When Tennessee Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, brought a resolution denouncing white nationalism and neo-Nazism before the House State Government Subcommittee on Wednesday, he imagined it would proceed with ease.
But much to his surprise, Clemmons' measure did not receive the necessary second motion to push the resolution forward.
The subcommittee's sole Democrat, Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Old Hickory, made the first motion, which was met with silence by the subcommittee's Republican members, Reps. Bill Sanderson, Bud Hulsey, and Bob Ramsey.
After being cut off by Sanderson, subcommittee chairman, from discussing the resolution, Clemmons was immediately granted a second motion to talk about an unrelated bill on studying state government contracts.
Clemmons was shocked:
"I'm in utter disbelief at what just happened," Clemmons said following the meeting. "I didn't think there was anything controversial about this resolution."
Just days before Clemmons' resolution came up on the calendar, a group called Identity Evropa held a demonstration at the Parthenon in Nashville.
Roughly 60 people from the group, which was among the participants in the Charlottesville torch march and Unite the Right rally in August, stood outside the Parthenon building in Centennial Park, holding a 40-foot banner touting their “European roots.”
House Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, said Clemmons' resolution likely did not advance due to his lack of playing by the rules and soliciting votes ahead of time:
“Part of being a great legislator is knowing your bill, knowing the committee that it’s going through, working the vote and asking for a motion and a second before you get there,” Williams said. “That’s what policymaking is.”
But Clemmons is unsure that he will receive a different response if he tries again.
"I would love to try to pass a resolution denouncing white nationalists and neo-Nazis, but if I can't even get a second in a subcommittee, it evidences this Republican supermajority's refusal to denounce these hate organizations, for what reason I cannot begin to imagine."