Republicans are scared. As Congress moves forward with the second impeachment of President Donald Trump, some GOP members of the House have quietly admitted that they were worried that voting to impeach the president could put them and their families in danger.
The congresswomen’s supposed foreignness was never about country of origin, but rather the offense of women of color deigning to challenge Trump.
It is a tragic and infuriating admission on the part of those who have enabled and emboldened this demagogue, especially when considered in contrast to the many members whose personal safety those same Republicans have jeopardized.
From the beginning of his bid for president, Trump appealed to voters by claiming that outsiders — mainly immigrants, specifically people from Muslim-majority and “shithole” countries — were attempting to invade, steal and change our country. That nebulous threat took many shapes, including a tweet suggesting that the “squad,” comprised of Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, should “go back” to their so-called countries.
Never mind that three of the four congresswomen are U.S. born, and Omar is a Somalian refugee who has lived in the U.S. since she was a child. Because her supposed foreignness was never about country of origin. Rather, it was about the offense of women of color deigning to challenge Trump on behalf of the very “outsiders” he used as scapegoats.
The “go back” tweets came on the heels of the four congresswomen’s testimony before the House Oversight Committee, where they decried the cruelty of Trump’s immigration policies and described the horrific conditions they observed at migrant detention facilities. The tweets were followed by a rally, during which Trump called the four “hate-filled extremists'' and stood by as attendees chanted “send her back” in reference to Omar.
Now, Trump is singing the same tune about outsiders, but with a slightly different hook: baselessly claiming that Democrats, buoyed by voters of color, stole our election in the hopes of hijacking America.
This most recent lie is a culmination of all the other lies and fears this president has stoked over the past four years.
Trump’s mob of supporters, captured for the world to see as they climbed the “big beautiful walls” of the Capitol, may have been motivated to riot and violence by false claims of voter fraud and a stolen election. But this most recent lie is a culmination of all the other lies and fears this president has stoked over the past four years.
Anyone who questioned whether Trump’s lies have consequences now has undeniable proof. “Members of the House were nearly assassinated,” Ocasio-Cortez told her followers in a sobering delivery on Instagram Live, before describing a “very close encounter” where she thought she “was going to die.”
Ocasio-Cortez withheld details, citing security concerns, but the danger is not new. Since she was elected, she has faced down threats ranging from a Coast Guard lieutenant and self-identified white nationalist who was arrested for stockpiling guns as part of a plot to kill her and others, to a Louisiana police officer who declared on Facebook that the New York congresswoman "needs a round.”
Her own colleague, Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., called her “a f------ bitch” and when called to task, refused to apologize. Ocasio-Cortez says death threats are a “normal part” of her existence.
And the New York congresswoman is not alone in feeling targeted. As Pressley’s staff took shelter during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, they discovered that every panic button in their office had been inexplicably torn out.
Anyone who questioned whether Trump’s lies have consequences now have undeniable proof.
As all eyes turn to the Senate, where some GOP members bolstered the lies that inspired Trump’s mob, those who are afraid to do what they know is right can find some inspiration in the squad, those four representatives who have been facing down threats since they were elected. Faced with danger, last week the squad plodded forward.
In the aftermath of the attack, they were among the first to demand accountability, each immediately voicing their support for impeachment. Newly elected representative and newly minted squad member Cori Bush of Missouri argued for the expulsion of "Republican members of Congress who have incited this domestic terror attack through their attempts to overturn the election.” As she denounced white supremacy on the House floor, her Republican colleagues booed. Bush didn’t flinch.
It is possible to underestimate the squad’s bravery, especially because it is so often misrepresented as self-serving bravado or a cheap self-branding exercise. And unlike members of the GOP, these women have not had a towering once-politically popular president to hide behind. But perhaps now, faced with threats to their own safety and security in response to doing the right thing, their detractors will understand just how hard it is to do what you believe is right even when it puts a target on your back.
Trump is singing the same tune about outsiders, but with a slightly different hook: claiming that Democrats, buoyed by voters of color, stole our election in the hopes of hijacking America.
“I get it,” AOC tweeted in response to Republican members’ fear, “but some of us just spent the last two years taking stances that have led to repeated attempts on our lives — for demanding guaranteed health care, immigrant justice, etc. Sorry if this lacks empathy, but it’s a privilege if this is their first time. They can do one vote.”
Last week exposed the core lie of the Trump administration: the idea that the greatest threat to our democracy was coming from outside, rather than within. Now we will see who is brave enough to disentangle themselves from that original lie and its newest iteration; who, in the face of danger and threats, votes their conscience; and who cowers and absolves themselves of their sworn responsibilities.
“If any GOP need advice on how to deal with it,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “they can call me.”