When Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republican senators voted to censure Elizabeth Warren, America’s ugly history was repeating itself.
The Senate chamber echoed with words reminiscent of those spoken by the villains in America’s history books:
“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Warren and the rest of the U.S. Senate had gathered to debate over the qualifications of Trump’s attorney general pick Jeff Sessions. But apparently it’s against the rules to actually debate in the Senate — at least if you’re a woman.
Halfway through Warren’s remarks opposing Session’s nomination, she was shut down because she allegedly “impuned the motives and conduct” of the Alabama Senator.
Her only crime: reading a letter written by Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow Coretta Scott King
King’s letter, detailing Session’s history of racism and civil rights violations, played a key role in defeating his nomination appointment to the federal bench back in the 1980s.
When faced with the facts, it’s hard to conclude that the vote to ban the Massachusetts Senator from the floor for 30 hours wasn’t about gender.
After all, Warren was neither the first nor the last Senator to criticize Sessions. She was, however, the only one called out for allegedly imputing him via the less-than-flattering letter. Even more damning, three of her male colleagues read the King letter uninterrupted on the Senate floor after she was prohibited from doing so.
Simply put, the objection to Warren’s remarks was nothing more than another textbook example of mansplaining and telling a woman to sit down and shut up.
It had nothing to do with breaking a rarely-used rule and had everything to do with perpetuating the sexist and oppressive norms of powerful men. At any point during the debate, McConnell or his colleagues could have invoked any other senator’s criticism of Sessions. Yet the only senator singled out was the fiery woman whose powerful words incite fear in the Republican majority.
Perhaps most infuriation is that the obscure Senate rule used to justify Warren’s removal from the proceedings was implemented as a slavery-era mechanism to silence proponents of abolition. It’s frightfully fitting that the very people rebuking Warren with such a rule were simultaneously silencing the written words of King, a historic civil rights activist. In fact, the only African-American Republican present, Senator Tim Scott, outspokenly disagreed with his colleagues disdain for King’s letter — but voted with them anyway.
Silencing the opposition is far from a hallmark of democracy. The Senate Republican’s actions were not only an affront to women, but also an alarming message to all minority groups that Trump-era America is appearing more fascist every day.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a woman or minority in this country who hasn’t stood in the very same shoes as Warren and been warned by powerful men:
- Malala Yousafzai getting shot by the Taliban for wanting an education.
- Wendy Davis getting mansplained and shamed when she filibustered an anti-abortion bill.
- Michelle Obama being branded with the trope of the “angry black woman”.
- The working woman who gets cut off by her male colleague during a board meeting.
- The unarmed African-American who gets ignored when he complains of police brutality.
- The sexual assault survivor who gets victim-blamed and gaslit to remain quiet.
So many women and people of color have encountered this type of abusive behavior over and over again. They know the infuriating feeling Warren must have felt when she was forced into silence.
Because when you speak truth to power, the powerful’s only defense is to take away your voice.
Nevertheless, it appears Warren has no plans of keeping quiet.
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