I've been engaged in Democratic politics for quite a while, and I honestly can't remember the last time they did something this clever.
First, a little history. For the first time in nearly 140 years, Republicans are the majority party in the Tennessee House, enjoying a 50 to 49 edge in the 99-seat chamber. State Rep. Jason Mumpower (R), anxious to pursue a far-right agenda, was excited about becoming the first Republican House Speaker since Reconstruction, and had already secured the support of his caucus.
But this morning, when state lawmakers met to elect the Speaker, something amusing happened.
I told you screaming fits would ensue, and they have. Looks like Rep. Williams will be replacing the R with an I:
When lawmakers returned from break, now an hour into session, they tackled the Speakers position. Representative Jason Mumpower of Bristol received the first nomination. Republicans hoped to end the nomination process there, but after more political wrangling, allowed Democrats to submit a candidate.
What happened next some may describe as the political play of the decade as all 49 Democrats backed Kent Williams, a Sophomore Republican from Carter County, a district just miles from Mumpower's hometown.
During the voice vote on the Speaker's position, the House clerk called every Democrat first, then every Republican, except Williams. The 49 to 49 split was then decided by Williams.
Williams accepted the position amid cheers and boos, prompting state troopers to enter the House chambers ready to respond to an outburst.
Establishment Republicans in Tennessee were furious. They had one electoral goal -- to win a majority -- and Williams, by compromising with the hated opposition, by promising to legislate and govern, rather than to precipitate Republican hegemony, became an immediate outcast. (Horrors: he assigned the 49 members of the House just 46 offices to work in. And he gave six committee chairmanships to Democrats; seven went to Republicans.) Robin Smith, the GOP chair, notified Republicans this morning "of my decision to remove Kent Williams' status as a bona fide Republican."You may think Williams' antics were a naked grab for power. Not so much. It seems he did this at least in part to keep his party from being steered over a cliff by the fuckwits currently trying to drive it. He's about the sanest Republican I've heard of in a long time: according to the above referenced post, he "says that the Republican Party will die out if it does not open the tent."
Kent Williams is at the leading edge of a generation of Republican officeholders who are rejecting the ideological Republicanism of the past twenty years. These battles will be fought state-by-state, just as they're beginning to show up nationwide.I hope people like Rep. Williams keep up the fight. Democracies need opposition parties that aren't stark raving insane. It would be awesome if Republicans like Williams could take the party back from the Cons - not the least because I'd actually have to hunt for stupidity rather than close my eyes and point in the Cons' general direction. And so, for the good of my country and my blog, I wish Rep. Williams the very best of luck.