FRANKLIN, Tennessee — Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) is urging her GOP colleagues nationwide to join her in fighting the “culture war” against a rising radical left influencing various American institutions from entertainment to sports, corporations to media and on to government.
Blackburn’s comments came in a long-form, 65-minute exclusive video interview, conducted in two parts in Tennessee late last month as part of Breitbart’s On The Hill video series, where she laid out the battle lines between the left and the right in the “culture war” in America.
Blackburn sat down with Breitbart News at her home just outside Nashville, and also at Puckett’s, a supermarket, restaurant, and live music venue here in Franklin at which many of Nashville’s biggest country stars have performed.
“The way I look at this culture war is you’ve got the left and those that are pushing towards Marxism,” Blackburn said when asked to define the sides of the culture war. “They are lined up on one side. You have those that are more constitutionalists and traditionalists who want to preserve our American values of faith, family, freedom—preserve free markets—they are on the other side.”
Blackburn told Breitbart News that faith and family are both big parts of her life—and define her political decision-making process.
“The home is the hub. It’s the center,” Blackburn said on her back porch. “For me, the reason I am in the political process, is because of family and preserving what I say is the big five—faith, family, freedom, hope, and opportunity. That really centers in home. We have a big extended family also. And then when I grew up in south Mississippi, I had a lot of cousins. We were all taught to give back more than you take, to leave things in better shape than you found them, and that applies to your home, to your church, your community. It applies to your state and to your country.”
Churches—everywhere in middle Tennessee—are a sign that Tennesseans view faith as an important part of their life too, and Blackburn is no different.
“Faith is very important to me, that Judeo-Christian ethic is very important,” she said. “If we stepped into the den to where my piano is you would see the Baptist hymnal that is there. I played for my church growing up. I still have that. And it reads into your life—it kind of becomes your centering, those values that you realize that you are not one unto yourself but you are part of a community. You are part of a country. Then you have your natural rights that come to you from God and our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, it is there to protect those rights that are yours.”
She said the left is using this culture war to “destroy” those same traditional values in the country, from faith to family to home.
“You know, I find it so interesting that when you look at Marxist theology, what do they say?” Blackburn said when asked what the left is after. “They want to destroy the nuclear family. What do they want to do? They want to replace it with the government. My book, which came out last fall, Mind of a Conservative Woman, I talk about in one of the chapters about The Life of Julia. Remember when Obama did the Life of Julia? Julia goes to government-provided kindergarten and school, then she has student loans provided by the government, and the Obama administration, and then she works for the government and retires with her federal pension—and she has a child along the way but there is no mention of family, there is no mention of a mother or father relationship for this child.”
Earlier in Blackburn’s life, she never planned on being in elected office—but was very involved in her community along with her husband Chuck.
“I’ve always said I never thought or expected I would be in elected office,” Blackburn, a native of south Mississippi, told Breitbart News. “I was very much involved in the community and really appreciated that opportunity. My family, growing up, we were taught that we had our duties at the church. We were taught that we had our civic duties, whether it was cleaning up the side of a roadway or as I did as a 10-year-old in 4-H Club making up a flyer to put in people’s mailboxes to say ‘election day is coming, make sure you vote.’ That was just a part of our training. So, Chuck and I have really passed that onto our children and have used that as a part of their training. Because of that we were involved in helping to start Young Republicans here in Williamson County. Chuck was the president of our Young Republicans club and our Tennessee committeeman for YRs and then I served on the local election commission—I became chairman of the local party here. So we were good, solid participants and very involved with the Chamber of Commerce building this beautiful community here in Williamson County and we were trying to recruit someone for an office and the tables got turned on me and someone told me ‘you know, Marsha you should be the one to run.’”
So Blackburn ran for the open state Senate seat in her area—and won.
“I said, ‘I’m not so sure about that,’” she said. “Anyway, I ran and I won and I really think this speaks to how it’s important for us, and I tell young people this all the time that it’s important not to feel like you’re in charge of your life. It’s important to realize it is God who is going to chart your course. It’s important to look at open doors and then consider those open doors and not shun them or shut them because you don’t know where those opportunities are going to be and it may be something quite unexpected that you really had never planned for yourself.”
