Republicans who control the Tennessee House of Representatives used their supermajority this month to expel two Black lawmakers for “disorderly behavior.” State Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson had helped lead a protest against gun violence in the House chamber, disrupting legislative work for a little less than an hour.
The power play was quickly revealed as a miscalculation. Jones and Pearson gained national acclaim and many new supporters. They were back at work within a week, after local government bodies reappointed them to the state House.
Meanwhile, the overreaction generated a tremendous amount of negative media coverage. Many reports noted that Tennessee Republicans had ousted two young Black men, while a third Democrat who took part in the same protest (an older white woman) barely survived the expulsion vote.
The episode also brought greater scrutiny to Tennessee’s Republican lawmakers. This week, a vice chair of the House GOP caucus resigned from the legislature after a Nashville-based television station uncovered evidence that he had sexually harassed at least one intern. An ethics committee had investigated that matter in secret, and the House speaker had imposed no consequences for the grotesquely inappropriate behavior.
Watching all of this unfold, I wondered whether anything like this scenario had happened, or could happen, to an Iowa lawmaker.Continue Reading...