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What Were The Tennessee Legislators Thinking?

What Were The Tennessee Legislators Thinking?

The Republican majority of the Tennessee House of Representatives just committed one of the most insensitive, boneheaded, idiotic, inappropriate, self-damaging acts of political lunacy that I can recall.  It is inconceivable that they could not have seen the backlash on them and the entire GOP.

What they did was to expel two out of three members — two black men, Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, and a white woman, Representative Gloria Johnson — who had taken over the podium in violation of House rules to embrace the tactics of the protestors in the gallery and outside the chamber – using a bullhorn to drown out regular debate.  The protestors were lobbying in favor of stricter gun legislation.

We can stipulate that the three were in gross violation of the rules.  No question about that.  The civil process demands that the floor of the House be a place of rational debate and not political histrionics.  We can also stipulate that the three may have violated the rules on other occasions as alleged – on the floor and in committee – and that they were admonished by House leaders not to do so in the future..  

But …,

I was shocked that the House GOP would even put the expulsion bills up for a vote – much less pass them in two cases.  And even worse, in a classic example of tone deafness, they actually expelled the two black males but not the white female.  Even Democrat Congressman Steve Cohen would not call the action racist without knowing more about the reason some legislators changed their votes – but that did not stop Democrats up to the White House — and left-wing media, of course– to broadly brush the racism accusation across the entire GOP.

To put things in historical perspective, we should understand that Democrats and the left commonly take peaceful protest to levels beyond the rules and the law – too often to violence (January 6th notwithstanding).  Virtually every street protest goes beyond the constitutional right of assembly.  They block streets and businesses – both illegal.  Even destructive and deadly riots produce little consequences.

You will also recall how Democrats held a sit-in on the floor of Congress – disrupting the proceedings in violation of the rules.  Or recall the Democrat legislators from Wisconsin hiding in Illinois to disrupt the work of their Assembly – and ditto with Democrat legislators in Texas who fled to Washington, D.C., to shut down the work of their legislature.  All violations of law and/or rules.

And what are the traditional consequences?  Nothing.  Because as a culture, we hold these technical violations of law with the same regard we have for driving 10 miles per hour over the posted limit. 

Obviously, the members of the Tennessee House did not understand that.  Not only did they take action, but they took inappropriately severe action, in my judgment.  They voted to expel them.  That is akin to taking the person driving five miles per hour over the posted limit to a year in prison.  (Ok, I exaggerate, but you get the point).

First of all, my conservative soul strongly opposes removing officials from elective offices for anything but the most egregious criminal or contemptible activities.  Political power and minor infractions should not be used to thwart the manifest will of the voters.  Constituents should not be denied representation, even for a day, based on political disagreement or infractions of rules.  That is why I did not support the removal of Congressman Santos –and why I dislike politically motivated impeachments.

Back in 1967, Congress voted to deny New York Congressman Adam Clayton Power his seat for bad behavior.  In the next election, he was returned to Congress by the voters.  It is almost certain that both Jones and Pearson will be back in the House if they so choose.  Local authorities can appoint them as their own replacements, and they would undoubtedly win reelection in 2024.  More germane to the current situation, two Tennessee legislators were expelled shortly after the Civil War for taking a bribe and sexual misconduct, respectively. That is serious stuff.

But in the meantime, Jones and Pearson will have been elevated to Democrat superstar status.  The event in Tennessee is at the top of the news – garnering more time and attention than the murder of three teenagers, increased warfare between Israel and Palestine, the war in Ukraine, and even Donald Trump.

Had the Tennessee legislature passed some sort of resolution of condemnation or censure, it would have been a local story — and largely to the disadvantage of the three legislators for violating the rules. They had the option of putting the three before the Ethics Committee but chose not to do so.

Instead, the Tennessee GOP House members overreached and created a HUGE public relations problem for the Republican Party across the nation.  They added fuel to the Democrats’ mendacious narrative that the GOP is a racist and authoritarian institution.

Personally, I do not believe that the Republicans who voted to expel were acting out of racism or authoritarianism – but rather, they were operating on inexplicable, incomprehensible, and unmitigated stupidity.  The fact that it was not the work of an isolated nutcase, but the entire Republican membership of the House, makes it all the worse.  Collective stupidity.

Hard to find an example of such minor bad behavior being elevated and transformed into heroic victimhood on such a grand scale.  This damaging embarrassment will continue to play out against the GOP in the media for days, weeks, and even months as the media tracks the latest events in the political lives of Jones and Pearson.  

