Late Tuesday night, a female United States Senator — Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenO'Rourke faces pressure from left on 'Medicare for all' O'Rourke says he won't use 'f-word' on campaign trail O'Rourke not planning, but not ruling out big fundraisers 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 SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsO'Rourke on impeachment: 2020 vote may be best way to 'resolve' Trump House Judiciary Dem, Republican clash over details of Whitaker testimony DeVos moves to allow religious groups to provide federally funded services to private schools 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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans up for reelection fear daylight with Trump Overnight Energy: Students around globe demand climate action | EPA bans consumer sales of deadly chemical in paint strippers | Green New Deal set for Senate vote The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies first veto after latest clash with Senate GOP 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 CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO'Rourke faces pressure from left on 'Medicare for all' O'Rourke not planning, but not ruling out big fundraisers O'Rourke: Being a white male not a disadvantage in 2020 Dem field MORE blatantly called Senator McConnell a liar several times over on the Senate floor?  Where was the reprimand when Senator Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonSenate rejects border declaration in major rebuke of Trump Hillicon Valley: Doctors press tech to crack down on anti-vax content | Facebook, Instagram suffer widespread outages | Spotify hits Apple with antitrust complaint | FCC rejects calls to delay 5G auction Senate votes to confirm Neomi Rao to appeals court MORE described Senator Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBernie campaign 2.0 - he's in it to win it, this time around Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ Senate confirms Trump court pick despite missing two 'blue slips' 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 UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Dems introduce bill requiring disclosure of guest logs from White House, Trump properties Overnight Energy: EPA moves to raise ethanol levels in gasoline | Dems look to counter White House climate council | Zinke cleared of allegations tied to special election MORE of New Mexico and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersO'Rourke faces pressure from left on 'Medicare for all' O'Rourke says he won't use 'f-word' on campaign trail O'Rourke not planning, but not ruling out big fundraisers 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 Ann MurkowskiThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration Overnight Defense: Senate rejects border emergency in rebuke to Trump | Acting Pentagon chief grilled on wall funding | Warren confronts chief over war fund budget 12 Republican senators defy Trump on emergency declaration  MORE and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsRepublicans up for reelection fear daylight with Trump The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies first veto after latest clash with Senate GOP 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.


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