Saturday, April 08, 2023

Blunder


The Tennessee House of Representative, with its overwhelmingly Republican majority, expelled two black male legislators on Thursday and rejected expulsion of a white female legislator. A two-thirds majority was needed to take such a radical action and the final vote in the case of Justin Jones, 72-25; with Justin Pearson, 69-26; and with Gloria Johnson, 63-34. She survived by one vote.

If you're like most Americans- even most Americans paying a great deal of attention to politics- you may not know that the votes for the three did not differ dramatically. And that, in a way, is why these two Republicans are spot-on in their analysis of the vote in Tennessee.


With all due respect to  Chris Lehmann and Elie Mystal of The Nation, I don't believe race was the only factor in the choice to axe two black lawmakers and let the white one off the hook (sort of). And I don't believe racism was a major factor in the decisions. 

Decisions is the operative term; as far as is known thus far, there was not a concerted, unified game plan on the part of the Republican caucus.  If there were, they would not have thrown out both blacks and left the white in place, an act of political insanity. . 

Rabidly anti-Democratic voters in the state probably would have preferred getting rid of all three Democrats because, well, Democrats. Moreover, the action will have only a temporary effect on composition of the legislature. The county commission in Jones' district and that in Pearson's district will promptly return each to the chamber, whereupon both Jones and Pearson likely will be emboldened, to the dismay of their colleagues who expelled them.

And the optics are terrible- white in, black out. Off to the back of the bus you go!  Influential Democrats in the nation would have been mad if all three had been removed from office. Removing the black individuals while allowing the white individual to remain will make influential Democrats very, very mad.  

It's political red meat. There is nothing more effective in stimulating the Democratic base than making race the paramount issue. Here, Republicans in the state own the burden of proof, which can be shifted the national Party., which already seems unmoved by this assault on democracy. And when, unlike with urban crime, the GOP is front and center- on the defensive- there is little downside for Democrats. 

Now it is up to those same Democrats. They cannot wait for the media to take up the cause or even to avoid bothsiderism but must tie the charge of racial extremism around the necks of Republicans.  They should do so while bypassing the terms of "racist(s)" or "racism" as much as possible. Non-blacks already believe they are haphazardly accused of being racist, and it's not Republicans they blame for that.

Whether or not racial animus was at the heart of this action by the GOP, it looks as if it was. Perception is not reality- but it seems like reality. And the burden of proof, given the optics recognized by the two Republicans in the video below, is on the GOP to demonstrate that their motives were honorable. The media is awaiting a story about race, with video of the Tennessee House readily available. It would be political malpractice for Democrats to let this moment pass. 

                          HAPPY PASSOVER!     HAPPY EASTER! 

(and down with exclamation points.)



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