As soon as she got there, the then-GOP governor of Tennessee, Don Sundquist, proposed a state income tax. Blackburn, for a time, was the sole voice in the legislature against it. It took her years, but she won: Blackburn blocked Tennessee from implementing a state income tax from the state senate—and then a decade later, when she moved up into a U.S. House seat where she served before he election in 2018 to the U.S. Senate, the state amended its constitution to forever ban one in the state.
“So a Democrat had put TennCare, which was the pilot program, in place,” Blackburn said. “Then the Republican governor comes in. TennCare had quadrupled in cost in about five years. So, the state needs new revenue so instead of looking at what was the root cause for all of this it was ‘how can we get more revenue?’ Well, ‘how do we do that?’ Well, ‘we don’t have a state income tax so why don’t we put a state income tax in place.’ People said ‘oh, you can deduct it from your federal income tax filing but the money will be coming to us.’ I told the governor, I said, ‘no. This is not personal. This is not against you. This is policy. I made a promise I will never support a state income tax so I will lead a battle against a state income tax.’ Which I did, and it wasn’t four days or four weeks or four months. It was four full years that we fought the state income tax but I at one point and this is kind of a little funny story. One of my Senate colleagues called me a ‘caucus of one’ and said ‘oh nobody wants to work with Marsha on this state income tax’ and she’s a ‘caucus of one in the Senate.’ We had 33 members in the state Senate. I say now that hurt my feelings for about five minutes because I realized that yes in that room I may be a caucus of one but I had tens of thousands of Tennesseans who were with me who were not in that room but I was their voice in that room. They stuck with me. We defeated the state income tax in Tennessee and then as you said we amended the state Constitution a decade later. In 2014, we amended the state Constitution. We will never have a state income tax in Tennessee.”
Blackburn went on to become the first woman Senator from Tennessee, and is now Tennessee’s senior senator after now Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) replaced retired now former Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) in 2020. Asked about that, Blackburn said being the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee is “very humbling.”
“You don’t go about running for office thinking ‘I’ll be the first female’ but I’m so grateful I’ve had the opportunity to break barriers at the state Senate and U.S. House and then U.S. Senate to open doors of opportunity for all women in Tennessee and to show that women can serve and they can lead and they can be successful in leading people and driving discussion and debate and serving people well,” she said.
Part of fighting, and winning—as Blackburn has a history of doing—is marshaling the forces of supporters. Blackburn said that tax fight back in the day in Tennessee taught her a lot about what to do moving forward. “What I found through that is that Tennessee women are a mighty resolute bunch,” she said. “When they dig into an issue, they are going to hang with that issue and there are so many wonderful women in this state who stood strong. They didn’t buckle. They reached out to their state representatives and state senators and we defeated that tax.”
Now, engaging those “security moms”—as she calls them—is critical for Republicans as they embark on fighting this culture war Blackburn speaks of and as they seek a path back to power in Washington.
“Security moms are back,” Blackburn said. “When it comes to talking about safe streets and making certain that the police and law enforcement have the resources they need, going after these drug dealers and these drug cartels, securing our southern border, getting rid of CRT in the classroom, these are issues that moms are talking about today.”
She also said that the critical race theory battle seems to be a turning point in the culture war in that is has enraged parents across America.
“What is so interesting to me is the way these cancel culture warriors have chosen to really dig in is with our college kids and on college campuses,” Blackburn said. “For years people would say ‘we want our kids to go to college because we want to expand their worldview We want them to live and experience and understand.’ There was growing credit given to having robust respectful bipartisan debate, where you would have a point and you would have a counterpoint and kids would learn to debate and they would learn reasoning skills. Now, on college campuses, you have professors who say ‘if you are not in total agreement with me, I will write you down. I will mark you down. You have to agree with my opinion.’ Those opinions are generally on the left. We’re seeing this play out right now in critical race theory which is being forced on kids in our schools. These kids are being taught that they should judge people by the color of their skin, not the content of their character—not the person that they are—they aren’t receiving education. They are being indoctrinated. That is why you see parents all across this country standing up and saying ‘hey wait a minute. No—we’re not going to stand for this. We’re going to push back against critical race theory.’ So these are the two sides and you are going to see an even greater push—I have so loved watching some of these parents. There’s a group here in Williamson County, Moms for Liberty, and they are the Mama Bears. They are getting in after this to make certain that critical race theory is not what is taught. We want to make sure children are taught American history, that they are taught civics, that they understand our Constitution, that they realize what this Constitution does—that it protects the freedoms and the rights that they, as a U.S. citizen, that they have—and that there is an appreciation for that. They need to understand that much of this wokeness is coming from Marxism which wants to destroy the nuclear family, destroy the institutions of the church, and wants government to be in control of just about every portion of your life. That is the difference. Do you want these individual freedoms? Do you want to pursue your American dream? Or do you want the left, with your government in control and your government saying ‘we’re going to give you this, but we’re not going to give you that’ and ‘we’ll give you a little bit of freedom but we’re taking freedom away from you and we’re going to give your money and your freedom to this individual over here.’”
