Barack Obama Returns With Push Against GOP Threats To Democracy

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In Tennessee on Thursday, Republicans in the state House voted to expel two members of that body who had (peacefully) expressed support for protests demanding action on guns. That issue, of course, is urgent, with Americans across age groups still dying, including in the recent mass shooting at a private school in Nashville.

No matter the seriousness of the situation, the targeted Democratic legislators were accused of so-called dishonor and ultimately booted. A third Democrat who also participated, Gloria Johnson, remains in office after the vote on the motion to expel her failed. Johnson is a white woman, and the other two, Justin Pearson and Justin Jones, are Black men.

“This nation was built on peaceful protest,” former President Barack Obama said Thursday in comments that publicly available metrics on Twitter claimed were already viewed 14.3 million times in a little over 12 hours. “No elected official should lose their job simply for raising their voice – especially when they’re doing it on behalf of our children. What happened in Tennessee is the latest example of a broader erosion of civility and democratic norms. Silencing those who disagree with us is a sign of weakness, not strength, and it won’t lead to progress.”

There are other available examples of the same trend, like Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis booting a democratically elected prosecutor in southern Florida who had expressed opposition to the prospect of bringing charges hinging on an abortion as Republican legislators in that state and elsewhere move to further restrict the procedure. A federal judge ultimately found DeSantis had violated that elected official’s rights under the First Amendment. Elsewhere, the same idea could be seen behind GOP attempts at gerrymandering, meaning a manipulation of the process of drawing the boundaries of legislative districts that could politically benefit those in power. Such could be accomplished through giving their own supporters a majority in as many districts as possible and, conversely, confining those on the other side to either a minority across districts or the majority in an unreasonably few number of districts, drawn oddly to include them.

Elsewhere, protests against gun violence and demanding action to stop it are continuing, including in Tennessee. There were demonstrators inside and outside of Tennessee’s state Capitol on Thursday to express support for Johnson, Jones, and Pearson, who originally spoke in support of other demonstrators last week. The trio stood towards the front of the state House chamber with a megaphone.