Early this month, the Republican supermajority in the Tennessee House of Representatives voted to expel two Democratic lawmakers who had participated in a protest against gun violence on the House floor. The GOP also narrowly failed to expel a third Democrat.
The two legislators who were expelled, Reps. Justin Pearson and Justin Jones, have now returned to the House. But the incident turned national attention on Tennessee’s struggling democracy. To discuss, Lawfare Senior Editor Quinta Jurecic spoke with Samar Ali, Research Professor of Political Science and Law at Vanderbilt University and Co-Chair of Vanderbilt’s Project on Unity & American Democracy, and Sekou Franklin, Professor of Political Science at Middle Tennessee State University, and the author—with Ray Block—of the book “Losing Power: African Americans and Racial Polarization in Tennessee Politics.” They explained how the expulsions should be understood as part of a larger process of democratic backsliding and misgovernment in Tennessee, and how that backsliding is itself part of a larger trend of democratic erosion at the subnational as well as the national level.