The population of Davidson County, Tennessee-- Nashville-- is 694,144 but Davidson County was once much bigger. In 1786 Sumner County was carved out of Davidson. Williamson County was created in 1799 and in 1803 Davidson gave up what is now Rutherford County. In 1856 Cheatham County came into existence with parts of Davidson County (as well as parts of Dickson, Montgomery and Robertson counties).
Tennessee has turned into one of the most politically backward red hellholes in America. The PVI is R+14 and last year Trump beat Biden statewide 1,852,475 (60.66%) to 1,143,711 (37.45%). all the statewide officials are Republicans and the general Assembly is blood red-- just 6 Democrats in the 33 seat state Senate and 73 Republicans to 26 Democrats in the state House. In the 2018 midterms Davidson County performed for incumbent congressman Jim Cooper at a D+43 level. Last year the whole congressional district (TN-05) went from D+7 to D+9.
The Republicans who control the state government don't like that. Obama won the district in 2012 with 55.9% and Hillary did half a point better. But last year Biden beat Trump 60.3% to 36.7%, almost an inverse of the entire state's results. Davidson county gave Biden 199,703 votes (64.49%) and gave Trump 100,218 votes (32.36%). This isn't the first time it's come up, but the Republicans in state government are working on a gerrymander plan to cut Davidson County up to dilute the voting power of its citizens and wipe out a congressional district that automatically goes to a Democrat.
Blue Dog Jim Cooper is the dean of the Tennessee delegation and the Republicans know there's nothing they can do to defeat him (or any other Nashville Democrat) at the polls, so thy are planning on taking away Davidson Democrats' right to a voice in Congress. "They couldn't beat me fairly," Cooper told CNN. "So, now they're trying to beat me by gerrymandering. It's not about me. It's about the political future of Nashvillians. And they deserve their own voice, regardless of who is their congressman." The county should secede from the state. I'll come back to that in a moment.
Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton, a Republican, told CNN that middle Tennessee's booming growth could force the state's congressional districts in the east and the west to stretch there. From 2010 to 2019, Nashville's Davidson County increased by roughly 70,000 people, according to the US Census Bureau, far more than any other in the state.
"There is the potential of Davidson County being split to two, to three, I doubt to four (districts)," Sexton said. "We're just going to make sure that we create districts that can hold up in a court challenge and at the same time, not to try to gerrymander certain seats."
Sexton also acknowledged the political considerations.
"From our standpoint, we'd always love to have more Republicans (in Congress), just as I'm sure the Democrats in other states would love to have more Democrats," he said. "I don't think people necessarily want things to stay the same if they can have more of their people win office."
...Cooper said that splitting up the district because of Middle Tennessee's growth is a "very misleading" argument because the state's districts will all have about 768,000 people -- roughly the size of Nashville. But he recognized that he's a sitting duck with "no effective legal recourse" if the state's House and Senate decides to divide his up.
A 60-slide presentation written by Cooper's former chief of staff Lisa Quigley obtained by CNN cautioned that if Davidson county isn't kept intact in one House district, the Black vote would be divided and silenced.
While Republicans are determined to take back the House, lawmakers in neighboring districts may help Cooper save his seat. Tennessee GOP Rep. Mark Green is worried that the General Assembly could go too far in rewriting their House districts, making his seat more competitive over the next decade.
"What we don't want to do is get greedy," Green told CNN. "And then four years from now as Nashville continues to turn blue, wind up worse off than we are."
"I'd love to contribute to retaking the House in that way, but I think we're better off seven and two," he added.
Sexton said Green has been spreading "misinformation" about how he could be drawn out of his seat by taking in voters from Davidson county. But Sexton acknowledged that Republicans would have to "weigh the risk" of changing the districts.
"You have to be very careful about trying to play very partisan politics, because it could hurt you long term if you're trying to move enough people to create seats for your party," he said.
The Tennessee speaker noted that the Census has not provided the General Assembly the data it needs to craft the districts, saying that "there hasn't been any discussions on, or any drawings, or anything, on what anything looks like."
Williamson, Sumner and Cheatham counties are as red as the rest of the state, but the other county that was formally part of Davidson-- Rutherford-- is a swing county with plenty of Democrats. If Rutherford (pop- 339,261) joined Davidson as a new state, the population would be over a million people-- about the same as Rhode Island and Montana and greater than South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont and Wyoming. Nashville Democrats ought to start the secession process immediately. It might give gerrymander-minded state legislators something to think about. Without Davidson County, Tennessee would be, basically, Mississippi.
And, by the way, this morning, Politico reported that Kentucky (R+16) is considering doing the same thing to Louisville (KY-03), which has a PVI of D+8 to steal John Yarmuth' s congressional seat. Kansas City, Omaha, Gary and Cincinnati could suffer similar fates from the Missouri, Nebraska, Indiana and Ohio GOP-controlled legislatures looking to either steal Democratic seats or shore up shaky Republican ones.