Tennessee Republicans, Once Moderate and Genteel, Turn Toxic in the Trump Era

Tennessee Republicans, Once Moderate and Genteel, Turn Toxic in the Trump Era


But for some in the state, such denunciations, along with Mr. Hagerty’s ceaseless promotion of Mr. Trump’s endorsement, have only served to highlight how unnatural a mouthpiece he can seem for Trumpism. “It just reads as kind of a campaign tactic — not a lot of heart and soul in it,” said Tom Ingram, a former chief of staff for Mr. Alexander. “Those of us who know him know he’s not an ultraconservative, he’s not a firebrand.”

Mr. Sethi — an Indian-American, Harvard-educated orthopedic trauma surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center — is hoping his own appeals to Mr. Trump’s agenda appear more convincing. In an interview, Mr. Sethi, 42, said he applauded the president’s ideas for “meaningful immigration reform,” including building a wall along the Mexican border, and he praised his performance during the pandemic, adding that, as a physician, his main advice to the president would be to fire Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s leading expert on infectious diseases.

And while Mr. Sethi offers masks at his events, he said he did not believe it was the role of the government to mandate that people wear them.

He also proudly highlighted the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s efforts to force him out of the race. “When I started talking to these folks in the early spring of 2019,” he said, “it was all flowers and candy, and they were saying, ‘Oh, it’s great, you should run.’ But as I got more serious, they put up these roadblocks.”

A spokesman for the committee disputed that the group ever encouraged Mr. Sethi to drop out of the race.

Mr. Sethi also said prominent lawmakers “basically called me and threatened” to blacklist him with major donors, and reminded him that Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, had already made his choice in Mr. Hagerty.

“I couldn’t care less about what Senate leadership thinks about me,” Mr. Sethi said.



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