The reinstatement of Tennessee Democratic State Rep. Justin Jones and the pending re-seating of his colleague Justin Pearson proved a victory for democracy after Republicans callously used their super-majority power to expel the members.
But the win doesn’t overshadow the GOP’s unscrupulous and continued power grab in a state where the Ku Klux Klan first formed in 1866.
The Nashville Metropolitan Council, which unanimously voted to re-seat Jones, continues to face an assault from state Republicans.
This week, a panel of judges ruled that Republican lawmakers cannot cut in half the 40 seats on the primarily Democratic body.
The GOP’s attempt appears to be a retaliation for the Council’s refusal to allow Nashville to host the 2024 Republican National Convention.
Despite the combined city-county government system of 40 council members being in effect for roughly 60 years, the GOP wants Nashville to create new council districts, which many say would usurp the power of Black leaders.
“There is a compelling public interest in preserving the integrity of the Metro election process that is already underway,” three state court justices wrote, rebuffing the GOP’s attempt to wrest control.
The judges represented Nashville, Shelby County, and Athens, Tenn.
“The Court finds the implementation of the Act and its reduction provisions at this late date results in an upheaval of the election process, risks voter confusion, and potentially comprises the integrity of Davidson County’s August 3, 2023, general election,” the judges ruled.
Separately, the Federal Aviation Administration has halted a Republican plan to have the GOP takeover Metro Nashville Airport Authority board appointments.
The state Senate has supported chiefly the move in SB1326, and the House was scheduled to hear a similar measure this week.
Reportedly, the FAA Office of Airport Compliance and Management Analysis Director Kevin C. Willis said the agency “has questions regarding the potential impact of transferring the appointment authority of all board members from the mayor of the local community to state-appointed officials.”
Currently, Nashville’s Democratic mayor appoints board members to the airport, but the GOP wants to take that power from him.
The expulsion of the two Democrats, who vociferously called on their colleagues to act on gun control after the latest school shooting in Nashville claimed the lives of three elementary school students and three adults, came amid the continued GOP power grab.
The reinstatement of Jones comes on the same day a gunman in Kentucky, believed to be a disgruntled ex-employee, killed five people at a bank in Louisville.
It’s the latest in a string of mass shootings that have rocked the nation in recent years, with gun violence continuing to be a divisive and contentious issue.
Some politicians and interest groups have pushed back against calls for stricter gun control. They say that doing so would violate their rights under the Second Amendment.
As the nation mourns the victims of the Louisville shooting and grapples with the ongoing issue of gun violence, many are left wondering when, if ever, lawmakers will take meaningful action to address the issue.
Across the country and in Tennessee, the backlash has been palpable, and even some Republicans have expressed regret for the actions of party members and House Speaker Sexton, who led the vote to oust Jones and Pearson.
“If my job, along with other members of the RNC, is to protect the brand of the Republican Party, this didn’t help,” Oscar Brock, a Republican National Committeeman from Tennessee, told the New York Times.
“You’ve energized young voters against us. Worse than squandering support, you’ve made enemies where we didn’t need them,” Brock said. “Even in Tennessee, we have swing districts in the State House and Senate, and if you’ve angered tens of thousands of students and presumably their parents, you could theoretically expose yourself to a united front.”
Black residents have rallied throughout Tennessee to call attention to the discriminatory politics occurring in the state.
Angelo Tate, 31, told NBC News that the GOP’s removal of Jones revealed what he believed was a hidden truth. “It’s messed up,” Tate said. “All [Jones] wanted to do was represent us, and he got penalized for it. He’s Black, he has our interests at heart, and he gets removed for protesting. That is racial.
“It makes us feel like our choice and our voice is not valued and we seem to be moving backward politically.
“White men don’t care what we think,” Tate said. “They took our representative away from us. It’s like our vote doesn’t matter.”