The GOP members of the Tennessee House should consider themselves fortunate that they cannot be expelled from office for stupidity.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.

22 Comments

  1. frank stetson

    I sometimes wonder how stupid can America be. I don’t care what you believe in or who you voted for, Larry is right that this is beyond dumb. Bad enough to expel a couple of young, energetic, educated, experienced, professional, black duly-elected State representatives, but to let the white lady off scott free for the exact same crime might seem to be about as a piss-poor set of optics as could be imagined. In the vein of “what could they be thinking?” Considering their lack of a cohesive rationale supporting their heinously racist actions: what could they STILL be thinking?

    I mean haven’t they learned — cameras are everywhere. Haven’t they learned — news today travels at the speed of light and everyone with a cell phone is able to report.

    As far as anyone can tell, these folks got the boot for the mistake of being young and black, and she took the exact same actions and got off for not being young and black, but a middle-aged white woman.

    Now, 130,000 Tennesseans, primarily Black, remain unrepresented at the Statehouse.

    In one move, the Republicans what-be-in-charge are convincing a whole lot of people to think twice before moving to Tennessee, a Republican State where Larry says systemic racism ONLY occurs in the metropolitan areas controlled by Democrats. I think there’s 130,000 black residents of Tennessee, and now a hell of a lot of white folks from Tennessee that think it’s not just Democrats pulling systemic racism’s strings no matter what Larry keeps trying to profess.

    • Miles collins

      The blacks should be expelled.

    • Name larry Horist

      Frank Stetson … Youi assume racism. I tend to agree with Tennessee Democrat Congressman Cohen who said it may not be racism. There were other distinctions between the history and the antics of Johnson and the two black legislators. That was also an opinion expressed by a black Democrat state rep. Those comments feel from the reporting as the racist narrative heated up. I see it is an inexplicable example of partisan stupidity. The response — including the old race card response — was soooooo predictable. And I do not like removing folks from office for less than major offenses. Stupidly reigned supreme — they two Justins were destined to return quickly — and one already has. All the GOP House reaped was tons of bad publicity — and fuel for for dubious political narratives, like yours.

      • frank stetson

        I understand that’s what you think. That’s what you assume. And that’s what I think. Because that’s how I interpret what I see. Neither of us know because REPUBLICANS really did not put out a rationale. You see victimization of Republicans who “committed one of the most insensitive, boneheaded, idiotic, inappropriate, self-damaging acts of political lunacy that I (Larry Horist doppelganger?) can recall.” I see the optics of racism that somehow you can’t. But, as I noted and you don’t, there has been no rationale as to why two blacks get the hook and the white woman takes the stage. You see history, antics, and a sole black representative that you don’t name. I see nothing but the optics provided.

        You say: “There were other distinctions between the history and the antics of Johnson and the two black legislators. That was also an opinion expressed by a black Democrat state rep.” I have not found this yet.

        What I did find: REPUBLICAN white guy representative Brian Richey defended the vote because Justin Jones, told him that he wanted to be kicked out. What a nice guy to offer his assistance to his black friend to further the black cause in Tennessee. A real team player. He also said he favored sanctions, not removal, but voted to remove one of the guys anyway.

        The Tennessee Black Caucus does not agree with you Larry.

        Representative Vincent Dixie said: “Welcome to Tennessee, where there’s a pattern of racism that has permeated these halls.”

        Van Turner, Memphis chapter N.A.A.C.P. President said what happened at the statehouse on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard, two days after the fifty-fifth anniversary of his assassination, a political lynching.

        But I can’t find the black representative that Larry found.

        Bottom line is you can defend these actions, but kicking out two black guys while allowing the middle-age white women to remain unscathed for the exact same crimes, not even a censure I believe, just reeks of systemic racism or worse. You may have your single, unknown, invisible black representative; I only have the world watching and commenting on our racism as a country. Especially the Republican Party.

  2. John Webb

    These lawmakers who disrupted the proceedings knew exactly what they were doing. There are several protected classes in our nation who feel that due to the progressive left’s identity politics, believe that they can act out and disrupt legislative proceedings with impunity and should they be disciplined, they immediately scream “racism” as if they are a protected class from any retributions for their actions. Most taxpaying Americans are extremely tired of this but it fits into the duel justice system that is becoming all too obvious to thinking Americans. Our American justice system under the Constitution is equality and NOT “equity”. I say play your political role with dignity and responsibly or stop trying to call yourselves legislators.

  3. Darren

    I think that I am in an episode of the Twilight Zone, I agree with Frank!
    With that said, still a good article Larry.

