The Case Against Rep. John Deberry Jr.

For a long time Tennessee Democrats have been calling for Rep. John Deberry Jr. to have the “D” next to his name removed for consistently siding with Republicans against them on many key issues. This week the Tennessee Democratic Party Executive Committee finally took that action and voted 41-18 with 2 abstentions to do just that.

Many have expressed relief, saying Deberry’s longtime support for the Tennessee Republican agenda has warranted removal for some time. Some have expressed skepticism, saying it should be up to the voters to decide.

Republicans such as Speaker Cameron Sexton have seized on the opportunity to attack Democrats, saying this shows they’re inflexible in their beliefs and calling out TNDP chair Mary Mancini on Twitter.

It’s no surprise Republicans would rush to Deberry’s defense. They’ve regularly expressed gratitude to Deberry for standing with them on their anti-LGBT legislation, their anti-Reproductive rights bills, Governor Bill Lee’s public school-harming vouchers, and Secretary Tre Hargett’s voter registration criminalization bill to name a few.

They’ve even run ads in support of him. (“You tha man”, guys? Really?)

There are so many instances of Deberry standing with Republicans against progressive ideals that it’s hard to keep track – but that’s what we’re here for. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

On Lee’s public school-harming vouchers, Deberry was the lone Democrat to vote for the bill, which passed 50-48 after a 49-49 tie was held open for 35 minutes while disgraced former speaker Glen Casada (and likely Governor Lee) handed out goodies to convince people to switch, including MILITARY PROMOTIONS.

Eventually, Rep. Jason Zachary flipped, the public school-harming vouchers passed, and the rollout has already been a lie and bribe-filled nightmare, causing even those who voted for it to regret it.

(Of course, that hasn’t stopped Lee from including $41 million for it in the “emergency budget”.)

On Reproductive freedom, Deberry has stood with Republicans repeatedly – even when their bills were unconstitutional, and even when they would force raped teenagers to carry their rapist’s baby to term. Deberry even went so far as to call abortion “BLACK GENOCIDE”, a phrase that will be hard to forget anytime soon.

Even on something as obviously oppressive as Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s voter registration criminalization bill, Deberry couldn’t bring himself to stand on the right side of history. He abstained, a decision which was promptly shown to be cowardly and wrongheaded when a federal judge blocked the law and ripped it apart in a scathing decision.

We spoke with Deberry at length after the fact, and he didn’t seem to understand what the law even did. Which is no excuse.

Then there are Deberry’s anti-LGBT beliefs, which have caused leading voices from the Tennessee LGBT community to speak out forcefully.

Eric Patton of the Human Rights campaign wrote to the TNDP committee before the vote, saying Deberry “consistently stood against women’s rights and LGBTQ rights”, “sponsored a bill to discriminate against LGBTQ youth and adults in matters of mental health”, and “verbally supported conversion therapy”.

Patton concluded:

“As a LGBTQ community leader, it is a clear decision to deny him the party’s support in his re-election. I strongly urge you to take appropriate action to deny his petition.
You have a say, as a party leader, who is allowed to run as a member. DeBerry has displayed time and time again that he has no regard for the party or its platform, let alone the marginalized people it stands to protect.
He shouldn’t get the help of the party. If he’s going to stand against the marginalized, he shouldn’t be standing with us.”

Republicans have been quick to knock Democrats for taking this action, but before you put any faith in the outcry, it’s important to keep in mind Republicans have done things like this before. Speaker Kent Williams was an incumbent removed by the state party. They’ve also kicked people off of ballots for not having the proper “Republican bona fides”.

(Meanwhile They’ve let admitted child sex abuser Rep. David Byrd stay in office, as well as Speaker Casada – who lied and who covered for his “N word”-using coke-snorting chief of staff, said ugly things about women, and may have framed a civil rights activist, and was removed as speaker for it… but those are stories for a different day).

Reproductive freedoms, voting rights, LGBT rights, public schools… these are not minor issues Deberry was standing with Republicans on. And as Mary Mancini said, the majority of Deberry’s campaign donations come from Republican PACs/groups/ individuals. He has a history of making large donations to Republican candidates.

The parties have the right to do these things for a reason. Deberry’s allegiance to the Republican agenda has been a useful political tool for Republicans for long enough.

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