The Hill to Die On: An issue to pursue with wholehearted conviction and/or single-minded focus, with little or no regard to the cost. An allusion to the military practice of capturing/holding a hill (high ground), no matter the cost or (lack of) benefit, as in the Battle of Hamburger Hill or Last Stand Hill.

Guns, Abortion, and Trump. These will define the 2024 election. Republicans are setting up their version of Custer’s Last Stand by taking unpopular anti-majoritarian stances on two crucial issues that are deeply troubling to Americans: guns and abortion and the base is also digging in when it comes to Trump.

GUNS and 3 Tennessee Lawmakers

Grief and anger… engulfed Nashville after an armed assailant stormed into the Covenant School, a small, private academy in the city, and killed three 9-year-old students and three adults. The fury over the shooting and a resistance by the legislature to pursue gun control measures drew hundreds of protesters to the Capitol.

Three lawmakers representing metropolitan centers in the state, Justin Jones, Justin Pearson and Gloria Johnson, joined the protesters crowding into the well of the Tennessee statehouse armed with a bullhorn to speak out about the need to pass gun safety legislation. That was a rules violation, apparently. The rules violation was minimal, lasting for a few minutes. But their actions violated the protocol of the House, giving the Republican supermajority, which is overwhelmingly White and pro-gun, enough of an excuse to subject the lawmakers to an expulsion vote. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson (both Black) were expelled. Gloria Johnson (a White woman) was not. In the history of the state of TN, a protocol violation has never resulted in expulsion. The punishment did not fit the crime. It was a clear violation of the First Amendment rights of the lawmakers trying to represent the interests of their constituents. When asked by reporters why she thought she survived the expulsion vote, Johnson mused that it might be because of the color of her skin.

On Thursday, enraged demonstrators filled the corridors of the state building, chanting their support for the three lawmakers. As infuriated as they have been by the process, activists said the moment was also inspiring others to become involved. 

Expelled by their Republican colleagues for an act of protest, Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson were no longer members of the Tennessee House of Representatives on Friday. They could not advocate for their constituents in Nashville and Memphis, take to the floor again to push for gun control legislation or even access the building after hours.

Instead of sidelining the Democratic lawmakers, the expulsions have sparked outrage and galvanized national support within their party, and the two young Black lawmakers are poised to return to the state legislature — as soon as next week — with a platform and profile far surpassing what they had just days ago.

On Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris made a hastily arranged visit to Nashville to meet with the state lawmakers, and President Biden, who described the Republicans’ actions as “shocking” and “undemocratic,” called the ousted Democrats to offer his support and invite them to the White House.

“That made these individuals martyrs,” Representative Antonio Parkinson, a Democrat from Memphis, said of the expulsions. (NYT)

The Tennessee legislature foolishly thought they were disqualifying two outspoken representatives. Instead, they disqualified themselves.


Laws in Tennessee that are overly protective of the rights of gun owners, allowing people unfettered access to AR-15s, mean that mothers and fathers, children and teenagers experience going to school as a high risk event. It didn’t use to be true that attending school meant you were exposing yourself to a real chance that you could die in a violent massacre.  But with the advent of AR-15s, too many angry, disturbed people and lax gun laws, children in America these days are put at risk of death just by going to school.

Students and staff fear school shootings. From 2013 to 2019, Everytown identified 549 incidents of gunfire on school grounds. Of these, 347 occurred on the grounds of an elementary, middle, or high school, resulting in 129 deaths and 270 people woundedThis represents a small proportion of the nearly 3,500 children and teens shot and killed, and the more than 15,000 shot and wounded in this country every year. (Everytown)

Shoppers are at risk. Drivers are at risk. Attending church or temple in America has become a risk.

Our government is supposed to keep us safe by passing legislation that will protect us. Red state lawmakers are failing us. Red states have consistently higher gun violence death rates compared to blue states.

Guns are the leading cause of death for US children and teens, surpassing car accidents starting in 2020:

Republicans in Congress are the ones blocking gun safety legislation like red flag laws and bans on weapons of war on our streets. Republicans are on the wrong side of history.


What Tennessee just did by expelling two protesting lawmakers was to create martyrs for the cause of gun control legislation. This is just the kind of event that can spark a sea change in the engagement of the electorate. The Parkland high school massacre in Florida was an example of the power younger voters realized they had to force legislative change. Even in red state Florida the legislature passed reasonable gun legislation in response to the pressure they got after the Parkland shooting. (Although De Santis, trying to prove up his right wing bona fides, has recently acted on his own as governor to change the rules to allow people to carry weapons without needing a permit in Florida.)