    • Miles collins

      Darren you really agree with frank? Stupidity is catching

  4. warren leflar

    His entire third paragraph says it all. They have been admonished in the past for their actions on the house floor but they think they are above the rules and regulations. They continue to repeat them and think there should be no consequences. Well I think this consequence is more than since they refuse to obey the regulations of the house floor. They do not deserve their positions and act like fools with bullhorns and incitement of radical positions. They deserve what they are getting.

  5. William D Covington

    The correct approach would have been to suspend them for a short period for their actions.

    • frank stetson

      +1 on that Mr. Covington; and then there would be hardly a ripple of a problem. Fifteen minutes of fame and back to work at the Statehouse.

      Instead they chose this.

  6. CapnJack

    Granted, “Justice ” was not blind here and should have been evenly meted out, but why all of the whining and name calling? If legislators insist on performing childish acts, then they should be stood down (Face in a corner) for a suitable period of time.

  7. Tom

    Larry, about licenses, I agree but its more like being caught five miles over and having your license revoked and having to take the drivers test again to get it back. Believe it or not, just the other day I was criticized on FB for taking a stand not to raise the speed limit in NC to 75, and that people should obey the current laws. I was told that preaching obedience to the law in this regard is just plain silly.

    I need not post anything because you and my “Horist implicated associate” Frank have stated very well the feelings of this unabashedly Independent/Unaffiliated voter’s feelings on the matter. So it would appear that we have yet another trifecta of agreement and joy in the PBP blogosphere!

    I would like to point out one thing, and that is where you say, “Personally, I do not believe that the Republicans who voted to expel were acting out of racism or authoritarianism – but rather, they were operating on inexplicable, incomprehensible, and unmitigated stupidity. “
    I believe you that you do personally feel that way, and that is what is troubling! Why are you cutting the Republicans a break here?!!! Why aren’t they acting as racist, like you have so often accused the Democrats? Seems to me to be a very clearly overt act of racism. I mean like slam dunk racist act! Yet you do not see the RN GOP as acting out of racism. And if it is not that, then by your own words you have falsely accused the Democrats of racism when really it was only a case of “operating on inexplicable, incomprehensible, and unmitigated stupidity. “ As an Independent/Unaffiliated voter who does not like either party, I think you need to start being fair to the Dems! OR you need to root out some of the reasoning in you that blinds you to the racism of the GOP! OR maybe this is just another case of “operating on inexplicable, incomprehensible, and unmitigated stupidity. “ I will let you decide.
    So there ‘tis

    • larry Horist

      Tom … I am taking my opinion from that of the local Democrat Congressman and a Dem state rep who cautioned against calling it racially motivated — citing other possible reasons for the difference in the vote. Minimally, that does not make the racist narrative a slam dunk. I do believe that you can find Republicans and folks on the right with racist attitudes. But I most address institutional racism — and that weighs heavily on the Dem side of the scale. Even an anecdotal instance of racism where Republican’s are in charge is no where near the HUGE destructive and deadly racism found in those segregated cities run almost exclusively by Dems. Claiming partisan equivalency is a huge misrepresentation of the facts. If you think I focus on Dems too much, it is only because of the persistence of the misinformation.

    • frank stetson

      “Personally, I do not believe that the Republicans who voted to expel were acting out of racism or authoritarianism – but rather, they were operating on inexplicable, incomprehensible, and unmitigated stupidity. “ Thanks Tom. While I agreed with Larry that this was beyond dumb, and with Darren, who Miles says is now dumb, I now also agree with Tom who said: “I believe you that you do personally feel that way, and that is what is troubling! Why are you cutting the Republicans a break here?!!! Why aren’t they acting as racist, like you have so often accused the Democrats? ”

      Well, mostly with Tom. I am struck by is Larry’s huge leap of faith as to these folk’s righteousness in light of the actual optics sucking so bad. Without any shred of evidence for expelling two, young, black guys beyond them attending a sit-in, while simultaneously going out of their way to let a middle-aged white woman off the exact same hook, how would Larry conclude that this could be anything but racism. Perhaps not an overt in-your-face lynching, but without a doubt, this is, at minimum, systemic racism as if some great subconsciousness notion led these people to make this incredibly stupid decision. But it really looks like more than systemic racism. They haven’t even said why they did i, why it makes sense, OR why it isn’t totally racist. And the end result of 130,000 blacks not having a say at the TN Statehouse now — how can blacks being excluded by the State Government because whites voted to exclude them not be anything but racist?

      The optics are disastrous, the reality ain’t much better.

