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OpEd: An America for All Citizens

Dr. Liz Mayo

As a Tennessean, I am trying to keep up with the endless stream of Republicans disparaging at-risk citizens and attempting to unravel the fabric of democracy in our great state. From Gov. Lee signing the bill that allows public officials to decline to perform ceremonies for LGBTQ+ citizens, to the bill that criminalizes helping a minor obtain an abortion, to unconstitutional bills meant to prevent social justice warriors like Gloria Johnson from remaining in her seat while she campaigns against Marsha Blackburn, and a bill to keep expelled lawmakers, like Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, from being reappointed back to their seats, it’s hard to see how Tennessee Republicans are doing anything fair and just to actually help our Tennessee brothers and sisters. 

We didn’t get a Medicaid expansion or sensible gun control laws, but we did get a bill proposed to ban the sale of cold beer and one more attempt at making the Bible the official book for the state of Tennessee. Tennessee GOP leaders declined to hear from parents and educators about the dire consequences of rejecting more than $1 billion in federal education funding, and then they passed a bill to provide private school vouchers that will cost the state $141.5 million dollars. We didn’t get disbursements of the $717 million dollars reserved in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families fund (TANF)—Tennessee is second place in the nation for holding those dollars hostage—but we did get a return to something achingly familiar: renewed vitriol for LGBTQ+ performers. The law banning drag performances has made its way back to court, beefed up with language outlawing private, in-home performances, thus proving that it was never truly about “protecting children” in the first place but about further alienation of marginalized groups. But, hey, don’t despair, Tennesseans: lawmakers have now voted in “hot slaw” as the official Tennessee state food. 

Why is it that the “small government” party is so focused on controlling private citizens’ lives while offering no social, educational, or medical support to actually improve the standard of living for their constituents? I suspect it is greed and arrogance bolstered by a disregard for the separation between Church and State. 

With the impending election, there’s something our citizens should remember: Not only do Tennessee Republicans not serve the interests of women, children, LGBTQ+ citizens, people of color, or anyone with limited financial resources, but also they are creating policies daily that strip away the rights of everyone who doesn’t look like them or believe the way that they do. This level of control mirrors the strongest theocracies around the world, which pushes us frighteningly further away from the American democracy that makes our nation so great. 

At a national level, it’s disheartening to see a man who has proven himself to be an enemy to our nation’s elections, a menace within the business world, and a violator of women, disabled citizens, Black and Brown people, immigrants, and the financially subjugated win GOP primary after primary, yet Democrats believe the majority of Americans will see the value in voting against bigoted rhetoric and actions and a blatant disregard for the American tradition of democracy. We have to make sure young and disenfranchised voters know democratic values will benefit them and their future—lowering their student debt, returning their bodily autonomy, offering solutions to crushing medical needs, and freeing them to love and marry whomever they choose—and not just focus on candidates who may not inspire them on the surface. 

More than ever, our free American way of life is on the ballot. This is proven by the radical shift to the far right that we’ve witnessed in the last few years on the Supreme Court—a change that will impact our children’s children potentially and that will not be easily reversed until we can have a SCOTUS that leans back toward the middle. What might that court look like after another Trump presidency—a man who admires Putin and who attempted to overthrow the 2020 election results? The consequences could be dire.

Now is the time to keep our eyes wide open and to fight for those who can’t always advocate for themselves. As Democrats, we put our resources behind those who have been relegated to the margins. We respect that not everyone loves, lives, or worships the way that we do. Ain’t that actually America?

As we move forward in this election season, we hope that you will stand with the Democratic Party. Let’s ensure Jackson and the surrounding region has Democrats represented at the same level as Republicans. We will remind local citizens just how purple this district truly is and how blue we could become. 

Your fight is our fight. 

Liz Mayo, Ph.D.

President, Madison Area Democratic Women

Johnupdikesmule@gmail.com 

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