Democracy & Elections

The Lawfare Podcast: Democratic Decline in Tennessee

Quinta Jurecic, Jen Patja, Samar Ali, Sekou Franklin
Wednesday, April 19, 2023, 12:00 PM
Early this month, the Republican supermajority in the Tennessee House of Representatives voted to expel two Democratic lawmakers who had participated in a protest against gun violence on the House floor.

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Early this month, the Republican supermajority in the Tennessee House of Representatives voted to expel two Democratic lawmakers who had participated in a protest against gun violence on the House floor. The GOP also narrowly failed to expel a third Democrat. 

The two legislators who were expelled, Reps. Justin Pearson and Justin Jones, have now returned to the House. But the incident turned national attention on Tennessee’s struggling democracy. To discuss, Lawfare Senior Editor Quinta Jurecic spoke with Samar Ali, Research Professor of Political Science and Law at Vanderbilt University and Co-Chair of Vanderbilt’s Project on Unity & American Democracy, and Sekou Franklin, Professor of Political Science at Middle Tennessee State University, and the author—with Ray Block—of the book “Losing Power: African Americans and Racial Polarization in Tennessee Politics.” They explained how the expulsions should be understood as part of a larger process of democratic backsliding and misgovernment in Tennessee, and how that backsliding is itself part of a larger trend of democratic erosion at the subnational as well as the national level.


Quinta Jurecic is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a senior editor at Lawfare. She previously served as Lawfare's managing editor and as an editorial writer for the Washington Post.
Jen Patja is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.
Samar Ali is a Research Professor of Political Science and Law at Vanderbilt University and co-chair of Vanderbilt's Project on Unity and American Democracy.
Sekou Franklin is a Professor of Political Science at Middle Tennessee State University and co-author of "Losing Power: African Americans and Racial Polarization in Tennessee Politics."

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