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Tennessee GOP succeeded where MAGA failed on Jan 6: They overturned an election to preserve White Supremacy
This will only get worse
The Tennessee GOP’s shocking expulsion of two Black state representatives— Justin Jones and Justin Pearson—from the legislature for simply breaking House rules of decorum was about one thing: Preserving white supremacy.
That is not just my view but also Democratic Tennessee State Senator London Lamar who appeared on my SiriusXM show Thursday night. When I asked how much of the GOP’s expulsion of these two state reps was motivated by white supremacy, the Senator bluntly responded: “All of it.” (The clip is at the bottom of the page.) Senator Lamar also explained how white GOP leaders in the Tennessee legislature have long prevented discussions on racism, even noting that on Thursday a GOP Senator introduced legislation to ban local governments in the state from studying reparations. “This State still very much has issues with racism,” the Senator added.
There is a connection between the Tennessee GOP controlled state legislatures only expelling the two Black state reps—and not the white rep who engaged in the same conduct—and the Jan 6 attack. That terrorist attack incited by Trump was also about preserving white supremacy.
A few facts back that up. First, polls have found that nearly two-thirds of Republicans agree with a core belief of the “great replacement” conspiracy theory that alleges Democrats are encouraging demographic change in the country to replace “more conservative white voters.” As a 2022 poll found, 68 percent of Republicans responded that they believed that the recent shift in U.S. demographics is “not a natural change but has been motivated by progressive and liberal leaders actively trying to leverage political power by replacing more conservative white voters.”
Fox News Tucker Carlson—who I have long referred to as “Tucker Klansman”-- has worked tirelessly to promote that belief in the years before the Jan 6, 2021 attack. Carlson began in 2019 on his top rated show—along with his guests—to fuel the flames of white victimhood by claiming Democrats want to literally replace white Republicans. Donald Trump also continually played on the white right’s fears with talk of “invasion” of immigrants flooding America and bringing crime.
Jan 6 was a manifestation of that fear of the white right losing power. Just look at who carried out the attack. While The Proud Boys and members of white right militias got the headlines, a study by the University of Chicago looking at the people arrested tells us more about what truly fueled this: the fear of white people being replaced. This report found that “the No. 1 belief among insurrectionists—shared by fully 75 percent of respondents—is the “great replacement” of the electorate by the Democratic Party.”
That helps explain why the majority of those arrested did not come from deep Red areas but from places with the greatest demographic change. As Robert A. Pape, a professor at University of Chicago who led the study noted, the majority of those arrested for the Jan 6 attack came from counties that had lost white population share. The greater the decrease in “non-Hispanic whites,” as the researchers described, the more likely the county was to have spawned an alleged rioter.
More than half of the people arrested for the Jan 6 attack—per Pape’s report—hail from counties where Biden won, adding to the sense that these right wing conservatives were literally losing power.
As Heather McGhee wrote in her bestselling book "The Sum of Us"—released in February 2021-- there are some white people who believe that when a Black person achieves something it’s plus one for Black people and minus one for white people. As McGhee lays out, the fear harbored by some white people of being replaced by minorities long pre-dates Tucker Carlson’s spewing racist screeds to entertain his white right audience.
In our nation’s past, when white supremacist power has been challenged—such as with the prospect of Black people voting or civil rights—the extreme white right has engaged in violence to preserve it.
Now the concerns of the white right are even more acute given demographic change on a national scale is real. This helps explain why the heads of both the US Departments of Justice and Homeland Security testified before Congress in 2021 that the greatest domestic terrorist threat is fueled by “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists.”
In reality, only a very small number of the white right will commit violence to preserve white power. But many more will use lawful means to do just that. This is the reason for the GOP’s national campaign enacting laws to ban discussions of race which they call “Critical race theory” together with banning books about the Black American experience.
The white right is afraid. One way they deal with that fear is the Jan 6 attack. Another is to ban books and courses on Black history that share how white supremacists have employed violence and enacted Jim Crow laws to preserve white power. And yet another is to expel two Black state representatives as we saw on Thursday by the GOP in Tennessee. It is why on Friday morning, Fox News hosts publicly defended the expulsion of the two Black State Reps. Their white right audience loves this.
The difference, though, is the Tennessee GOP succeeded where Trump and his followers failed. They successfully overturned an election in order preserve white supremacy. We can expect going forward from the GOP a combination of legal and violent efforts to preserve white right supremacy. This is both our nation’s history and—tragically—its future.
Watch excerpt of my Thursday night interview of Tennessee State Senator London Lamar:
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