There are embarrasing people in our House. And Senate.
March 19th, 2021
(published in The Daily Memphian)
We’ve all got them.
The uncomfortable uncle. The cousin who’s not quite right. The brother-in-law who says exactly the wrong thing at the right time. The aunt who makes unusual sounds.
Growing up, all those people were around the big round dining room table on any given night, but my step grandfather, Jack, was the one I always kept my eye on. He was stone deaf. At some point during dinner, or at several points, he would loudly express an opinion out of nowhere – often derogatory about somebody at the table – or describe a digestive problem he was having – often colorfully detailed.
He was a showstopper, but harmless.
Jack had a lot in common with our state legislature – deaf to the real concerns and needs of those around the table, completely concerned about himself and whatever was bothering him at the moment, and saying outrageous things.
But while Jack was harmless, our narrow-minded self-serving representatives and their targeted legislation are far from harmless. They have all but declared war on the urban centers of Tennessee, most especially Memphis and Shelby County and our minority-majority.
While Jack, bless his heart, was family, the legislature is mostly rural, mostly male, mostly white, and mostly Republican. The majority of the people around the table in Memphis and Shelby County are none of those things.
Dinner is not going well.
For example, Sen. Janice Bowling (R- Tullahoma) introduced legislation this year to not only reduce early voting but to eliminate it entirely in Tennessee. She says that will eliminate the “mischief” of early voting. Since there was no mischief in Tennessee – or anywhere else as 60-plus court cases have proven – the only one up to something is Sen. Bowling.
Sen. Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) and Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mount Juliet) have introduced a bill to fingerprint all voters. I’m guessing that the next step would be to have everyone who doesn’t look like Frank or Susan face the camera, front and profile, for one of those booking photographs with the height chart behind them.
Those are just a few of the voting-related bills brought before the General Assembly, but they all have one thing in common; to suppress the minority vote.
Like my brothers at the dinner table, they want all the mashed potatoes to themselves.
I think the guessing the number of jelly beans in a jar voting requirement is probably under consideration again in Nashville – limited to Shelby and Davidson Counties, of course.
Even now, I can still hear Jack bellowing.
Outside of voter suppression, some of the people serving themselves are some of our very own, counting on their rural colleagues’ insensitivity if not wholehearted disdain for urban concerns to get their way back here at home.
For example, Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), now chair of the education committee, continues to push for school vouchers, even though the courts have called it unconstitutional, taking public money from strapped public schools and awarding it to private schools – limited to Shelby and Davidson Counties, of course.
Sen. Kelsey is legislating where he eats. His day job is senior attorney for the Liberty Justice Center, and the Liberty Justice Center is involved in at least one suit against the Shelby County Board of Education, and suits in several other states in favor of voucher systems.
Another is a revenge move by Rep. Tom Leatherwood (R-Arlington). He has offered legislation to eliminate partisan primaries for countywide offices – limited to Shelby and Davidson Counties, of course. Splitting the vote with multiple candidates would favor Republicans he figures.
He should know. Before he landed a seat in the legislature, he was beat like a drum in the countywide race for clerk – a Democratic sweep in 2018.
Memphis has enough legislators advancing their agendas by taking shots at us from Nashville. We don’t need any of those point blank from Germantown and Arlington.
They do this sort of thing every year over there – preaching less government and local self-determination, and then stomping all over the state’s largest cities when they attempt to do just that.
Maybe the minority they’re so worried about will finally get tired enough of the majority’s bullying and muscle-flexing and stand up as one. Maybe the moderates will get tired enough of the repressive legislation and the obvious aggression and say that’s enough. Maybe the state’s largest population areas will get out the vote and get Tennessee into the 21st century.
Georgia called. They want us to know that it’s possible. The people rose against their backward repressive dull red legislature and turned the state bright blue.
I’m a Memphian, and the supermajority of the Tennessee General Assembly doesn’t know Jack about us, and cares even less.
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