President Joe Biden held a curious meeting in the Oval Office where he honored Tennessee legislators for “standing up” for democracy by preventing a legislature from continuing its work. He then magnified that mixed message by refusing again to answer questions from the media and dismissing them with a joke.
I have previously written that I did not agree with the vote to expel state Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, D-Tenn., though I felt that they warranted some form of sanction for stopping legislative work on the House floor. I simply believe that expulsion should be reserved for the most serious or repeated violations. What they did should have merited other forms of punishment from censure to suspension of legislative privileges.
Yet, President Biden brought them to Washington to celebrate their conduct in taking a bullhorn to a legislative proceeding to prevent others from voting on measures. Because they had insufficient votes to secure gun control, President Biden believes that they were justified in preventing legislative work to be done by the majority.
This is why American politics has become a simple matter of amplification.
The media largely ignored the contradiction of President Biden praising legislators for defending democracy by stopping the legislative process.
Rep. Gloria Johnson was also honored after she claimed that pure racism was the only reason why, as the only white member of the three, she was spared expulsion. That ignored distinctions raised by Johnson and her supporters during the debate that, unlike Jones and Pearson, she did not use a bullhorn; her counsel also insisted that she separated herself from the protesters. Johnson’s distinctions swayed one member to defeat expulsion, but Johnson then declared the result was evidence of sexism and racism: “pretty clear I’m a 60-year-old white woman, and they are two young Black men. I was talked down to as a woman, man-splained to.”
So, on Jan. 6th, if Republican members prevented the proceedings with bullhorns, would Biden have praised their standing up for Democracy? Would they have been justified to “shout down” speakers on the floor as they do on college campuses?
Of course, when Republicans decried a move to adjourn the House, then Speaker Nancy Pelosi simply had the lights turned off and microphones cut off.
She had a right to adjourn the house and she did not tolerate members who were trying to shout down the chair. Democratic members have repeatedly moved to sanction members for violating rules of decorum and conduct on the floor. One Democratic leader even abandoned the chair in disgust over such conduct:
Would those members have become “democracy defenders” if they had bullhorns?
It appears, however, that such disruptions will not occur at the Democratic primary debates: there are currently no scheduled debates. Democratic operatives have objected that the Democratic National Committee has not scheduled or planned for any debate despite two other candidates running in the primary. Nine Turner and others have denounced the position: “It’s simple — I believe in democracy, therefore I believe in debates. The DNC, RNC, and every third party should hold that same belief in a democracy. This isn’t a radical idea.”
181 thoughts on “Biden Praises Tennessee Legislators For “Standing Up” for Democracy . . . By Stopping the Legislative Process”
I am curious to see if Professor Turley supports the free speech rights of the Montana legislator, Zooey Zephyr, who was censured for her speech. No bullhorn, but still censured. The GOP failed to articulate a single rule of “decorum” that was violated.
As the Montana situation demonstrates, the bullhorn was never the issue for the GOP. It was desire to quash any debate from the minority party.