 Nonetheless, across the country, gun safety legislation remains a top issue in statehouses, some five years after the Parkland, Florida, mass school shooting inspired a new movement against the firearms lobby. (Pew)

71% of Americans say gun laws should be stricter. (NORC poll) If Republicans don’t get what Americans are demanding they risk getting kicked out of office.

ABORTION and Texas Judge Kacsmaryk

On Friday evening, a Texas judge named Matthew Kacsmaryk issued a ruling suspending FDA approval of mifepristone. In his opinion, he criticized the FDA for having loosened restrictions, over time, on how the pill is administered. He cited the pill’s alleged side effects, writing, “Many women also experience intense psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress from excessive bleeding and from seeing the remains of their aborted children.” (NYT)

How about the trauma of getting pregnant when you don’t want to be or it is too dangerous for you to be? What about carrying to term against your will? What did judge Kacsmaryk have to say about being raped, getting pregnant, the dangers of carrying to term, or the trauma of being forced to go through a pregnancy for 9 months and delivering a baby against your will? He. Said. Nothing.

Less than an hour after Judge Kacsmaryk’s ruling, a judge in Washington state issued a ruling in another case, which contradicted the Texas decision, ordering the F.D.A. to make no changes to the availability of mifepristone in the 18 states that filed that lawsuit. (That case was filed by blue state attorneys general seeking to protect the use of the medication in their states in anticipation of the decision by this Trump appointed judge in Texas.)

The conflicting orders by two federal judges, both preliminary injunctions issued before the full cases have been heard, appear to create a legal standoff likely to escalate to the Supreme Court. (NYT)

Judge Kacsmaryk based his decision on the alleged lack of safety of the medication. That was a just a pretense. The medication has been used for some 20 years and has a terrific record of safety with a .03 incidence of problems. It is safer than taking Tylenol. What this judge is doing is forcing women to use only one of two medications given for a safe early abortion. His ruling will subject women to a less safe single medication abortion that has more side effects and safety issues. This is the result of a well planned effort orchestrated by the religious right. They are finally reaching the end goal they were working towards for 40 years: banning abortion across America.

This effort was teed up even before the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. But after her death there was a bum rush to replace her with Amy Coney Barrett to finally get the bloc of five anti-abortion votes they were after after with Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Thomas and Alito on the Supreme Court. At that point they could overturn Roe with the Dobbs decision. Then red states across the country rushed to pass legislation forcing women to carry to term, criminalizing abortion, curtailing birth control and now this well-planned ruling comes crashing down on the use of a medication that 50% of American women have used to safely terminate pregnancy.

If this doesn’t wake up Millennials and Gen Z to the threat of the GOP I don’t know what will. Republicans may have already lost the next generation of voters with their inability to accept the browning of America, their rejection of democracy and their embrace of autocratic leaders like Trump and Ron De Santis. But outlawing Mifepristone may well be the last nail in their coffin.


After Trump was indicted his approval ratings rose but only with his base. Trump’s base believes he is being unfairly persecuted instead of being fairly prosecuted. Trump himself has said the Manhattan indictment and the coming indictments from Georgia and Jack Smith, Special Counsel at the DOJ, will help him get the nomination but even Trump doesn’t think he could win re-election. The majority of Americans believes Trump is unelectable. But here is another hill Republicans might just “die” on.


It is a mistake for a political party to fail to respond to the will of the voters. When it comes to abortion and guns Republicans are not listening to the will of the majority. The majority of Americans want gun safety laws and the right to have control over their own bodies and don’t want Trump back as president. If Republicans don’t understand how deeply the felt need is with the voting public to get on the right side of these issues, I would like to refer GOP lawmakers to the legacy of the Vietnam War. I was in college then. There was a draft. My friends had lottery numbers and many were going to be sent to fight a war and possibly be killed for a cause they did not believe in. That sparked huge protests and marches. The rest is history.

When your life is on the line it’s remarkable how much effort you will put in to staying alive.  Also protesting. Also voting.

As the GOP moves further rightward, more extreme and dug in in its views, the party risks being rejected by moderate and independent voters as well as igniting greater engagement especially by younger voters. Millennials and Gen Z have not yet realized their overwhelming potential power to remake America. What happened in Tennessee and Texas and what’s going on with Trump and the MAGA GOP should awaken them.  If these younger voters want to live in a democracy that is truly free and fair they could do it by rising up and joining the Dems and independents to vote Republicans out of office up and down the ballot.