May 18, 2021


Who are these transplants? Noted free-market economist Art Laffer began the conservative migration in 2006, when he moved from Southern California to the Nashville area, primarily for tax reasons. Tennessee has no state income tax and relatively low property taxes. With Laffer’s encouragement, Tennessee eliminated its estate tax as well. Laffer, who compiles an annual ranking of states for the American Legislative Exchange Council entitled Rich States, Poor States, has long championed Tennessee for its favorable economic policies. Tennessee is one of the nation’s most conservative states; President Trump carried Tennessee in November 2020 by a margin of 61 percent to 37 percent.

Tennessee also offers a mild, four-season climate, plentiful water, inexpensive electricity, natural beauty, and an abundance of undeveloped land. Fast-growing Nashville, the state capital, recently surpassed Memphis as the Volunteer State’s most populous city. Residents are drawn by Nashville’s music scene, cultural amenities, dynamic economy, and affordable housing. Nashville has a rich history and has long been known as the “Athens of the South,” explaining why a full-size replica of the Parthenon was built in in the city for the Centennial Exposition in 1897.
In recent years, as blue states have become increasingly inhospitable to conservatives, many center-right pundits have followed Laffer’s lead. Not surprisingly, a majority of the new arrivals have fled California, which last year declined in population for the first time in its history. The cadre of expats now located in the Nashville area include Sean Davis (co-founder of The Federalist); Roger Simon (novelist, screenwriter, founder and former CEO of PJ Media, and currently senior political analyst for The Epoch Times); Matt Walsh and much of the staff of The Daily Wire; author and commentator Candace Owens; and Fox News personality Tomi Lahren. The Volunteer State, long a bastion of rugged individualism, welcomes John Galt’s intellectual heirs with open arms. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee tapes his television show for the Trinity Broadcasting Network in Hendersonville, Tennessee, and Alan Keyes broadcasts his streaming show Let’s Talk America from Pigeon Forge.

Instead of going “on strike” and living in seclusion, as Rand’s heroes did, the outspoken denizens of this twenty-first-century version of Galt’s Gulch are turning the Volunteer State into a conservative platform. California expat Michael Patrick Leahy runs his digital media empire (The Tennessee Star and affiliated sites in the Star News Digital Media family) and three-hour daily radio show (The Tennessee Star Report) from his Nashville headquarters. Supreme Court litigator Cameron Norris of the boutique Beltway firm Consovoy McCarthy discovered—prior to the Covid lockdown—that telecommuting could be done long distance and moved back to his native east Tennessee. Now that Americans have been introduced en masse to the virtual workplace via Zoom, other blue state dwellers may figure out that they, too, can escape congestion and over-priced real estate by moving to Tennessee.

Roger Simon was a trendsetter.

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