Republican candidate Bob Corker fell into this trap more than many. He actually ran ads claiming that Harold Ford's U Penn education disqualified him to represent Tennessee, while Bob Corker's Tennessee education made him a better choice. This stereotypical dig at Tennesseans is often overlooked for its insulting character. It is Bob Corker (like the opposition that Gore faced from such organizations as "Gore Free Tennessee") who embraces a demeaning and debilitating stereotype of Tennesseans as strictly provincial, narrow-minded, and simple folk. Tennessee is a first-class educational institution, but U Penn is widely recognized as among the very best educational institutions of higher learning in the nation. The idea that leaders who would represent Tennessee should limit themselves only to Tennessee's home schools is ridiculous. Tennessee has many fine schools, and leaders should by all means be proud to display their educational credentials earned in-state. But, to disparage as unworthy of understanding this state, those whose educational degrees are earned outside of Tennessee is to portray the state and its people as completely out of touch with the rest of the nation.
Tennessee is a wonderful state, and one of its incredible strengths is its ability to attract highly capable leaders from all over America and the world. Not only do these ridiculous "outsider" attacks discourage very capable individuals from helping to expand the quality of life and opportunity for all Tennesseans, these offensive appeals seriously intimate that Tennesseans are unable to interact productively with the world outside our state.
The reality is exactly opposite. Tennessee is one of the finest states in the Union, and its people go on to productive careers all over the world. Likewise, the best and brightest from all over long to be part of Tennessee and contribute to our standard of living because of their attraction to our fine state. Candidate appeals that suggest that Tennesseans are and ought to be afraid of outsiders diminish us all. Everyone should enjoy "Rocky Top," but suggesting that it is the only tune a genuine Tennessean can sign is demeaning and rude to us all.
Bob Corker should apologize for stooping to that kind of harmful stereotyping in his campaign, and future candidates should eschew this approach. Leaders of Tennessee should be proud to bring high quality education and first-rate skills to our state, rather than demeaning the state's residents as unable to relate.