Under pressure for killing a resolution denouncing white nationalism and neo-Nazism, Tennessee GOP lawmakers are belatedly offering an explanation.
In a Friday email to TPM, Rep. Bob Ramsey, one of three Republicans on the State Government Subcommittee, said they objected to language that would ask law enforcement to consider the groups “domestic terrorist organizations.”
“Our Committee has had several resolutions from various political parties, aimed at special prosecutors, designations of terrorist organizations, condemnation of religious sites and practices, and celebration of controversial historical sites, figures, or organizations,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey insisted that the GOP members agreed with the “intent and philosophy” of the resolution, which was originally introduced last year by Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons in the wake of the deadly Charlottesville, Va. white-nationalist rally.
“These subjects seem simple but have initiated some of the most bitter decisiveness [sic] and debates I have ever witnessed.”
Ramsey added that he and the other Republican lawmakers, Reps. Bill Sanderson and Bud Hulsey, were urging Clemmons to consider changes to the language of the bill in order to secure its passage.
As the Tennessean first reported, the resolution was “met with silence” from the trio of Republican lawmakers when it was brought before the panel on Wednesday. The other provisions would have required the House to “strongly denounce and oppose” the racist bigotry promoted by these groups.
National Democratic groups condemned the GOP’s failure to back the measure. Ben Wexler-Waite, communications director for super PAC Forward Majority, called on the Republican National Committee and Republican State Leadership Committee to publicly denounce the Tennessee lawmakers’ move.
“It’s beyond shocking that anyone in the year 2018 has to ask the RSLC or RNC why they won’t condemn neo-nazism,” Wexler-Waite said in a Friday statement. “The actions of the GOP-controlled Tennessee legislature are a punch in the gut to everything this country stands for and an insult to Jews, people of color, and all who have suffered at the hands of right wing extremists. There is zero excuse for why the legislature would even hesitate to pass this resolution and history will not forget the moment the Republican Party stood silent as its members condoned Nazis.”
Tennessee is home to a number of active white nationalist groups. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s recently released “hate map” for 2017 found 37 hate groups in the state, including chapters of the Ku Klux Klan, the neo-Confederate League of the South, and the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations.
Last weekend, Identity Evropa, a white nationalist group aimed at recruiting college students, held a flash mob demonstration in a Nashville park. In October, some 200 white nationalists convened in Shelbyville for a “White Lives Matter” rally.