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Selective Outrage in Tennessee

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We began talking about selective outrage long before Chris Rock's 2023 Netflix series took the title. If we keep silent about the expulsion of two members of the Tennessee House of Representatives, we would be guilty of practicing selective outrage. Therefore, we find ourselves violating Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment of not criticizing members of our party. We know we would be outraged if a deep blue state with a super majority expelled duly elected Republicans.

Understand clearly, we do not excuse the behavior of the Tennessee Three, as the three officials have become known. We believe they were out of order. In the outrage since the expulsion, the nation and the media have forgotten what the "peaceful protest" looked like

—the footage of the protesters attacking the Tennessee capitol police mirror, January 6 footage. The footage of the Tennessee Three in the well of the chamber with bull horns was so disruptive that you could see two senior members of their caucus scolding them as if they were behaving like petulant children. The disruptive members should have been censured and even stripped of their committee assignments. However, for us expelling duly elected members was a step too far.

In their press conference shortly after the stunt, they acknowledged that they knew they were violating house rules. However, they believed their cause demanded disruptive behavior. From our view, it does not matter what they were protesting. Their behavior was worthy of reprimand. As righteous as they felt their cause, they were breaking the rules. We can think of few causes more just than giving voice to the unborn. However, had pro-life members done the same for what they believe to be a just cause, they too should be censured, not expelled.

The Tennessee Republicans have given them a more powerful platform and more opportunities to call Republicans racists. We have watched defiant Tennesseans say that all protests and negative blowback will not change the fact that Tennessee is deep red. This argument fails to acknowledge that America is deeply divided purple, and Tennessee has given progressives a national platform.

No one will care to debate the solid, conservative legislation coming out of that chamber. In recent months, Tennessee has passed legislation that has infuriated progressives by empowering parents. From our view, conservatives were winning the argument that parents should be informed before any teacher takes action to provide "gender affirming care" to a student. Even the controversial law forbidding drag queens in public places has found support from parents across the country as social media has been flooded with drag queens inappropriately performing lewd sex acts in front of minors.

We will continue to call out selective outrage on the left and work to eliminate it in our own advocacy. When the Tennessee progressives march to say Black Lives Matter, we will remind them of the disproportionate number of black lives exterminated in the womb. When Tennessee progressives say we must protect women, we will remind them that means not supporting Title IX takeovers that erase the gains women have made in the last 50 years. When Tennessee progressives say we must protect kids, we will say, stand with us in guarding against the over-sexualization of children with destructive gender identity curriculum.

When asked why he was not calling to remove embattled U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY), the Republican member of Congress who lied about almost everything on his resume, U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) said, ​​"You know why I'm standing by him? Because his constituents voted for him. I do not have the power simply because if I disagree with somebody or what they have said that I remove them from elected office."

We speak out because if the parties were reversed, we hope that fair-minded colleagues on the left side of the aisle would do the same and call out the unjust expulsion of duly elected members.


The Bass Sisters: Dee Dee Bass Wilbon and Deana Bass Williams are sisters and co-founders of Bass Public Affairs a Washington, DC based public affairs firm. They co-host the podcast Policy and Pound Cake. Their ongoing digital series Our American Story shares the broad and beautiful history of the Black American experience.


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