Tennessee Republicans used their supermajority in the state House to get rid of two young Black lawmakers who broke the rules. This showed how many political forces are changing American politics at the local level.
Tennessee Republicans’ Ruthless Use of Their State House Supermajority
The GOP’s action, which came after the lawmakers in response to the Nashville school shooting last week, staged a gun control protest from the House floor, showed how the two sides of a nation that is becoming more diverse and further apart from each other are pulling apart. The Volunteer State was thrust into the national spotlight after a day of rising emotions inside and outside the state House chamber. The mass massacre, which claimed the lives of six people, including three 9-year-old children, had an unusually political conclusion.
Some voters were very angry that gun control wasn’t passed, and the drama showed how Democrats from liberal cities and the Republican Party are getting more and more at odds with each other. The Tennessee Republican Party is willing to use its conservative power base in rural areas to limit democracy. Given that the fight will be seen by people all over the country, it could hurt the GOP if voters don’t like how extreme it has become. And it made two lawmakers into heroes of the progressive movement overnight, even though most Americans had never heard of them.
The Democrats Justin Pearson and Justin Jones were kicked out of their seats, which canceled out the votes of tens of thousands of their voters, just for breaking the rules of the chamber, which is almost never punished in the rest of the country. Gloria Johnson, a White lady who protested gun regulation, was not expelled because Republicans failed to get the two-thirds vote. Racial bias claims made an already miserable day worse. Republicans said that democracy wouldn’t work if politicians didn’t obey the rules and that Democrats’ protest disrupted the people’s business. Democrats have long claimed that the extreme GOP supermajority is stifling their opposition and infringing their free speech.
The Severe Penalties
The legislature’s harsh punishment for a rules violation that did not entail violence or provocation also highlighted the radicalization of the Trump-era Tennessee Republican Party. Critics say the GOP’s congressional majority abuses authority and undermines millions of Americans’ democratic rights. Democrats thought Pearson and Jones, who had already lost their committee assignments, were treated harshly since the Tennessee House rarely expels members, usually for bribery or sexual misconduct. Pearson said the GOP was suppressing ideas it didn’t like and questions it wouldn’t address with the expulsions.
Tennessee Republican Caucus Chair Jeremy Faison said his group always wanted the Democratic lawmakers ousted and refused a House ethics committee option. Democrats admitted to breaking the rules last week, and if every legislator did the same, order and open debate would be impossible. Jones led public gallery protesters with a bullhorn. However, the GOP majority’s overreach and sanctions are at issue. State Rep. Gino Bulso, a Tennessee Republican, said Jones’ dramatic self-defense in the chamber well on Thursday reinforced the case for his dismissal since he accused the House of acting dishonorably.
Bulso said that he and two other representatives staged a mutiny in this chamber on March 30, 2023. State House Speaker Cameron Sexton earlier compared the gun control rally to the January 6, 2021 Trump supporter mob attack on the US Capitol. The Tennessee Republican chamber protest disrupted regular order, but it wasn’t anti-democratic or meant to stop the presidential transition like the Capitol riot. In a political riot, the three Democratic lawmakers’ behavior was not unexpected. This year, Republicans like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene heckled President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address. After becoming the first ex-president charged with a crime, Trump this week called a New York judge prejudiced and singled out his family.