I hope you get this out of your system - especially that you suspected, in your gut, that something like this would happen.
The problem in Tennessee is a simile of the problem in Washington. When Elmer gets to the Capitol he’s immediately submersed in “one goes along to get along, constituents come second”. In DC the coercion comes from high-ranking incumbants who’ve long parted from the concept of a two-party system.
In Tennessee the Democrats have held the reigns for so long that the Republican Party here has never even conceptualized taking over. So used to steppin’ and fetchin’ for Massa Jimmy and his predecessors they were caught unprepared with but a few upstarts willing to break those chains. Hence the fallback to the status quo.
The old horses preferred the bit of their old master than risk roaming when the fence was down. Seems to me that a lot of those nags are due at the glue factory.
As I’ve stated, Conservative Republicans are just too nice people, many of them don’t know how to play hardball and to be ruthless in their pursuit of certain goals. We’ve only done so infrequently, and then immediately, rather than relentlessly pressing on, they rest on their laurels. It’s how we watched a slow loss of Congress and failure to make any truly dramatic headway.
Of course, from a non-political standpoint, I realized this is how many successful people get what they want. I applied it once in my life and got the best thing that ever happened to me, but after scoring the “win”, I failed to carry on just as aggressively with moving to the next levels, and I ultimately lost it all... you just can’t ever complacent or you’re crippled, sometimes permanently. :-\