Tennessee leaders are willingly crucifying democracy to keep power | Opinion – The Commercial Appeal
The governor of Tennessee, our U.S. senators, the GOP-led legislature, and most of the white right-wing officials throughout Tennessee don’t give a damn about democracy.
Not. One. Damn.
As the pending and pivotal elections of 2022-2024 loom – with every seat from president, governor, district attorney, mayors to dog catchers on the ballot – we see democracy being sacrificed in the name of maintaining white political power.
We have seen this effort to undermine constitutional fidelity increase all year long. Some of the most powerful politicians in the state were (at best) complicit in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Add to that, a more recent and malicious maneuver of a “special session” to undermine the local control (read: Memphis/Shelby County) of public health officials seeking to manage a pandemic, reveals that the only thing folks on the right are concerned with is maintaining white political power.
On the one hand, GOPers statewide cry foul and demand local control when it comes to mask mandates and Medicare expansion. But, on the other hand, they force their will on majority Black spaces like Memphis – usurping the same local control they demand from the federal government for our majority white state.
This is not simply a “whitelash” for a national election that (kinda?) rejected Trumpism. This is a culture war that continues to display the state’s commitment to white nationalism. Researcher Robert P. Jones, author of author of “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity” writes in The Washington Post: “In recent years, public opinion surveys have been clearly telling us that our two political parties are polarizing not over competing economic visions but over disparate visions of American identity.”
The “identity politics” that the right has tried to lambast the left for has been at the center of their political thrust despite their misdirection into vaccine mandates, confederate monuments, or money issues.
Jones goes on to say, “Today, the parties are more divided over the changing demographics of the country, and the place of the former white Anglo-Saxon Protestant ethnoreligious majority in it, than over economic policy.”
Be clear, this has never been about critical race theory – most of them don’t know what it is. They just know any substantive discussion about the history and impact of race on our political history and public economy would prove where their true allegiance lies. Not with a flag, but with fascism.
As American historian John Henrik Clarke once said, “Two things America has never practiced is Christianity and Democracy.”
The State of Tennessee, ruled by its right-wing oligarchs, continues to maneuver and manipulate the masses across the state – denying us of democracy – because of their voter suppression tactics.
The continuing culture war of white politicians (and their overwhelmingly white and substantially racist contingency) has put the sanctity of the ballot in jeopardy and the barrel of the gun of injustice and inequity directed at the face of Black people.
Democracy is dead in Tennessee. It has been willingly crucified.
But it can be resurrected.
One way to accomplish this is to ensure every Tennessean has equitable access to the ballot box in 2022 and beyond. The first step to make this happen is to implement automatic voter registration.
It’s funny, I’ve seen the state legislature and our U.S. senators up in arms about racialized history being taught in public schools. I’ve seen them foment over public health initiatives. But I’ve never, ever, ever, seen them up in arms about democracy being denied to Black citizens in this state.
In fact, they help to orchestrate it.
In 2018, election commission leaders at the state level whined about how many voter registration applications were received and the burden it (you mean “democracy?” oh, ok) put on their office. They called it “chaotic and consuming.”
Welp, we have an antidote for this. But it is one that will challenge the state’s commitment to white nationalism. The treatment is to ensure every eligible voter is automatically registered for the upcoming elections. Automatic registration is not the complete cure, but it is a vaccine against voter suppression.
The day someone turns 18, and/or the day someone finishes serving their time for a crime, they should be able to walk straight into a ballot box. If someone doesn’t want this to apply to them, they can simply opt out.
This is one simple way to start stirring up the grave of democracy that has been dug by a government of cronies masquerading as Christians who are clearly more committed to whiteness than they are to righteousness.
The Rev. Earle J. Fisher is pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Memphis who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Memphis.