Representation over Decorum


Ashley Chan, Opinion Editor

In Tennessee, Republican lawmakers voted to expel three Democratic state legislators for their participation in a gun-safety protest following the Covenant School mass shooting that occurred on Mar. 27. Representatives Justin Pearson, Justin Jones, and Gloria Johnson joined protestors in Nashville, Tennessee to advocate for gun control legislation such as improved red-flag laws, which would heighten requirements to own a gun. These representatives have subsequently been dubbed the “Tennessee Three” and have faced expulsion on the alleged offense that their gun control reform behavior “reflects poorly on the House’s reputation.” By expelling these lawmakers to protect the House’s so-called reputation, the House, and thus Tennessee as a whole, loses democracy. Tennessee chose decorum over representation in the belief that some people do not deserve representative government. This decision is a crime against democracy. 

The expulsion of these lawmakers is inherently wrong–it’s an “erosion of democracy” and an abuse of power by Republicans to silence opposition. By oppressing Democrat voices, the people in Tennessee are not properly represented in the government, demonstrating how these Republican legislators would rather “protect” the House’s supposed reputation instead of offer the public true representation. 

According to Pearson, the three legislators had broken “a house rule, because we’re fighting for kids who are dying from gun violence and people in our communities who want to see an end to the proliferation of weapons in our communities.”

Additionally, only Pearson and Jones were voted out of office, while the House was one vote short of expelling Johnson. Both Pearson and Jones are young Black Democrats, while Johnson is white. By removing Pearson and Jones from their positions, the House has rightfully been under fire for perceived racism. 

“What happened yesterday was an attack on our democracy and overt racism,” Jones commented. “The nation got to see clearly what’s going on in Tennessee, that we don’t have democracy especially when it comes to Black and brown communities. This is what we have been challenging all session, a very toxic, racist work environment.”

Pearson stated, “You cannot ignore the racial dynamic of what happened today. Two young Black lawmakers get expelled, while the white woman does not? That is a statement in and of itself.”

Even if the Tennessee legislature did not mean to be blatantly racist, their decision-making has been questionable at best. Removing two people of color from the House for something as trivial as breaking decorum raises questions about the Republican party’s ability to uphold democracy. After all, their decision left tens of thousands of people of color in Tennessee without proper representation, making the decision to expel these two lawmakers even more problematic. 

Due to the immediate backlash the House rightfully faced, both Pearson and Jones were reappointed to their respective seats a few days after their expulsion. Although the problematic decision has been reversed, the truth still lingers: the expulsion of opposition is not democratic, it’s authoritarian, and we, as a nation, should be concerned for our future because this issue is not just confined to the boundaries of Tennessee. The favoring of decorum over representation has set a dangerous precedent for the entire nation. 

“What is happening here today is a situation in which the jury has already publicly announced the verdict,” Jones stated. “A lynch mob assembled to not lynch me but our democratic process.”

The Republican Party’s actions are nothing less than an attack on democracy. Their attempt to force a muzzle onto their opponents who are simply fighting for the safety of their community and their nation is blatantly wrong. Everybody deserves representative government. The Tennessee Republican lawmakers seem to disagree. 

Republican politicians have chosen decorum over representation. But is decorum going to protect children from school shootings? Will decorum ensure that all voices are equally represented? Will decorum uphold democracy? No, it won’t. Representation will. 


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