What Republicans are doing in Tennessee should be a warning to all of America
Earlier this week, Tennessee became the premier state require companies to display a sign alert clients if they allow transgender people to use public restrooms that match their gender identity. This is the latest assault on LGBT + rights here in Volunteer State, which this week also became the second state to ban hormone treatment for transgender minors. And earlier this year, the legislature passed a law require schools to notify parents – who can then remove their children – from all programs, including LGBT + people.
In many ways, it was a fitting end to this year’s legislative session, which ended earlier this month. There is not enough Tennessee whiskey to assuage the pain inflicted by our Republican lawmakers. This session was only an opportunity for the GOP to wage its war on Trumpian culture on the backs of the struggling Tennessians.
Poverty, the quality of our children’s schools, the condition of our roads and bridges – that doesn’t concern Republicans. A look back at this year’s legislative âaccomplishmentsâ looks like a nightmarish Christmas list from MAGA. Republicans halves the period during which people can claim unemployment and announced plans for withdraw from federal pandemic relief in July. They moved to ban critical race theory in schools, and attempted to grant immunity to drivers who unintentionally injure or kill protesters.
Our congressional delegation was equally uninspiring. Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn spent more time posing for the cameras at the border to meet the needs of his constituents, while Senator Bill Hagerty is go to Mexico and Guatemala rather than working on solutions to Tennessee’s problems. More interested in the forum on immigration than in helping TennessÃ©ens, the two senators voted against the relief of the pandemic and opposed the American plan for the employment of Joe Biden.
Our state faces serious challenges that require serious leaders. Unfortunately for us, Republicans seem to be gushing more content on Fox News than helping our people. Ignoring our rural health crisis, they refuse to extend Medicaid. Despite an increase in gun violence in cities like Knoxville, they passed a law allow people to carry guns without a license. As our state records some of the worst vaccination rates in the countryside, they banned vaccine passports.
Meanwhile, Tennessee languishes. Her people are suffering because Republicans are too busy discriminating against trans people and punishing the poor to do anything to help us. I love this state, but we have so many problems.
In our state, 13.9% of the population Living in poverty, including 22.6% of children. One in eight Tennessians and one in six children, I don’t have enough to eat. Gentrification in cities like Nashville pushes low-income residents out of their homes and contribute to a housing crisis. Rural hospitals keep closing at a staggering rate, leading to healthcare deserts in some of our poorest and most isolated communities – including in my own county. Our own state government recognize we are âamong the states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic,â but they have done little to combat it. Statistics show fatal overdoses increase dramatically over the past decade, a decade in which our state legislature and the governor’s mansion have both been controlled by Republicans.
It’s enough to make me want to throw myself out of Rocky Top. Each of these stats that I mention, each of these issues has a human face associated with it. I look around and see the poverty and the need for investment. Most of the coal jobs are gone, and eastern Tennessee – where my family has lived for so many generations we’ve lost count – is left in desolation and destitution.
Every time there is a storm I worry my electricity will go out because our electricity grid is so outdated. Lord knows we’ve had a lot of rain and wind here in Tennessee: 35 tornadoes hit us last year. It is one of the myriad problems currently crippling our state.
Rather than materially improving the lives of our Tennesseans, Republicans in Tennessee have chosen to follow Donald Trump’s playbook on scapegoating, fear, and signaling virtue (less). It’s worse than cowardly, it’s downright cruel. People are hurting and Republicans in Tennessee don’t care.
It’s not a serious holiday, but these are serious times. What is happening in the voluntary state must serve as a warning to the rest of the country. The Republican Party is running out of ideas and is not suited to its purpose, let alone to govern. The choice is clear: unnecessary culture war with Republicans or pragmatic problem solving with Democrats.