The reinstatement of Justin Jones, the Democrat from the Tennessee House of Representatives ousted from his position for a raucous protest of lax gun laws, had a lot of his own party members and colleagues cheering on Monday. His partner-in-protest, Justin Pearson, seems ready to join him.
I hate to be one of those damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don't people, but really, this is something to cheer about?
Did we forget that thousands of people cast votes to install both men in that legislative position and that a group of Republicans disenfranchised those voters on a whim? Do we really think that reinstalling the men makes everything okay, or are we beginning to understand that the sacred right to vote has become subservient to the vagaries of political allies and opponents?
In 2016 America elected Donald Trump. It was, for most American voters and for me, a sickening abuse of the right to vote. But in the aftermath, it has been the Republicans who have tried to make voting less available and more complex, even going so far as to try to overturn the 2020 presidential vote.
To be fair, the Democrats' immediate, recurring, and ultimately ineffective attempts to remove Trump from office—events that may have reflected the majority opinion but wasted an excessive amount of time and money on a vote already counted and certified, were lame also. To their credit, the Democrats sought to make voting easier, reflecting the name of their party. The Republicans maintain the opposite tack.
In 2022 65% of the voters in Georgia's 14th District voted to return Marjorie Taylor Greene to Congress. She's an anti-Semite and a racist, a gun nut, and a conspiracy theorist. She is as ignorant of her own country's history as she is of the English language. But her landslide victory means she represents those people. She will infuriate more of the sane and reasonable than Pearson ever will, but they all have the same right to retain their positions.
The Democrats continue to raise the specter of autocracy, accusing the Republicans of abrogating voting rights through gerrymandering and intimidation. And they're right. But this idea of removing people from office because of a disagreement is absurd. We all know that the Tennessee Republicans in the state house lost their minds only because the Pearson protest centered on guns: the financial support of the NRA and other groups opposing all gun laws is the lifeblood of the GOP. One wonders what the outcome would have been if three Republicans had interrupted legislative proceedings and breached decorum to promote weapons of war. A slap on the wrist, winks and nods, a few tongue clicks, and on with the business of the status quo.
Issues aside, playing fast and loose with our right to vote—to choose or reject—will do little to promote our faith in democracy, even when it seems to restore order. And although I'd like to believe that this local kerfuffle will thrust the anti-gun faction into prominence, 140 mass shootings in 100 days and 11,500 deaths by gun violence since January 1, 2023, haven't done it. A major political party that continues to cower before the gun lobby and treat the slaughter of innocents as collateral damage will never find the courage to do the right thing. The cowardice to stifle dissent, however, is well within their bailiwick.