“Nevertheless, she persisted.” Every era has its battle cry, and for the strange new reality we in the United States find ourselves bearing witness to, this may be it. Mere weeks after millions turned out in cities across the world for the Women’s March, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced in a formal vote by senate Republicans during the hearing for Attorney General Nominee Jeff Sessions.
Warren is accused of violating congressional rule 19 which states in part: “No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”
At the time Warren was directed to be silent, she wasn’t flinging wild accusations about Trump’s controversial nominee or acting in a manner unbecoming of a Senator. When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell formally censured Warren calling for a vote to officially silence her, the Senator was engaged in reading a letter written by Coretta Scott King. The letter was written in 1986 when then President Ronald Reagan nominated Sessions to be a federal judge. The senate voted against appointing Sessions to the position in 1986 and it was in part due to the testimony, and Coretta Scott King’s letter.
McConnell cited this phrase from the letter in his formal objection to Warren’s verbal treatment of Sessions, “[he used] the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens.” For McConnell and his fellow Republicans, these words from the widow of one of the most central figures of the civil rights movement were too much.
Warren’s silencing, while unacceptable in and of itself, represents a chilling new tendency under the present administration to gag any perceived opposition. We have seen this in the firing of Sally Yates, in the White House’s frequent attempts to silence and discredit the media, and now it appears congress is following suit by seeking to quiet members exercising their duty to speak as a voice for their constituents and oppose those they see as unsuitable to lead the nation. In a strange twist, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley subsequently went on to read from the same letter for which Warren was silenced without incident. For many this seeming double standard sits entirely sideways in what appears to be an increasingly hostile political atmosphere for women and minorities.
“A government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the Earth.”- Abraham Lincoln
In the few short weeks of the Trump administration, we have witnessed our government transmute to one inflicted on the people. This alarming trend toward oligarchy uses threats and lies, intimidation and silencing, as it seeks to eliminate those who stand in its way. Elizabeth Warren is the latest to feel the wrath of a party tainted by its own sense of power. Nor will she be the last. As a nation, we need to uphold the incredible momentum that has come over the people and keep up the resistance to this tide of tyranny. Let this new battle cry empower us to charge ahead. As we face increasing resistance to a government informed by the electorate, let it always be said, “nevertheless, she persisted.”