recent transplant to Nashville. His new novel--THE GOAT--will be published September 1.

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