Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Today's Republican Party, Part I: Discovering the "F" and "U" in "T-E-N-N-E-S-S-E-E"

There was a lot of news on Monday. And the thread that runs through most of it, as you can see from the headlines, is a political party that is in a very... special place, let's say. Honestly, if you tried to write a screenplay that included most of today's items, you wouldn't be able to sell it because it would seem totally implausible. And yet...

Let's start out in Tennessee, where the state legislature has dominated headlines for days thanks to the decision to eject two Black Democratic members for daring to, you know, say stuff. When that news first broke, we were willing to concede that violating the rules of the state House chamber, and undermining the decorum therein, was potentially worthy of a rebuke. Not expulsion, mind you, but a slap on the wrist, which is the general penalty for these things. Since then, it has come out that the Republicans in the Tennessee state House are in the habit of cutting off the microphone whenever Democrats speak. And that's when Democrats are even allowed the privilege of the floor; sometimes even that is not extended. Under those circumstances, no wonder the three Democratic members (the two ejectees, plus the one near-ejectee) brought a megaphone with them to work. We probably would have done the same thing.

In any case, when this story first broke, we took a look at the Tennessee state Constitution and noted that it doesn't really go into a lot of specifics about what happens next when a member is expelled. Our presumption was that, for the county governments tasked with filling the two vacancies, the following options were on the table:

  1. Reappoint the members (Justin Jones and Justin Pearson) to their seats
  2. If that's not allowed, reappoint each of them to the other's seat
  3. If that's not allowed, appoint a placeholder, and then reelect them ASAP

We couldn't find anything that seemed to take #1 off the table, but we're hardly experts on Tennessee law, and we found it at least little bit hard to believe that Tennessee Republicans would move forward with the expulsions if it was so easy to reverse them.

It would seem that we gave the Tennessee GOPers too much credit, because Jones' replacement has already been chosen, and it is... Justin Jones. He was sworn back in and retook his seat without having missed a single minute of the legislature being in session. It is expected that Pearson will be reappointed to his seat tomorrow, meaning he will miss a grand total of 2 days of work.

Expelling these two men was already sleazy and undemocratic, but now we can add "stupid" to the list, too. Has the Tennessee Republican Party gained anything through this nonsense? We have no doubt that some voters enjoyed seeing a couple of "uppity Negroes" (to use Jones' phrase) put in their places. But we have a sneaking suspicion that those folks were already voting Republican. And now, the Republicans in the state House are left with two choices: (1) take their medicine and look like undemocratic fools, or (2) expel the Justins again, and get into a very-ugly-for-the-GOP pi**ing contest. Either way, it sure looks like the red team loses. Meanwhile, they've given the blue team a huge PR hammer to wield, one that has "fascist" carved in it in big, block letters. Oh, and they've made rock stars (at least temporarily) out of Jones and Pearson.

Did Republican leadership in the Tennessee state House even stop for 5 seconds to think this through? Did they not understand the rules, and the great likelihood that the Justins would both be back? Again, we don't even know the law in the Volunteer State, and yet it was entirely obvious to us they'd be back; the only surprise was how quickly it happened. It's a real head-scratcher. (Z)

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