Late Tuesday night, a female United States Senator — Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren builds her brand with 2020 down the road Warren: Trump 'all talk' on Wall Street Dem senators ask Bannon for more info about Breitbart contact MORE from Massachusetts — was told to shut the hell up by the all-male Republican Senate leadership.
Really. She was. And in so doing, the Republican Party continued to cement its image as an out-of-touch party that holds unacceptable misogynistic, sexist and racist views.
This is bad enough on its face, but it is also an unsustainable situation for the long-term political sustainability of a major political party in a country that is becoming browner by the minute and where women are the majority.
It happened late in the evening as the Democrats were holding the Senate floor for 24 hours to highlight to the American people what a poor choice Senator Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsThis week: Congress returns to government shutdown fight Week ahead: US raises pressure on WikiLeaks Dem lawmaker to Sessions: 'You are a racist and a liar' MORE (R-Ala.) is for the powerful position of United States Attorney General.
Sessions was nominated by President Trump, despite a career that at times has been hostile to civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community.
Democrat after Democrat talked about Sessions’ abysmal record on protecting the rights of minority communities in several situations, and brought up the fact that the U.S. Senate had already rejected Senator Sessions when he was up for a federal judgeship years earlier, because of precisely this dreadful record.
When it was Warren’s turn, she used some of her time to read out loud a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King, the widow of Civil Rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. and a renowned leader and icon in her own right.
King had written the letter to the U.S. Senate opposing the appointment of Sessions to a federal district judgeship based on his conduct as U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of Alabama. She wrote, “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship.”
I will not be silent while the Republicans rubber stamp an AG who will never stand up to the @POTUS when he breaks the law.— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) February 8, 2017
King’s opposition along with that of many others at the time was enough to derail Sessions’ appointment.
So who in their right mind would think it inappropriate for a United States Senator to read such a compelling letter that had already been part of the historical record in a past vetting and review of Senator Sessions’ public conduct? Especially when that letter so eloquently described the harm that Sessions could do in an even more powerful position such as the one he is currently nominated for?
Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellJuan Williams: Trump's 100 days wound GOP Judd Gregg: Trump gets his sea legs This week: Congress returns to government shutdown fight MORE silenced Senator Warren under an obscure Senate rule – number XIX – that states that no senator can impugn the motives and conduct of another Senator.
Who really knows what “strategy” McConnell was following when he reprimanded and silenced Senator Warren under this Senate rule?
But we do know four things happened:
It gave much more attention, coverage and importance to Senator Warren’s testimony precisely because she was silenced in such a public way. Afterward, she read the letter on a Facebook Live post that has received millions of views, and the hashtags #LetLizSpeak and #SheWasWarned were trending with her supporters sharing pictures of Rosa Parks, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mother Theresa.
If McConnell had simply let her speak her piece at night on C-SPAN, no one would be talking about this today. It was a huge fumble from a strategic messaging standpoint for Senate Republicans.
It exposed the breathtaking hypocrisy of the male-dominated U.S. Senate, leading to charges that Republicans continue to brand themselves as misogynistic, sexist and racist.
Where was the reprimand when in 2015 Senator Ted CruzTed CruzWeek ahead in tech: Trump's antitrust pick heads before Senate Week ahead: Senate panel to vote on Trump's FDA pick Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road MORE blatantly called Senator McConnell a liar several times over on the Senate floor? Where was the reprimand when Senator Tom CottonTom CottonTom Cotton rails against cable news countdown clocks GOP lawmakers call on FCC chair to soften data services proposal Trump should work with Congress to block regulations on prepaid cards MORE described Senator Harry ReidHarry ReidWeek ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road 'Tuesday Group' turncoats must use recess to regroup on ObamaCare MORE as “cancerous leadership?”
This gave way to the distinct impression that Senator Warren was being reprimanded not so much because of what she was saying but because she was being effective – and because she was a woman, reading a scathing letter from a Civil Rights legend who just happened to be an African-American woman. If this doesn’t reek of misogyny, sexism and racism, I don’t know what does.
It will serve to further motivate the Democratic base, progressives, independents, women, minorities, the LGBTQ community, immigrants’ rights activists, and other normal everyday Americans who are so incredibly concerned and many even downright scared that our nation is led by an out-of-control White House and President who thinks he is above the law.
Tellingly, the day after this happened, Democratic Senators Jeff Merkely of Oregon, Tom UdallTom UdallSenate Dems want Trump to release ethics waivers, visitor logs Dem senator: Congress should force White House to publish visitor logs Senate Dems offer bill to restore internet privacy rules MORE of New Mexico and Bernie SandersBernie SandersPelosi: 'Of course' Dems can be against abortion Kasich: 'I think political parties are on their way out' Sanders: Democratic Party's model is 'failing' MORE of Vermont, incensed that their colleague had been silenced, both read from the Coretta Scott King letter, uninterrupted. This further underscoring the double standard in the GOP, male-dominated United States Senate.
Unfortunately for the country, Sessions will still be confirmed as Republicans do not have the spine to stand up to President Trump — even on nominees that are so out of the mainstream of where most Americans stand on civil liberties, social justice and protecting all communities.
(Two exceptions: I give huge kudos to GOP Senators Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiTrump’s Army pick faces tough confirmation fight Republican Sen. Collins considering run for Maine governor in 2018 Alaska senators push bill to allow Arctic drilling MORE and Susan CollinsSusan CollinsCollins: I'm not working with Freedom Caucus chairman on healthcare Mexico: Recent deportations 'a violation' of US immigration rules White House denies misleading public in aircraft carrier mix-up MORE who voted “no” on the awful nomination of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. Thank you, ladies!)
But it will be done with yet another stain on a party that already suffers from a reputation that it does not represent a growing majority of voters. If that perception persists, the current stranglehold the GOP has on the House, Senate and White House will be very short-lived.
The views of contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.