Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Reaction to the election of Williams and DeBerry in the House

As Jonathan mentioned in the previous post, I was at the House today for the historic votes. I couldn't get into the gallery. It was already full at 9:00 a.m. It truly was the best ticket in town today. I wasn't able to Twitter what was happening because Verizon doesn't work so well with Twitter, but I did regular Facebook updates that kept some people engaged and probably caused others to ask, "What the Hell?"

Before I arrived with our lobbyist outside the House chamber, I saw Congressman Zach Wamp in Legislative Plaza. I'm sure he was expecting to celebrate with the new Republican leadership, according to the Twitter post picked up by Mr. Kleinheider. Democratic candidate for governor Doug Horne was outside the House chambers as well. I can only guess that he enjoyed himself today.

The battle began shortly after the pledge. When Minority Leader Odom called for recess, we all knew it was on. The Democrats had one last option to press. A large crowd cheered when the motion to table the recess failed. Yes, it turned out that Rep. Weaver misunderstood what was happening and cast a vote she didn't intend to. But it was all confusion for the Republicans after that.

After the recess, the nomination fight for Speaker began. Mumpower was nominated and seconded. And then the fatal act occurred that signalled to everyone that the Republicans did not have their 50. Republican Assistant Leader Glen Casada moved to end nominations. After some back and forth, Speaker Naifeh ruled the motion out of order. Mumpower challenged it. After some huddling and talking, Mumpower withdrew the challenge. I'm still not sure about why he withdrew it. But I can say this. If the Republicans had won in this manner, they would surely have received as much criticism as the new speaker is receiving. How can you have an election with just one candidate? Maybe it was a "proper motion," but come on.

So the nominations proceeded. When Odom started talking about the history-making move of nominating a Republican and a fellow Carter County native, I knew it was over. Looks of bewilderment dotted the faces outside the House chambers and when Odom said the name of Kent Williams there were audible gasps.

There was one wrinkle in the voting that caused some concern. One Democrat seemed to take a pass when called for his or her vote. I can't remember who it was. But when Williams cast a vote for himself toward the end of the long Republican list, cheers and boos erupted.

The boos and the calls of traitor no doubt sealed the deal on the election of the Speaker Pro Tempore. Mumpower called for a recess which was granted. Rep. Steve McDaniel was cast aside for Rep. Beth Harwell as the Republican nominee to oppose sitting Speaker Pro Tem Lois DeBerry. DeBerry got the same 50-49 vote that Williams had received and will continue in her leadership role.

The irony of the day is that the list of 50 that Mumpower trumpeted right after the election was the instrument of his demise. He succeeded in putting a Republican in the Speaker's chair, but not the one he had hoped. The game of hardball that the Republicans have played with Williams backfired today. It's not over, of course. The recriminations will continue, but it's a game with hazards.

Another reflection worth metioning is the question of whether progressives have anything to be thankful for today. I don't know. I don't believe for a minute that the moves today were done on behalf of progressive causes. Perhaps they motivated some representatives. It's a fine theoretical question to ask whether progressives would be better off with a clear opponent to slam and work against. Let me just say that as someone working to protect the rights of the GLBT community, I don't want any enemies. I look forward to the day when matters that are our issues now are no longer...isssues at all. But I can assure you of this, I prefer the non/bi-partisan muddle that prevailed today to having people who present themselves as our opponents in power. I don't want two years of successful attacks on my community's rights. I'd much rather those rights be safe than spend my time complaining about losses until things change in two years. We're not out of the woods yet by any means, but it's a reprieve. I'll take it.

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