Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert might be the next Republican to lose her committee assignments. Her crime: joking that Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar is a member of the “Jihad Squad.” Boebert apologized, but the Democrats apparently still plan to censure [Dems’ dicey decision: Punish Boebert or not?, by Rachel Bade, Politico, November 29, 2021].
Democrats have already censured two other Republicans—Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar—for similar minor offenses. While the vast majority of Republicans oppose the punishments, as the minority party, they’re powerless to stop them. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy vows retaliation if the GOP regains the majority. The obvious question: Are Republicans up to the challenge?
They weren’t in early 2019, when they removed immigration patriot Steve King from his committee assignments because of a disputed quote in the New York Times. King intended to say nothing is wrong with defending Western Civilization. But he mentioned “white supremacy,” and the usual Leftist hysteria began. McCarthy threw King to the wolves; Republican leaders stripped him of his committee assignments without a vote. Nearly the entire House voted to denounce him. When King looked poised to win the Republican primary to his seat, McCarthy emphasized that the immigration patriot would not get his committee assignments back even if he won re-election. That helped defeat him.
Now, remember this crucial fact: This was a Trump-era GOP witch-hunt. Times have changed. With Greene, Gosar, and Boebert in the dock, McCarthy and the House Republicans have resolutely stood by them. With few exceptions, the Republican caucus opposed the disciplinary actions against Greene and Gosar. They will likely do the same if a vote is held on Boebert.
It’s hard to see the differences between the three and King. Greene, Gosar, and Boebert are all accused of the same crime: stirring up hate. Greene lost her committee assignments because of “anti-Semitism” and “Islamophobia.” Gosar was censured for sharing a parody anime video that showed him killing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He’s also labeled a “white nationalist” for his immigration views and speaking at Nick Fuentes’s AFPAC event [Gosar’s ties to white nationalists added to concerns about his video, by Erin Mansfield and Savannah Behrmann, USA Today, November 17, 2021]. Boebert is in hot water for Islamophobia. All three—especially Gosar—espouse immigration views like King’s.
The most logical reason for the difference in treatment: unlike King, the three are in safer Republican districts. GOP leadership purported to think King was a liability who might lose a general election. They wanted him gone in 2018, but he won his primary and re-election despite lukewarm party support. Leaders thought his alleged comments to the NYT were a good excuse to get rid of him for good, and they stupidly thought King would be a one-time exception. No more Republicans would be punished for comments that offended Leftists. That thought was and is grossly mistaken.
Reason regardless, though, Republicans have improved dramatically since the King betrayal, as McCarthy’s defense of Gosar shows. He didn’t demand an apology from the Arizona congressman and said his video was an attempt to appeal to young voters. As for retaliating if the GOP regains the majority, McCarthy named three Democrats the party might target: Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, New York’s Hakeem Jeffries, and California’s Eric Swalwell. McCarthy cited Omar’s criticism of Israel, Jeffries’ demand that a jury find Kyle Rittenhouse guilty, and Swalwell’s involvement with Madame Fang Fang, the fetching Chinese spy.
In a “rules for thee, but not for me” floor speech during which he denounced Rep. Maxine Waters’ unhinged public behavior, McCarthy explained:
What they have started cannot be easily undone. Their actions today, and the past, have forever changed the way the House operates. … And furthermore, it means under the Pelosi precedent, all the members that I have mentioned earlier will need the approval of a majority to keep those positions in the future.
[Republicans hint at retribution after Democrats throw Rep. Gosar off committees, by Sahil Kapur, NBC News, November 18, 2021]
McCarthy is right. Democrats have set a new precedent. Most congressional censures involve criminal behavior. In the last 50 years, of the six congressmen censured, three were for corruption and two for sexual misconduct with congressional pages. Only Gosar was censured for speech. (Greene and King were not censured, just removed from their committee assignments.) Offensive speech is now the new standard for which Congress can punish lawmakers.
As McCarthy noted, however, that standard did not apply to Waters, who famously told her supporters to harass and threaten Trump Administration officials in public. She also showed up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as the jury in the trial of Derek Chauvin began deliberating. It was an obvious attempt to intimidate the jury with riots if it acquitted the innocent cop.
Aside from Waters, plenty of Democrats are available for Republicans to target under this new precedent:
Democrats don’t seem worried about McCarthy’s threats, however. And for good reason. With the exception of Eric Swalwell, all of the possible censure targets are non-white and primarily women.
The Evil Party’s Mainstream Media Information Ministry will whip up a storm with false claims that racist and misogynist Republicans are attacking innocent women of color for speaking “their truth.” Cable news commentators will turn these anti-white lawmakers into free speech martyrs. We would get fact checks on how Cori Bush’s anti-white racism is speaking truth to power, while Lauren Boebert’s Muslim jokes encourage genocide.
In an ideal world, this wouldn’t influence GOP decision making. But we don’t live in that world. The media pressure might well persuade moderate Republicans to vote against punishment.
On the other hand, the same media, again, want conservatives punished for saying “offensive” things. And Democrats make their priorities based on what they hear in their media echo chamber. If CNN and MSNBC claim a statement from Paul Gosar is beyond the pale and deserves punishment, Democrats will do something about it. That’s the power of friendly media.
Republicans might punish Swalwell—straight and white—whose offense doesn’t align with Woke prerogatives. He should’ve been censured and removed from his committees long ago, but Democrats didn’t feel the need. Then again, Democrats would not defend a white man to the same degree as they would a “Jihad Squad” member. Besides, his suspicious connection to a Communist Chinese agent is hard to defend.
The lesson for Republicans: don’t try to appease Democrats and their media allies; defend your own, ignore manufactured controversies.
McCarthy will never live down the shameful way he treated King, but he can at least learn from it. You gain nothing from throwing your own to the Leftist wolves—it only encourages their bloodlust. McCarthy does appear to have learned from his mistakes given the way he has defended Greene, Gosar, and Boebert. But it’s not going to end with them. Any Republican who dares challenge Leftist orthodoxies risks the same treatment. The Democrats and media are ruthlessly enforcing their standards on Capitol Hill and nothing can stop them unless they lose the House in next year’s midterm elections.
Republicans must play hard ball if and when that happens. They must censure Omar and others, and if they have enough seats for a two-thirds majority vote, expel them.
But most importantly, Republicans must learn to defend their own. Democrats win because they don’t cave to pressure and never abandon their wounded, even for outrageous offenses.
It’s time for Republicans to follow suit.