Late Tuesday night, a female United States Senator — Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenate panel approves Scott Brown as NZ ambassador Senate confirms Trump's first lower-court nominee The Hill's 12:30 Report 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 SessionsHispanic Dems demand meeting with Sessions Justice Department to seek Supreme Court review in Trump travel ban case Sessions vows to stop leaks about Manchester attack 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.”

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 McConnellOvernight Energy: Trump energy nominees face Congress | OPEC to extend production cuts Senate confirms Trump's first lower-court nominee Top GOP senators tell Trump to ditch Paris climate deal 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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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 CruzFEC faults Cruz on Goldman Sachs loans in rare unanimous vote CBO score underlines GOP tensions on ObamaCare repeal Republicans go to battle over pre-existing conditions MORE blatantly called Senator McConnell a liar several times over on the Senate floor?  Where was the reprimand when Senator Tom CottonTom CottonSenators rip billion Army 'debacle' GOP senator: Pence ‘deserved better treatment’ at Notre Dame Congress should let local communities set their own PACE MORE described Senator Harry ReidHarry ReidGOP frustrated by slow pace of Trump staffing This week: Congress awaits Comey testimony Will Republicans grow a spine and restore democracy? MORE as “cancerous leadership?”

  1. 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.  

  1. 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 UdallVA eyes building closures to boost care under Trump GOP senator: FCC must explain 'manhandling' reporter Senate Dems warn Trump admin shows 'pattern of hostility' to press MORE of New Mexico and Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's 12:30 Report Five takeaways from the Montana special election Hillary Clinton targets troubled Trump, divided GOP with new PAC 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 MurkowskiOvernight Finance: Dems introduce minimum wage bill | Sanders clashes with Trump budget chief | Border tax proposal at death's door Overnight Energy: Trump energy nominees face Congress | OPEC to extend production cuts Senators air grievances on Trump energy budget, delays MORE and Susan CollinsSusan CollinsSenate takes lead on Trump’s infrastructure proposal Navy leaders defend Trump's lackluster ship budget Overnight Healthcare: CBO fallout | GOP senators distance themselves from House bill | Trump budget chief blasts score | Schumer says House bill belongs 'in the trash' 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.  

Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter: @MariaTCardona.


The views of contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.