Last night, Senate Republicans threw a temper tantrum and literally silenced Elizabeth Warren:
Her offense: quoting a letter Coretta Scott King wrote in 1986 opposing Sessions’s nomination for a federal judgeship.
When Warren first spoke against Sessions Tuesday night, Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, warned her that she was breaking the rules. When she continued anyway, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell retaliated by finding her in violation of Senate Rule XIX — which prevents any senator from using “any form of words [to] impute to another Senator … any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”
It's hard to say where this tantrum came from. Are Republicans growing increasingly frustrated or increasingly arrogant? It's possible that with complete control of the White House and Congress, Republicans simply feel that the Democrats should sit down and shut up. It would jibe with their sense of entitlement to power that led them to steal a seat on the Supreme Court.
In this scenario, Republicans would feel justified to pass whatever laws they want or confirm even the most unqualified of Trump's nominees with impunity. It doesn't matter what the voters think because they have all the power and, heck, they might just have a 100 year majority! Squandering political capital is not a consideration when you think you're untouchable and Republicans have a long history of overreaching in just this fashion.
But the more likely impetus behind McConnell's rash and unusually myopic blunder is that Republicans are buckling under the enormous pressure of governing for the first time in over a decade. This is not how a party acts when they're in a position of true strength. The GOP of 2017 is a far cry from the GOP of 2005. Republicans have spent the last 8 years obstructing everything, even their own ideas, in a bid to destroy Barack Obama. And it worked. Sort of. They took back the House in 2010, then the Senate in 2014 and now the White House in 2016. All it cost them along the way was their (admittedly already diminished) ethics, their principles and any ability to govern responsibly.
Now, with a buffoon as president, chaos in the White House, historically low approval ratings, the exact opposite of an electoral mandate and one of the largest (and rapidly growing) protest movements in American history, Republicans have taken to petty punishments when a Democrat hurts their feelings. Attacking Warren seems less like a calculated move to silence opposition than it does a Trumpesque temper tantrum.
Republicans are already furious with the Democrats for stalling the confirmation hearings and for threatening to derail Gorsuch's appointment to the Supreme Court. Congressional phone lines are inundated with angry voters demanding Republicans stop rubber stamping Trump's agenda. Their offices have a steady stream of protesters showing up demanding answers and their normally sedate town halls and PR events keep turning into embarrassing interrogations from even more angry protesters.
It's gotten so bad that Republicans are afraid of their own constituents:
House GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers invited Rep. David Reichert, a former county sheriff, to present lawmakers with protective measures they should have in place. Among the suggestions: having a physical exit strategy at town halls, or a backdoor in congressional offices to slip out of, in case demonstrations turn violent; having local police monitor town halls; replacing any glass office-door entrances with heavy doors and deadbolts; and setting up intercoms to ensure those entering congressional offices are there for appointments, not to cause chaos.
Ostensibly, Republicans say they're afraid of violence but unlike the Tea Party, the left doesn't generally threaten "Second Amendment remedies." The reality is that Republicans are so ensconced in the comfortable bubble of Fox News and right wing media, they've forgotten what it's like to be directly challenged. This has left Republicans rattled by overwhelming opposition from both the Democrats and the public. Even the press, a once reliable ally always eager to give them "both sides do it" cover, is increasingly being more honest about what Republicans are doing. The end result is a political party under siege and growing increasingly bitter about it. Republicans in several states are even looking into passing laws to limit protests against them; a clear violation of the First Amendment.
Angry and desperate people make mistakes like hamhandedly trying to silence their opponents and Republicans are showing the strain. Now only did they raise the already popular Warren's public profile at a time when she's mulling running against Trump in 2020, McConnell even gave her the perfect campaign slogan: "She persisted"
Keep up the good work, GOP. You're doing great!
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