This past week, the Tennessee House of Representatives expelled two of three representatives for breaching the rules of decorum. Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were both Democratic representatives whose violation of decorum included using a bullhorn on the House floor, speaking without being recognized and leading protests demanding gun restrictions. The third representative, Gloria Johnson, narrowly avoided expulsion by one vote, according to ABC News.
Already, there is discussion about the fact that the two representatives expelled were young, black men compared to their white colleague who remains a member of the TN House. Rep. Johnson has been quoted that she believes that this case was racially and politically motivated, according to Knoxville News. Personally, I think she’s right. Reps. Jones and Pearson represented a terrifying demographic to TN and national-level Republicans. They represent young, passionate leaders who aren’t willing to compromise on their values. Both men are smart and well-spoken; their speeches will take you to church, a scary thing in a Bible Belt state. What happened to them should be a crime, and I’m glad they have been reelected to their positions already.
Unfortunately, this case is representative of a larger issue. Weaponizing legislative discipline like this is a massive sign of dysfunction and discordance between the two political parties. Mistrust like that will bleed into the average citizen’s life, and fear can be a powerful motivator. Fear can drive you to vote against your best interest or to participate in an insurrection because a political leader said you should. This is not the first sign of dysfunction between the parties. Former President Donald Trump’s indictment has been a political buzzword over the last few weeks, with some political leaders speaking of conducting revenge investigations on current and former Democratic leaders, according to The New York Post. Again, I am of the opinion that no one is above the law, and if there’s a case then there must be an investigation. However, this tit-for-tat model is reductive and distracting from the needs of American citizens. As a new generation continues to age into the political sphere, the old guard should be taking on the roles of mentors and guides, instead of trying to push them out. Gen Z is swiftly joining the previous generations in the political arena and dismissing them based on age or experience is a huge mistake. If I have learned anything in my time as a nontraditional student at Vassar it’s that everyone can teach you something.
Our country needs a bridge, metaphorically and politically, so that we don’t have to waste time reinventing procedures and can instead do the real work of helping the people of this country thrive. We should be improving average family incomes, bettering housing and education. Our focus should be on building roads, real ones, not mending proverbial fences. I’ll be honest—I don’t have a solution. This is above my pay-grade and my political knowledge, but if I can see the problem that means everyone else can, too. Maybe it’s time to demand more from our leaders and remind them of the playground rules; playing nice with others and showing compassion goes a long way.