It’s official. Tennessee State Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, both Democrats, have been reinstated after a city council vote. I don’t believe either of them can serve on committees until after the special elections, but they’re back, and the Tennessee Republican Party, which holds a supermajority in the state House, won’t block their seating. The other Democrat, Rep. Gloria Johnson, also faced an expulsion vote but barely survived, which stoked debates and discussion about whether her race saved her. It was the obvious pivot, and this hyper-focus on the drama within the state capitol is a welcome relief to a media establishment that didn’t want to discuss the shooting at The Covenant School.
On March 27, Audrey Hale, a transgender, killed six people, including three children, at the private Christian school, which led to the March 30 storming of the state capitol by trans rights and anti-gun activists. All three Democrats were targeted for expulsion due to their role in the mayhem. The media needed a lifeboat, and they found it, partially built by the Tennessee GOP (via NBC News):
Breaking News: Local officials unanimously voted to send Justin Pearson, one of two Black Democratic representatives ousted from the Tennessee House of Representatives after a gun control protest, back to his seat in the state legislature on Wednesday. https://t.co/AspM9JMW57— The New York Times (@nytimes) April 12, 2023
Memphis-area officials voted Wednesday to reinstate Justin J. Pearson to the Tennessee Legislature after Republicans expelled him last week for protesting gun violence on the chamber floor.
The seven members of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners present for the vote unanimously approved Pearson's reinstatement during a special meeting in Memphis. Board members suspended the rules to allow for an immediate vote.
Following the vote, Pearson addressed the commission with an enthusiastic speech.
"Nashville thought they could silence democracy," he said to cheers from supporters who had filled the chamber. "But they didn't know the Shelby County Commission ... and its fearless leaders."
He added that he had a "message for all those people in Nashville who voted to expel us": "You can't expel hope, you can't expel justice."
The event began with a prayer recited by Pearson’s father, a preacher, before commissioners quickly conducted the vote. Democrats hold a 9-4 majority on the 13-seat board, though only seven attended Wednesday’s special meeting.
And no, I’m not saying that to criticize the state Republican Party. This move took guts, and I’m sure the entire caucus knew the media reaction. No national Republican would have the courage to expel members, using their own rules against them. The Nashville storming was a mini-January 6. That is a fact; therefore, it was an armed rebellion against the republic. Punishment needed to be handed down. Is it shocking that a liberal city council reinstated Jones and Pearson? No. This conclusion was probably already previsioned by the TN GOP. Was it worth the trouble for the TN GOP to expel members only to see them seated again while gaining national attention and end up right where we started? I’m not one for moral victories, but I’ll give it a pass here. Expelling these clowns was the right thing to do, and even seated, they can’t do much due to the size of the GOP majority.