We’re pretty sure the Republican supermajority in the Tennessee House of Representatives had no idea that Thursday’s semi-successful effort to expel three Democratic lawmakers would get anything like the national attention it did. When they hold power, the comfortably bigoted have a hard time imagining anyone could possibly disagree with them, or pay attention to a little old score-settling against some pipsqueak liberals. The hasty, slapdash proceedings, with only a homeopathic trace of due process, made pretty clear the Republicans planned to quickly give the three a fast show trial and be done with them.
Instead, they ended up with a national media spectacle, and came out looking like arrogant, out of touch racists, expelling Reps. Justin Pearson and Justin Jones — two young, charismatic Black members — while falling one vote shy of expelling Rep. Gloria Johnson, the white, 60-year-old retired teacher whom they seemed to feel more kinship with. As we’ll note again and again, Johnson knew exactly what was up, telling reporters, “It might have to do with the color of our skin.”
Following the Republican lynching of democracy, Vice President Kamala Harris flew to Nashville Friday to call for gun control and to meet with all three Democrats — the ones targeted for expulsion, not all three Democrats in Tennessee. Heck, the Tennessee House has an entire Democratic caucus, and Harris met with them Friday, too.
Harris tweeted Thursday to call out the Republicans’ swift action on precisely the wrong thing:
Six people, including three children, were killed last week in a school shooting in Nashville.
How did Republican lawmakers in Tennessee respond?
By expelling their colleagues who stood with Tennesseans and said enough is enough.
This is undemocratic and dangerous.
Here’s her speech at Fisk University:
President Biden also issued a statement Thursday condemning the expulsions, noting that more than 7,000 students had gone to the Tennessee Capitol on March 30 to peacefully “call on their lawmakers to take action and keep them safe.”
Instead, state Republican lawmakers called votes today to expel three Democratic legislators who stood in solidarity with students and families and helped lift their voices. Today’s expulsion of lawmakers who engaged in peaceful protest is shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent. Rather than debating the merits of the issue, these Republican lawmakers have chosen to punish, silence, and expel duly-elected representatives of the people of Tennessee.
On Friday, before Harris met with Jones, Pearson, and Johnson, Biden also spoke with them on a conference call, and invited them to come to the White House sometime soon. As far as we know, none of the Republicans who engineered the expulsion effort have been invited anywhere nice. That statement will hold even if Donald Trump invites them to one of his trash palaces.
We also found this slightly encouraging news McNugget: Only one Republican in the Tennessee House, Rep. Charlie Baum, voted “Nay” on all three expulsions. Baum has a 92 percent rating from the NRA (and a 100 percent score from National Right to Life), but we want to to encourage Republicans when they do the right thing — positive reinforcement can lead to improvements. So an imaginary chocolate chip cookie to Rep. Baum, in hopes that he’ll stop selling death sticks and go home to rethink his life.
In Washington DC, the Congressional Black Caucus issued a statement condemning the expulsions, saying that the treatment of Reps. Pearson and Jones
makes clear that racism is alive and well in Tennessee. The GOP-led House chose to silence dissent from not only the Black representatives in the chamber, but the voices of their constituents as well. This move is not only racist and anti-democratic, it is morally bankrupt and out of step with the overwhelming majority of Americans who believe that we need common sense gun control reforms to save lives.
Not everyone found fault with the Tennessee Republicans, starting with the Tennessee Republican Party, which sent out a fundraising email praising the brave House Republicans who “upheld the rule of law” — or at least the iron rule of rules — by voting to “remove 2 Democrat State Representative that [it should be “who” — Dok] disrupted and protested the legislative process on March 30th,” which doesn’t make any sense at all since they were definitely not protesting the legislative process, they were protesting the GOP’s chronic firearms priapism disorder.
Fox News, not surprisingly, ran a ton of stories on its website, including one ripping Johnson for saying that “North Korea has more democracy” than Tennessee (the subhed said she “faced expulsion after storming the state Capitol with gun control protesters,” which would have been quite a feat since she was already inside the building, and the protesters had all gone through security like any visitor. The story repeated the claim that all three Democrats were charged with “rushing the state Capitol,” too. Another story Thursday claimed that “Chaos erupts again” at the Capitol because crowds came to protest the vote — or rather, “stormed the Capitol” and “chanted” like some kind of insurrectionists.
On Fox News proper, the Fox & Friends crowd Friday morning explained that the expulsions were justified, because rules are rules and they have to be followed unless you think Donald Trump’s election was stolen. Host Ainsley Earhardt said the expulsions sent an important message “not to storm our government buildings. Right?”
Wrong, as we keep noting, because nobody stormed anything, no matter how much the Right insists this was just like January 6. Earhart also straight up lied that the three Democrats “were leading those protesters onto the balcony in the House chamber last week,” a difficult trick to accomplish from the floor of the House, with people who went through security (but also shouted once inside!) And also, what is “gallery”?
Cohost Will Cain kept the bullshit comparison going, calling Joe Biden a hypocrite while he was at it.
So during January 6th, people condemnably rioted and stormed the Capitol and it is described as undemocratic. In Tennessee, people stormed the Capitol, interrupted the democratic process, and used bullhorns. And if you punish them, that’s undemocratic. So it’s undemocratic as long as it is in disfavor with Joe Biden.
Brian Kilmeade chimed in with a witty observation that would be funny to viewers who know nothing about what Fox staff were actually saying about January 6:
Here’s the big difference. It’s okay to storm the Capitol if you are against assault, against gun control laws, or if you’re for gun control, it is. Okay. Here’s the difference. It’s a statehouse as opposed to the Capitol. I get it. Number two is lawmakers were leaning toward this. They were just like, “Hey, guys, I agree with you, but get out.”
OK, scratch what I said before. That made no sense at all, the end.
[White House / USA Today / The Hill / Mediaite]
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