Politicians have always been entertainers, changing their message and style to suit the audience. Politicians from the alt-right branch of the Republican Party, on the other hand, have recently evolved into more of a circus act.
Consider Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert. Before entering Congress in January, Boebert owned a gun-themed restaurant. Her Twitter profile image shows her wearing a spoof of AOC’s Tax the Rich clothing that instead says “Let’s Go Brandon,” an anti-Biden meme that allows users to insult the president without using a single foul word. Boebert is a post-Trump type of troll, whose every statement seems to be geared to either provoke or affirm, depending on one’s beliefs. Over Thanksgiving, she fell in serious trouble by implying that her Democratic colleague, Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Muslim, plans to suicide-bomb the Capitol.
But, is this punishment Boebert’s goal all along?
Boebert might become the third House Republican to be publicly chastised by Congress in 2021. If so, she would be following in the footsteps of Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was stripped of her committee assignments in February, partly for making violent insinuations toward her Democratic colleagues, and Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, who was censured earlier this month after tweeting a video depicting himself murdering New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Unlike her two predecessors, Boebert swiftly apologized when her comments sparked controversy, causing Greene to tweet, “If Democrats move against @laurenboebert, who apologized, they’ll only help Lauren and reveal their true nature.”
It’s difficult to say this, but Greene, a Jewish Space Laser conspiracist, is correct. Or, at least, half-right. The only option for Democrats to act against Boebert without assisting her and her fellow performance artists is to expel Boebert.
In most companies throughout the country, any employee who publicly portrayed a coworker as a potential suicide bomber would be fired. No rational counter-argument would excuse Congress from adhering to the same norms.
Members of Congress, on the other hand, should be held to a higher standard. Instead, the United States government depends on an archaic honor system in which each party is required to address such concerns individually.
The system mainly works on the left, with Andrew Cuomo grudgingly self-immolating this summer, almost four years after Al Franken did the same.
Republicans are supposed to be appalled enough by a member’s behavior to force him or her to leave, but they never appear to be up to the job. (For example, just two GOP representatives voted to reprimand Gosar, and both had already been effectively banished from the party earlier this year.)
When left to their own devices, Republicans in hot water tend to follow Trump’s pattern of never apologizing for anything, as Greene did, or at least doubling down when the apology backfires, as Boebert did in a phone chat with Omar on Monday afternoon.
Boebert says she had a contentious phone call with Omar about her anti-Muslim remarks. She says that Omar demanded a public apology, but Boebert said that it was Omar who should apologize. She later goes onto suggest that Omar sympathizes with terroristshttps://t.co/YpJeEz5f5E
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) November 29, 2021
The sanctions Congress now has at its disposal to take up the slack—censure and removal from committee assignments—are not just insufficient slaps on the wrist; they are such weak slaps on the wrist that they end up helping those they are supposed to punish.
If a politician’s work looks to be exclusively comprised of agitating people, establishing a podcast, and sometimes voting, losing committee assignments does nothing except give up more time to be publicly enraged with Fauci or whatever. There is no genuine penalty if there is no actual negative. Rather, it’s like to a parent grounding his delinquent hacker kid.
Happy Birthday @DrPaulGosar!
A true Patriot and GREAT American! 🇺🇸
Now that we both don’t have useless committees, together we can do so much more to Save America!
Starting next week 😎
— Marjorie Taylor Greene 🇺🇸 (@mtgreenee) November 28, 2021
The punishment of censure, on the other hand, is virtually a badge of honor in the GOP’s contemporary anti-woke atmosphere. In 2021, grandstanding against cancel culture has become a subgenre of conservative politics in and of itself.
During the spring, prominent right-wing politicians competed to see who could shout the loudest about Dr. Seuss’ unjust treatment, while Josh Hawley moaned to every news source that would listen about how he’d been silenced.
The most desirable person in conservative politics is someone “they” don’t want you to hear from; someone who is unafraid to tell it like it is, no matter what. Being able to endure that difference while still holding political power is a license to print money.
It worked out well for Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose scolding resulted in a flood of financial gains and media hits.
I can’t thank you all enough for the outpouring of support I’ve received today.
We’ve raised over $160,000 to send a message to the Democrat mob:
It’s People over politicians.
I’m so honored to represent you, America First Patriots, in Congress.
— Marjorie Taylor Greene 🇺🇸 (@mtgreenee) February 3, 2021
There are now no protections in place to prevent more Trump-like Republicans in Congress from outdoing one other in disgusting displays against their Democratic colleagues. Worse, the more Democrats utilize the existing set of penalties—rather than the one-strike-and-you’re-out method of a normal American workplace—the longer the process seems and the more Dems appear to be hall monitors.
If they can’t find a tougher means to reprimand these trolls, they’ll be stuck playing “hall monitor” for the rest of their tenure as the majority party.
And there will be little appetite for a follow-up.
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