      I am not sure why Larry thought it prudent to add that? Not sure why he feels the need to take the extra step to cover these racists who are making no steps to cover it themselves, or to fix it.

      +1 Tom for ferreting that out. I am hopeful Larry’s fingers got away from him, hard to believe he can’t see how MOST would see that as racist.

      • Tom

        Yes you hit the nail squarely on the head Frank. One party gets the leap of faith. The other party gets the leap of heavy criticism! I strongly feel that Larry should have denounced this in the most strongest of terms. But it is hard to denounce those you identify with in general or as Larry would say, (as he said when defending “never liking Trump”), “on a policy level”.

        I must say that Larry seems to have a filter of “do I agree with your policy”, and I think that is why GOPsters that do these kind of things, generally get a pass. Santos got a similar pass where Larry did not condemn Santos and strongly call for his barring from the floor. In one article, “Can Santos Survive the Lies” posted on Jan16, 2023, Larry basically denounced dishonesty, bashed Dems for pursuing Santos resignation, and with regard to Santos he basically closes the article by saying, “As far as the outcome for Santos, we will have to wait and see.” Never condemned Santos and called for Santos removal. And the Jan 16 article followed a Dec 31, 2022 article titled “Santos Lied on His Resume…. But Who Else” where Larry seems to be using a tactic called “whataboutism” and he points out three Dems (Blumenthal, Warren, Biden) whom he accuses of lying to secure a public office, and uses them as a way of counterbalancing and somewhat rationalizing what Santos did. Again, never clearly denouncing Santos and calling for his removal from office.

        We all see life through some psychological filters. None of us are innocent in this regard. Larry seems in these GOP vs. Dem cases to be using a filter of “Do I agree with your policy”. If yes, then pass on morality and no denouncement. If no, then criticize, demoralize, and denounce. Then hide the filter as being a “conservative”. In other words, the policy filter and the morality outcome are integrated when Larry discusses GOP but not integrated when he discusses Dems.

        And when you and I question him, we are actually questioning his filter which is part of who he is, and that is why he takes it personally an attacks like he did when I simply mentioned the disingenuous use of the word “never” and he went into a Trumpian rant.

        But I do appreciate Larry because he does bring out some interesting thought and introspection in all of us. And that is what thought leaders are supposed to do. You also make me think a lot! I enjoy both of you!

  8. George

    Why the white lady got off is beyond me .As for the guy with the pony tail, he’s nothing but an activist who won his seat with 444 votes because nobody ran against him. For him to have a bull horn in the well of the house is unconscionable. Rather than be expelled they should all have been censured with fines to come if they have a repeat of this.

    • Miles collins

      Get ropes next time

      • Frank stetson

        Why ropes Miles? What for?

        You’r Irish fathers spin in their graves at your frequent hate speak. Miles means servant. A domestic who serves a master. And now your frustration can fly free on an anonymous website that refuses to police hate speak therefore emboldening haters like the frustrated short-dick Mr Collins who gets his rocks off advocating violence against blacks, gays, and trans.

        I am Irish and my Irish thinks you are wrong to use such hate speak and would penalize you for using it IF this site was under my ownership as a rules violation. My Irish came over in 1866 just after the Civil War fought against your type who were Democrats acting just like you act.

        • Miles collins

          I never said to harm anyone. Ropes have many uses. Like little girls counting cadences while jumping rope. They should try the ones used in the movie Full Metal Jacket Makes us want to find a n Eskimo

        • Tom

          I agree with your position on Mike collins! The man is loaded with hate but luckily, even though there are no monitors on this site for such speech, he still seems to be in the minority. I am not for violence on any of these people. That is why I think we need a strong candidate with a campaign to “Make America One Again” .

  9. Mike f

    Larry, You very briefly touched on the real problem here at the end of your article and that is the stupidity of the legislators. However, this is not just a problem In Tennessee, but a serious problem nationwide-the intelligent Republicans are routinely defeated and you end up with big mouths that are totally ignorant (think MTG, Boebert, gym Jordan, Gaetz to name but a few of the many). You do not have this level of ignorance in democrat elected officials. And this will continue as long as you and other pundits denigrate the intelligent people in your party and chase them out of congress. You need to stop playing to the lowest common denominator, which is what all conservative pundits do, lying to the base knowing they are too stupid to check the facts and make a decision based on those, rather than what some idiot on faux or wherever tells them. You can make a difference-will you though???

  10. Mike f

    Larry, Glad you chose not to attempt to refute my comments and instead let them stand. Mccarthy’s favorite congressperson sure showed me to be correct today…