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A new front in the fight for American democracy has emerged in Tennessee

By 04/09/2023 5:42 PMNo CommentsBy YidInfo Staff

Since Tennessee Republicans booted two Black politicians from the state legislature for their involvement in a demonstration calling for the passage of gun control laws, Tennessee has emerged as a new front in the fight for the future of American democracy.

Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were kicked out of the Tennessee House on Thursday in separate votes by the GOP supermajority, leaving approximately 140,000 people in predominantly Black districts in Nashville and Memphis without a representative.

The removal of Pearson “for such a tiny transgression,” according to 53-year-old teacher Kevin Webb from Pearson’s district, is “typical America.”

According to Webb, there has been prejudice towards African people in this nation for 500 years. “What gives us the impression that it will suddenly stop? ”

As a reprisal for their participation in the demonstration following a school shooting in Nashville that left six people dead, including three young pupils, Pearson and Jones were expelled.

By one vote, a third Democrat avoided expulsion.

The expulsion of the parliamentarians, who had just recently been elected, is indicative of a nationwide Republican pattern in which they are attempting to make voting more difficult and pose a threat to the legitimacy of the electoral process.

According to the Brennan Center, at least 177 proposals limiting voting, providing mechanisms that could intimidate voters, or allowing partisan involvement have been filed or presented this year in dozens of states.

Neha Patel, co-executive director of the State Innovation Exchange, a strategic hub for state legislators pursuing progressive ideas, stated that it “represents a pretty steady degradation of our democracy.”

Expulsions, according to Patel, are “the third prong of a long-range strategy,” adding that while it used to be “unusual” for states to make it more difficult for people to vote, it is now “commonplace.”

The GOP has also made it standard practice to contest elections and cast doubt on their validity.

The next concern, according to her, is whether states with Republican supermajorities will follow Tennessee’s example and eject opponents who hold opposing viewpoints.

Expulsions have typically been reserved for parliamentarians engaged in criminal conduct, according to Fred Wertheimer, the founder, and president of Democracy 21, a nonpartisan group that promotes better government.

According to Wertheimer, it is “unheard of” for voters to lose their representatives for carrying out their duties. Although “this stuff travels,” he has not heard of such actions in other states.

Many groups expressed outrage over the Tennessee action.

Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, stated that although race was a factor in the problem, it wasn’t the only one. It concerns fundamental American principles.

He said, “It appears as though the Tennessee Legislature needs a refresher in the American Constitution,” referring to the freedoms of speech, assembly, and vote.

Rep. Steven Horsford of Nevada, the president of the House Black Caucus, demanded that the Tennessee members be reinstated in their positions and that Attorney General Merrick Garland look into possible Voting Rights Act breaches.

Derrick Johnson, president and chief executive officer of the NAACP, stated that the civil rights group was ready to file a lawsuit “to guarantee that this despicable attempt to silence the people’s voice is addressed in a court of law.”

House Speaker Cameron Sexton pushed back in response to complaints that he was removing the voice and representation of thousands of Tennesseans.



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