Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections. The GOP has supermajorities in the TN Legislature.
Two Democratic members of the Tennessee House of Representatives were expelled while a third member was spared in an ousting by Republican lawmakers that was decried by the trio as oppressive, vindictive and racially motivated.Protesters packed the state Capitol on Thursday to denounce the expulsions of Reps. Justin Jones and Rep. Justin Pearson and to advocate for gun reform measures a little over a week after a mass shooting devastated a Nashville school.
Steve Benen at MSNBC:
Rep. Gloria Johnson on why she survived while two of her colleagues were expelled from the Tennessee House: "Well, I think it's pretty clear. I'm a 60-year-old white woman and they are two young Black men." pic.twitter.com/6dNbW9dOHz— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 7, 2023
Stepping back, if GOP leaders don’t yet fully appreciate the degree to which this is likely to backfire, this will probably dawn on them soon.
For one thing, over the course of this week, the story about the Tennessee Three made the transition from local controversy in Nashville to a national outrage. As the dust settled on yesterday’s developments, for example, the White House issued a statement condemning the expulsions.
“Today’s expulsion of lawmakers who engaged in peaceful protest is shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent,” President Joe Biden said. “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.”
He wasn’t alone. There were related condemnations from the Congressional Black Caucus, among other congressional Democrats from both chambers. Barack Obama added a statement of his own.
The Republican majority in Nashville, in other words, set out to silence the Tennessee Three. In the process, the GOP helped make the Democrats heroes to a worthy cause.
What’s more, if Republicans think they “won” the broader fight by kicking Jones and Pearson out of the legislature, they’ll soon learn otherwise: There’s nothing stopping the two men from running anew for the seats they held. In fact, it’s a safe bet they’re going to win, rejoining the institution that unjustly expelled them.
They may not even have to wait too long: Local officials have the authority to appoint temporary legislators to fill the vacancies, and no one should be surprised if they choose Jones and Pearson.