In recent days, a Tennessee Democrat Representative has not towed the party lines and has reached across the aisle. He has been in the state legislature since 1995 has been removed from the ballot for not voting with his party. Tennessee Democratic Party chair Mary Mancini said, “…we did what we thought was best to protect the Tennessee Democratic Party and the values we stand for.”
What values did DeBerry violate? DeBerry voted in support of vouchers for private school and in support of Tennessee’s fetal heartbeat bill. He is an ordained minster and has stood against abortions since the 1970’s. In humility he respectfully highlights the absurdity and thanks his supporters by saying,
“The Tennessee Democratic Party has decided that a 26-year Representative that spent 12 years as a committee chairman, conducted himself with integrity, served the party well, sponsored meaningful legislation and built bridges across the aisle to get bills passed is no longer a Democrat. And so, I’m not. I’m appreciative to all the folk who have supported me through my time in Legislature and want to give them my thanks.”
Tennessee State Representative and Republican Jason Zachary posted on twitter saying,
“This is a sad day in TN when Democrats take control away from the voters in choosing their Representatives. Rep. John DeBerry is one of the finest Christian men serving in the House and deserves better! This is shameful!”
In response to comments saying you cannot be a pro-life democrat, Zachary added
“Important to know that per the below, the primary reason listed is that he is “pro-birth”! Seriously, pro-birth. Rep. DeBerry has been a voice in protecting the unborn and has been targeted by the Democratic Party in large part because of that defense of life. Truly unbelievable.”
Back in June of 2019 he faced opposition from Planned Parenthood. Francie Hunt, Executive Director for TN Advocate for Planned Parenthood indignantly said,
“This billboard gives his constituents the opportunity to let Representative DeBerry know that his positions are appalling and an embarrassment to Shelby County.”
This was a bad move by my state’s Democrat party. I am represented by Democrat John Mark Windle, who also voted for the fetal heartbeat bill, and he is currently uncontested. People where I live can tolerate differences and are not usually party voters, but if you remove moderates like John Mark Windle you will lose moderate republican voters, like me, who openly vote for moderate democrats. Not only that, you are risking losing voters within your own party. There is more to the democrat platform than vouchers for private schools and the debate over abortion. If you begin telling your base that if you hold these values we will oust you, then you will lose the base. I have met pro-life democrats who feel as strongly about abortion as I do. Some issues are better left to the culture and the ballot box.
This would be just as horrible if the Tennessee Republican party removed someone from the ballot who was pro-choice and was against vouchers. There are an array of ideologies within the Republican party; conservatives, libertarian republicans, etc. Parties should gate keep but this should have been over a broader divide, not such a narrow one.
I believe that you can be a pro-choice Republican as much as I believe you can be a pro-life Democrat. It is a sad day when purity to ideology is demanded of you to fit in a political party which is supposed to stand for a diverse population. At this rate, Democrats will push people who normally voted for them to the Republicans. Some may not think that is bad, and believe me, I want people to vote Republican; but I want it to be because we are winning the cultural dialogue, not simply because we are the less bad of two bad choices. I do not think the shift in voting is bad (this is a gray area for me) but it is truly sad to see people ostracized due to others’ narrow thinking.