The Tennessee Legislature Expels Two Democrats

The recent story with the Tennessee State Assembly is a really interesting one, raising a lot of questions ignored by people just making partisan points.

Following the recent school shooting in Nashville, gun control advocates entered the state capitol and interrupted a session of the state legislature, which was not moving in their preferred direction. Several; legislators joined them with bullhorns, and led them in chants. The Republican supermajority voted to remove two African-American members, and spare the middle aged white woman.

Whatever the policy is should be applied evenly without regard to the political party or the cause of the protest. If someone would be happy if Republican members were expelled from a state legislature for leading chants inside of the state capitol during a protest, they should support a similar process here. Likewise Republicans who support kicking out these Democrats should welcome a similar response if members of the party act in a similar fashion in a state where they’re the minority of the legislature. A lot of people think tactics are okay for their side, but not for the other guys, and this seems to inform much of the discussion.

There are specific arguments that the vote was racist because the white representative was spared, and that previous situations didn’t merit similar responses, including a fight, an incident in which a state rep’s chair was peed on, and one state rep facing serious allegations (and admitting to some wrongdoing) of skeevy behavior with his high school students when he was in his early 30s (although 20 years prior to his election).

The efforts to remove Jones (who is black) from office passed by 72-25, the effort to remove Pearson (who is also black) passed by 69-26 and the effort to remove Johnson (the white lady) failed 65-30 (it needed a supermajority) so the majority of Republicans (68 of 75) voted the same for all three legislators. Jones and Pearson spoke at the protest inside the capitol using bullhorns, so there is also a difference in action.

Pearson had only been in office for ten days, so he argued that there should be more efforts to educate new lawmakers on rules of decorum. That may have persuaded the handful of Republicans who voted differently for him than Jones.

With physical brawls, it’s sometimes harder to demonstrate who was at fault. In a protest, it’s clear-cut who did what. There is no question that the Democrats violated rules of decorum. If it’s clear who started a brawl, they should remove that person. In those situations, I’d recommended calling the police and filing charges.

As for the peeing story, I’ll make the controversial statement that any legislator who is demonstrated to have intentionally peed on another (with the exception of something consensual and weird, although either scenario is eww eww eww) should be kicked out of elected office. Looking into it, it really hasn’t been proven, and I regret learning about that story.

One question I have is how Democrats who are currently upset about this would have reacted if the situation were reversed, and this was a case of a few Republican legislators in a blue state (IE- New Jersey, Oregon or Maryland) going with bullhorns to lead protesters in chants when the floor session is interrupted by advocates on some right-wing issue (eligibility of trans girls/ women in competitive high school/ college sports, opposition to bans of plastic bags, etc.)

I can appreciate an argument that Democrats haven’t gone that far to silence Republicans, although as far as I know, Republicans haven’t joined a protest inside a state capitol during a session.

One thing I’m thinking about is the connection to January 6. Plenty of people have called for specific Republicans to be expelled after January 6, but did any Republican member of Congress address and encourage the rioters while they were in the capitol, with or without a bullhorn?

I get the argument that Democrats think this is an important issue and are frustrated, but isn’t a lesson of January 6 that parties should accept election results, and procedural votes that didn’t go their way?

One one message board someone countered by pointing out that Josh Hawley met with protesters on January 6, Lauren Boebert was rumored to give a tour to people who broke into the capitol, and former congressman Joe Wilson yelled “You lie” during a state of the union address.

An issue with Wilson is that his comments lasted like two seconds, so it’s not the equivalent of an hour-long interruption.

Hawley met with protesters outside the capitol, and there were calls for his resignation (a key distinction is that he was encouraging them in something he knew to be untrue.) I would assume there are many situations where politicians meet with and encourage politically simpatico protesters outside the state capitol, without significant penalty.

As for the rumor that Boebert led tours of the capitol, she says that the only people included were members of her family. This hasn’t been disputed in the years to investigate that question. It’s also worth noting that she hadn’t even been sworn into congress, so she would not be very familiar with the layout of the capitol. If she lied to investigators, she should be expelled from Congress, but that hasn’t been established.

One argument is that Jones, Pearson and Johnson represented the will of their voters who wanted more action against gun rights. I don’t think the people saying this want to set the precedent that Republican legislators get to ignore procedures just because their voters support their stand on an issue.

The final argument is that this was overkill. It’s a fair point that this is a unique situation, but it makes sense to avoid copycats. Granted, there may have been better ways to handle this situation, including waiting longer than a week for tempers to cool down, and maybe censuring the three Democrats and setting clear standards going forward so that anyone who does something similar in the future is expelled, but there isn’t any argument on the lack of warning.


About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. You can email me at
This entry was posted in Politics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s