Harnessing that energy is how Republicans win, she said. Blackburn said that for Republicans to win back the majorities in the U.S. House and Senate and to win back the White House, “you have to fight the culture war.” She noted that Democrats being in complete control in Washington offers Republicans the opportunity to highlight the differences in the two parties’ approaches to governing—so people can see the dangers of the left’s ideas and policies.
“I like the environment we’re in right now because people are going ‘hey wait a minute,’” Blackburn said. “Here is one thing, a Democrat who is a good friend who voted for Biden saw me out a month or so ago—six weeks ago—and said ‘hey Marsha you know I voted for Biden, I don’t vote for many Republicans except you, but I did not vote for this. I did not vote for Elizabeth Warren and Bernie and I did not vote for leftist policies. I thought Ole Joe was going to be a moderate. But he’s not.’”
That being said, Blackburn said the power of the forces aligned against conservatives in this culture war are very strong—and have institutional and even foreign power. Asked if the Chinese Communist Party is using the same institutional tools the left does to fight this culture war, she said “they are.”
“The left is on it with them,” Blackburn said. “Whether it’s Big Tech or Big Media or Big Hollywood, they’re all in on this. This is what they are pushing forward and we are going to have to find a way to defend ourselves and our values because they’re in the click. They are all in the click. Big Tech, Big Media, Big Government, Hollywood, the Chinese Communist Party, and they feel as if they are the elites and they should have the control and they should make the decisions. We think that under the U.S. Constitution it is the individual, each and every individual has rights. Each and every individual should be able to protect those rights, to enjoy those rights. Each and every individual has freedom of speech, not just the amount of freedom government gives you. You have your right to speak. You have your right to worship. Those are foundational concepts in this country.”
Blackburn said she is hearing “a lot of buyer’s remorse” from people who voted for Democrat President Joe Biden or other Democrats.
“I saw a guy last week and he’s also a Democrat who voted for Biden,” Blackburn said. “He came up to me and said ‘you know right now I would trade a few bad tweets for lower prices at the pump and a little bit less inflation.’ He said ‘I’m really nervous, I’m anxious about what is going on in this country.’ Here’s the thing, conservatives realize what is going on but the media was so against us in 2020 and they were so against the president and they would censor us and they would block us.”
But because American institutions like big tech, big media, big entertainment, and even big government have been so aligned against the right writ large in recent years, Blackburn said that Republicans have had trouble getting around branding issues facing the party. The senior U.S. senator from Tennessee even called for Republicans to rebrand—and change what represents the spelled out acronym “GOP” from the “Grand Ole Party” to the “Great Opportunity Party.”
“We need to realize that GOP stands for Great Opportunity Party,” Blackburn said. “We don’t need to talk about the ‘Grand Ole Party.’ There’s nothing cool that has ‘Grand’ and ‘Ole’ in the name except the ‘Grand Ole Opry.’ So, we need to leave it at that. We need to change and be the Great Opportunity Party and lift the sides of that tent and say ‘if you believe in the American dream, if you believe in hope and you believe in opportunity, if you believe in freedom and if you believe in free enterprise, we are your party. If you want to push back on socialism and Marxism, if you believe in the strength of the family, if you want to get rid of some of these policies that are wrecking communities and if you want to be tough on crime, we are your party.’”
Blackburn has used this term before—in interviews last year including ahead of the Republican National Convention at which she forcefully backed then-President Donald Trump for re-election—to describe the “GOP.” So has the party itself; the term appears in the 2016 Republican Party platform. But that she’s using it here, in a broader push for Republicans to define the party moving into the future as the right fights a culture war with the left, is particularly noteworthy. That very culture war she’s talking about has played itself with clips from this very interview, too, as Blackburn ribbed country-turned-pop star Taylor Swift in it—a clip of which went viral last week.
