Senate Republicans ominously voted to shut down free speech last night by denying Elizabeth Warren the right to read a letter by Coretta Scott King opposing Jeff Sessions’ appointment to a federal judgeship. It is important to know who these opponents of our democracy are:
There are so many things wrong with what Republicans did last night that it is difficult to know where to begin:
- There is the issue of men silencing a woman, which we have seen all too often from Republican males over the past few years;
- There is the fact that Republicans don’t use the rule on their own;
- Rep. Barbara Lee took note of the fact that “Republicans have no shame. Even during #BlackHistoryMonth they dishonor the words of Coretta Scott King. #LetLizSpeak”;
- And as noted by more than one observer, there is the not-so-little matter of Mitch McConnell’s frequent forays into gross hypocrisy: Norman Ornstein remarked that it is “Interesting to see self-proclaimed free speech purist Mitch McConnell be the one to silence Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor.”
The list of the ways in which this is offensive is almost endless and Warren’s defenders on social media are exploiting each and every one.
The deplorable Republican attack on free speech also drew attention to an issue that might otherwise have gone unmremarked, as Ana Navarro pointed out:
If Warren had been allowed to read CSK letter, it'd been pretty ho-hum. Instead, McConnell inadvertently elevated her status & cause.
— Ana Navarro (@ananavarro) February 8, 2017
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) February 8, 2017
The fact is, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of thinking taking place on Capitol Hill since Trump’s inauguration. Republicans in Congress have reached new lows, and S.E. Cupp noted just the other day at CNN that,
“I know dozens of people in his new administration and many have become more like him [Trump], at least outwardly. They’ve become defensive, self-serious and aggressive, and they’ve adopted Trump’s rhetorical penchant for hyperbole, bombast and fact-blurring. They say things publicly that I know they never would have said before. It seems like they’re playing a part in a new Trump reality show.”
It seems strange to speak of a dumbing down of Republican politics, which have so long set a very low bar, but that does indeed seem to be what is taking place, as if Trump has proved to congressional Republicans that they no longer need to even pretend to think about an issue before they react – and stupidly.
Worse, this was an attack on our democracy as Republicans selectively apply an obscure rule to attack a Democrat. Imagine a Democratic-controlled Senate taking such an action and the resultant outrage. As George Takei said,
“Think about it: Senator Warren was silenced in the U.S. Senate for reading the words of Coretta Scott King. We are losing our democracy.”
Losing our democracy, and our Constitutional right to dissent. A defiant Elizabeth Warren told CNN’s Don Lemon, “They can shut me up, but they can’t change the truth.”
Of course, Orrin Hatch said speaking the truth is no excuse:
“Even if what she said was true, it wasn’t the right thing to do.”
Wake up, America, and fight for Warren’s – and all our rights – to speak. Show your outrage. While it’s still legal to do so.
Photo: Twitter @emilyslist