Trump is gone but the violence he incited remains
The Republicans have always been the party of law and order: they love ordering other people around while acting as if the law doesn’t apply to them. Over the past couple of weeks, Republicans have been having temper tantrums about new safety protocols that have been put in place in the US Capitol following the deadly 6 January insurrection. Lawmakers are now supposed to walk through metal detectors to enter the chamber and vote but a number of Republicans have been ignoring the rules. “You can’t stop me,” Louie Gohmert, a Texas congressman, reportedly sneered at Capitol police, as he shamelessly skirted a metal detector. Just imagine going to an airport and doing what Gohmert did: it would not end well.
Think Gohmert is brazen? Some Republican lawmakers have been setting off the metal detectors but refusing to be searched. “Nah, I’m not going to do that,” the Georgia congressman Rick Allen reportedly told officers who attempted to scan him after he set off the machine. Similarly, the newly elected congresswoman Lauren Boebert, who tweeted earlier this year that she was going to carry a loaded Glock handgun to Congress, refused to have her bag searched. Congressman Andy Harris, meanwhile, did consent to a search on Thursday afternoon: a concealed weapon was found in his suit coat. Harris then asked a colleague to hold his gun while he went and voted on a bill. (Very normal behaviour; very normal country.) His colleague declined because he didn’t have a firearm license.
House members that refuse to comply with safety protocols now face hefty fines. But fines are a woefully inadequate response to a worryingly incendiary situation; trying to smuggle guns into the Capitol isn’t just disrespectful, it’s dangerous. Particularly as there are still questions being asked about whether some members of Congress aided and abetted the violent attack on the Capitol earlier this month.
Nobody should have to go to work every day wondering whether one of their colleagues is going to kill them. And yet, that’s precisely what some Democrats – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other members of the Squad, in particular – are having to do. The Squad are a favourite target of rightwingers; they’ve had reason to worry about their safety long before the Capitol riots. Last year, for example, the QAnon supporter and new congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene posted an image on Facebook of her holding an assault rifle alongside Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. “We need strong conservative Christians to go on the offense against these socialists who want to rip our country apart,” her post’s caption read. A Florida Republican running for Congress also openly suggested that Omar be executed for treason. “The fact that those who make these violent threats very publicly without hesitation reaffirms how much white supremacy has spread within the [Republican party],” Tlaib tweeted at the time.
Following the Capitol riots, AOC spoke out about how she feared for her life. She wasn’t just afraid of the rioters, she was worried that “white supremacist members of Congress” would disclose her location and endanger her safety. Squad member Ayanna Pressley was probably thinking the same thing: somehow every panic button in her office had been torn out before the riots.
“[Many of us] still don’t yet feel safe around other members of Congress,” Ocasio-Cortez told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Thursday. “One just tried to bring a gun on the floor of the House today.” Gun culture in America is so warped that instead of agreeing that bringing guns to work was bad, Cuomo suggested the armed congressman might have been trying to keep everyone safe. “I don’t really care what they say their intentions are,” AOC replied. “I care what the impact of their actions are and the impact is to put 435 members of Congress in danger … it is absolutely outrageous that we even have to have this conversation.”
I know the last four years have warped our idea of “normal” but there is absolutely nothing normal about members of Congress having to worry that their colleagues might murder them. “GOP lawmakers campaigned with images of them cocking guns next to photos of myself,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Friday. “Now they are trying to violate DC law and House rules to sneak guns onto the House floor two weeks after a white supremacist insurrection that killed 5 people. Why?”
Why, indeed? That’s a question that we all need to be asking. Trump may have left the White House but the violence he helped incite has not been eliminated. The Capitol isn’t just a hostile working environment at the moment, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
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