That shorter clip, released ahead of the broader interview here, shows Blackburn warning the very left-wing Democrat policies that Swift has publicly advocated for would lead to her own doom. Blackburn said if “Marxism” or “socialistic” government were actually implemented, then Swift would be the “first victim” of that. The clip went viral, sparking an eight-minute panel discussion on MSNBC and response pieces in publications as far-ranging as Billboard and Variety magazines as well as places like Mediaite, The Hill, Newsweek, and more—in addition to fierce criticism from leftist pundits like former ESPN and MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann.
In this broader interview, Blackburn had even more to say about Swift—arguing that while the superstar “had attacked me when I ran in 2018” she is a “product of the American dream.”
“She is a product of the free enterprise system,” Blackburn said of Swift. “If she lived in a China or a Russia, she wouldn’t be able to go out and entertain. Women would not be allowed to dress in the manner many entertainers dress or have the big stage shows. The state would have to approve everything they did and every lyric. You have to look at it and say ‘why is it that so many of the world’s greatest entertainers have moved from socialistic countries?’”
Those comments came in response to a broader question about efforts by the left to turn country music woke. The interview in Puckett’s, which took place on the same stage from which country music legends like Vince Gill and Keith Urban have played, opened with Breitbart News asking Blackburn if such efforts by left to turn country woke make her worry whether Nashville is in danger of becoming the Hollywood of the South.
“I think that people in Nashville are really very principle centered,” Blackburn replied. “They like freedom—free enterprise, free markets, free people—and indeed you have so many people in whether it is country music or contemporary Christian or gospel or even classical music who understand fully that if you have a socialistic Marxist society, arts and entertainment is the first thing to go—the first victim.”
Despite those principles Blackburn says Nashville residents have, there is undoubtedly an effort by the left to turn the country music industry woke. Billboard magazine has run advertisements pushing woke ideology on the industry, and Country Music Television even promoted former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg’s campaign for people to wear orange to show support for gun control. Asked about these efforts and why they are targeting this industry in particular, Blackburn said that many in country music are “good” and “solid” Americans who are “not necessarily partisan”—something that undercuts their narrative.
“There are so many good solid—they’re not necessarily partisan—they are just really great citizens,” Blackburn said. “Country music gives back a lot. The entertainment industry—Christian music—so much of what they do comes a part of their music, their ministry and their music combined. You’ve got great people who are on the business side of music and the music industry. I think country music has always been good, principled people and good value sets. The left and Hollywood just can’t stand that a lot of Californians and New Yorkers—where are they trying to move? They’re moving right here. They are leaving these high tax states where they’re clamping down on your freedom and they’re trying to get to communities that have better schools, a better value set, and that touch of Americana that they want for their children.”
Blackburn’s home was previously owned by famed country comedian Minnie Pearl, the main influence behind the Blue Collar Comedy Tour foursome of Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Ron White, and Larry the Cable Guy, before the Blackburns bought it in 1987. She told Breitbart News that “of course” is a country music fan.
“I like them all,” she answered when prompted to name her favorite musician.
Asked why Nashville is so attractive for up-and-coming musicians seeking a shot in the industry, she said Tennessee is a “very entrepreneurial type state and I love that.” That environment fostering creativity—a very American dream-centric vibe—is what makes Nashville and Tennessee as a whole so attractive to those who want to try their hand, Blackburn said.
“I asked this friend of mine who had grown up up north and came to Tennessee and I said ‘why did you decide to come to Nashville?’” Blackburn continued. “The answer was so telling: She said ‘Nashville is a great place to fail.’ Nashville is a great place to fail. The reason for that is when she explained it she said Nashville is very entrepreneurial and you have this great creative community. Then, everybody goes out, they throw an idea against the wall, they write a song, they pitch a song, maybe it works maybe it doesn’t but the next day they get up and they do it all over again. It is a city that is very tolerant of trying ideas and trying out new concepts and whether you’re talking about the wonderful auto industry that’s in this state in Chattanooga and here in middle Tennessee and the innovators that are looking for ways to make cars safer or you’re talking about the financial services industry or you’re talking about healthcare and healthcare informatics and the way to deliver healthcare more safely and to put the patient at the center of healthcare decisions or whether it’s a new TV series or whether it’s some of this fabulous gospel music or contemporary Christian music or country music or symphonic music—we have the world’s largest distributor of symphonic music right here in middle Tennessee—I mean it’s all right here. So we like to see around these parts everything begins with a song.”