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Jun 19, 2024  |  
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Quin Hillyer, Commentary Writer


NextImg:In Tennessee or D.C., there is no excuse for mobs inside capitols

Liberals should stifle the caterwauling about the Tennessee legislature’s expulsion of two of its members for leading a raucous protest on the legislative floor itself.

Likewise, though, not a single conservative who has tried to downplay the far worse incursion at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, should say a word in favor of the expulsion. If they do, their hypocrisy knows no bounds.

EXPULSION OF TWO LAWMAKERS COULD BACKFIRE ON TENNESSEE GOP

To recap: In an eruption similar to the U.S. Capitol riot in kind but not degree, protesters in Nashville stormed the state capitol on March 30 to advocate gun control. The protest got quite raucous, including some serious pushing and shoving against police. Against all rules, onlookers in the public-viewing balcony of the House began yelling and chanting to stop the legislative proceedings. Two Democratic lawmakers took the speaker’s well without recognition and used megaphones to lead the balcony protesters in chanting so loudly that legislative proceedings were shut down for 45 minutes.

Set aside, for now, the debate about whether full expulsion from the Legislature was warranted, rather than some major penalties just short of expulsion. At the very least, the behavior clearly was bad enough to bring expulsion entirely reasonably into the possible options. Here’s why it’s dead wrong to say otherwise, as the liberal media is now doing in spirited cacophony.

Both morally and legally, the right to free speech and to protest is powerful but not absolute. The right is meant to allow expression and exchange of ideas, never to block such exchange. Nobody, ever, has the right to shout down someone else.

Moreover, there is never a right to stop the democratically ratified operations of representative democracy itself. For example, nobody has the right to invade a polling place and yell threats at voters. Likewise, the legislative chambers in the U.S. Capitol and 50 state capitols are sacrosanct citadels of democracy. They all operate under strict rules of decorum and, except via the legislature’s own rules (such as via a filibuster). Absolutely nobody has leave to stop their representative proceedings. Ever.

To do so is to negate the very point of the First Amendment, which is to allow free debate in pursuit of republican government.

Lawmakers themselves have a special duty to maintain the rules and the operational ability of their legislatures. The public has plenty of opportunity, especially with modern social media, to make its voices heard. To allow a mob or, worse, to encourage it to interrupt legislative proceedings is to put democracy itself at risk. That, by the way, is one reason some people described the U.S. Capitol riot as an insurrection because its goal was to block a legislative proceeding essential to the peaceful transfer of democratic power.

The storming of the Tennessee Capitol was nowhere near as violent as the U.S. Capitol riot, nor was it intended to permanently overturn an election. Still, it was a potentially volatile situation, and it was quite literally inexcusable for legislators to add to the volatility.

That’s why it made sense for the Tennessee legislative majority to take strong action of some sort against their noisome colleagues.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

In and of itself, it is reasonable for conservative outlets to support the eviction of the two lawmakers who led the protest. The problem with so many right-wing outlets that are doing so is that many of the same outlets have spent two years making excuse after excuse for the far worse U.S. Capitol riot. Where is the consistency? Where was their concern back then for the due procedure of republican government?

And left-wing outlets now fiercely defending the Tennessee outrage also are hypocritical. The same standards should apply: Legislative chambers are off limits for outside protest or mob expression. End of story.