A troll in Congress

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To state the 118th Congress is an exercise in debasement, dereliction, and dysfunction would be an understatement. But what happened on the House Oversight Committee last week took things to a new low.

House Republicans were advocating for holding Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in contempt of Congress — an action the committee chairman, Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, gleefully promoted in a fundraising appeal. They would eventually get “to the business at hand” but not before a back and forth by none other than Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the menacing right-winger who threw a cheap shot at Texas Rep. Jasmine Crockett.

“I think your fake eyelashes are messing up what you’re reading,” Greene said, mocking Crockett’s makeup.

“That’s beneath even you, Ms. Greene,” shot back Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the panel.

The remark prompted Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York—the committee’s number two Democrat—to demand that Ms. Greene’s words be “taken down” from the record, an official rebuke that would mean Ms. Greene would be barred from speaking for the rest of the session.

“How dare you attack the physical appearance of another person?” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said. She later said on social media that she had felt compelled to defend Ms. Crockett, who is Black, against “racism and misogyny.”

“Are your feelings hurt?” Ms. Greene responded.

“Oh, baby girl, don’t even play,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez shot back.

“Why don’t you debate me?” Ms. Greene said to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez.

“I think it’s self-evident,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez replied.

“Yeah, you don’t have enough intelligence,” Ms. Greene said.

That second insult prompted more outrage, with multiple Democrats demanding Greene retract her remarks.

After much hot rhetoric, Greene agreed to have her words stricken from the record but refused to apologize. It was reality television at its most sordid. Raskin blamed Republican members who had travelled to New York to support Mr. Trump in court. “There was drinking going on in the hearing room on the Republican side,” he told The Hill on Friday, without naming any names.

Well, perhaps Rankin should know as the old saying goes, “a drunken man’s tongue is a sober man’s thoughts.”

The larger issue here is the blatant, arrogant, and ongoing disrespect toward people of color, in particular women of color in Congress and beyond. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and other members of the squad are frequently targeted by right-wing media outlets as “angry women of color.” Throughout the initial minutes of the hearing, Greene continued to directly taunt Crockett and Ocasio-Cortez. She’s the sort of racially-bigoted individual who hurls racist comments but acts like the victim of racism when called out.

For many right-wing congressmen, sparring with liberal progressives and the so-called “deep state” garners them credibility with their MAGA base of supporters. These are the voters (a large percentage of them) who are deeply distrustful of so-called elites and non-whites and view such individuals with suspicious, skeptical, jaundiced eyes and as “the other.” They are viewed as people who are not to be trusted.

Despite achieving and inhabiting one of the most prestigious spaces in American life, these members of Congress routinely have to defend themselves and fight for and demand respect from individuals who despise their existence. Indeed, many of these right-wingers, their supporters, and others of their regressive ilk would rather see non-white men and women cooking, cleaning, and tending the grounds of the buildings of Congress as opposed to legislating and ratifying laws for the nation. Such a fact causes many of them to seethe with resentment.

President Barack Obama endured such slights during his tenure as president. Vice President Kamala Harris routinely faces such juvenile comments. The prospect of Hakeem Jeffries as speaker of the house (a likely reality) enrages more than a few on the right. The hatred and resentment toward non-white achievement is real.

Bravo to Crockett, Cortez, and other people of color who refuse to allow others to publicly demean, attack, and humiliate them. Their ancestors would be proud to witness such unbridled courage in the face of relentless, ongoing adversity.

Copyright 2024 Elwood Watson, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate

Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker.

Elwood Watson, Ph.D. is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker.