Justin J. Pearson, Tennessee
Justin J. Pearson was one of two state representatives who were removed from the Tennessee House. Photo credit: © Karen Focht/ZUMA Press Wire

Tennessee House Republicans exposed themselves as racist fascists while handing Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson an Easter vacation and a national platform.

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While the expulsion of (now-former but soon-to-be-reelected) state Reps. Justin Jones (D) and Justin Pearson (D) from the Tennessee House has sparked national and international condemnation, I am delighted by what happened.

What a precious gift!!!

At some point in the near future, when the GOP loses its gerrymandered-to-the-gills majority in the House, and much further down the road when, propelled by young voters, Tennessee slowly turns purple, experts will point to April 6 as the day when things began to take a really bad turn for Republicans.

And, best of all, it’s all self-inflicted.

If you are unfamiliar with the story, here is a brief rundown of what happened: Following a mass shooting in a private school in Nashville late last month, lots of young people took to the streets and then the state Capitol to demand action on gun control.

Jones, Pearson, and fellow Democrat Gloria Johnson participated from the floor of the State House and used a bullhorn to partake in the protestors’ chants. Republicans referred to this act as an “insurrection,” and House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R) called their behavior “at least equivalent, maybe worse” than the actual insurrection of January 6.

In reality, of course, it was just an ebullient exercise of the right to free speech, which, if one wanted to be an asshole while simultaneously alienating young voters, could have resulted in censure or some other penalty.

It showed the entire world — especially young people in Tennessee who have recently become, or soon will be, eligible to vote — what the GOP is all about.

But, apparently, in Tennessee with the GOP at the helm, it’s grounds for expulsion from the State House… If you are a Black man, that is. Because, and that’s the icing on this cake, Johnson, who is white, got to keep her job.

You should also know that state lawmakers in Tennessee have a long history of doing much worse things than protesting on the House floor.

But I suppose it must have really galled Tennessee Republicans that two young Black men brought a white woman to this particular party. And that’s why both of them got the equivalent of a political lynching while Johnson got away with a black eye.

The only thing that would have made this more stereotypical would have been if some fat-bellied redneck sheriff had sicced dogs on Jones and Pearson.

Obviously, this is a pretty disgusting abuse of power perpetrated by people drunk on having authority without accountability. So why am I so delighted?

Because it showed the entire world — especially young people in Tennessee who have recently become, or soon will be, eligible to vote — what the GOP is all about.

By the way, the first part of that last sentence is not hyperbole. This story has become international news. Over the past few years, global audiences have become very accustomed to the anti-democracy antics of Republicans, but this takes things to a new low.

Also, it’s important to remember that the GOP has a supermajority in Tennessee. Whether Jones and Pearson look on in disbelief or not, Republicans can pass whatever laws they want, from criminalizing drag queen performances (which they actually did recently) to classifying male masturbation as mass murder (which they might as well do) or mandating students be armed with AR-15s (surely the next step).

Therefore, the absence of these two lawmakers won’t make a difference. In any case, their removal will likely be brief since they can simply be appointed to retake their own seats and then participate in a special election later this year to win them once again.

In the meantime, Jones and Pearson are no longer subject to the fundraising restrictions other members of the state Legislature must adhere to while in session.

In other words, Republicans just handed them a few days off for Easter, gave them a huge platform that will raise their profiles, and allowed them to raise thousands of dollars in campaign donations… all while the GOP looks like a bunch of racists who value guns over free speech.

And, since this happened in broad daylight with the entire world and young voters watching, it seems very likely that Republicans will pay the price for this fascist behavior — both in November and for many years to come.

What’s not to like about that?


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a senior editor for Politics and director of the Mentor Apprentice Program at WhoWhatWhy. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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