On Tuesday, five members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus protested the Trump administration’s family separation policy by shouting at Donald Trump as he entered the Capitol for a meeting with House Republicans. The protest was remarkably mild, considering both who it was directed at and why it was happening in the first place. Here’s a video of it.
On Thursday, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the House, was asked about this protest on CNN. This is what he said (via CNN):
“I think that’s — it’s not appropriate,” he told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on “Newsroom” when asked if he was comfortable with the strategy.
“But having said that there are very strong feelings, and nobody engenders stronger feelings and says worse things or acts in a more confrontational manner than the President of the United States,” he continued. “That does not, however, justify us following suit.”
“As I said in my interview today, the President’s vile comments and reprehensible behavior and inhumane policies engender strong condemnation and rightfully result in deep frustration,” he said. “I do believe that the institution of Congress must uphold a level of decorum, even though the President does not. The CHC has been passionate defenders of immigrants and families, and I support their right to protest in this fight to stop child abuse, reunite families, and protect” recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
This is a stupid, shitty fucking answer.
Donald Trump began his campaign with the claim that Mexicans who cross the border into the United States are rapists. He has launched an all-out war on immigrants from the moment he was sworn in, destroying families long before the family separation policy was announced. If there was ever a time to throw decorum and Congressional order to the wayside, it is this time. Really, it has been this time from the very beginning.
The five CHC members—Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, Adriano Espaillat of New York, and Juan Vargas, Lucille Roybal-Allard, and Nanette Diaz Barragan, all of California—did not say “Mr. President, fuck you,” as one hero did on the same day, although they would have been well within their rights to do so. They did not throw things at him, or try to fight him. They held up signs and raised their voices as they asked him if he had kids, and pleaded with him to reconsider his horrific family separation policy.
So when Hoyer says he “supports” the CHC’s “right to protest in this fight to stop child abuse,” but he doesn’t support this protest, what does he mean? What kind of protest would be a measured response to what he admits is child abuse? How much fury is justified over children being put in cages?
Here is just one example of what is going on, from a press release by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson:
One mother at the SeaTac prison brought her 8-year-old son from El Salvador, seeking asylum because of death threats from a violent gang. Instead of finding safety, her son was taken as soon as she entered the country. She was told that having her child taken was “the price you have to pay” for coming here, and to “tell everyone back home not to come here, or we will take their children just like we took yours.”
She last saw her child 31 days ago, and has no idea where he is, who is taking care of him, or whether he is safe.
How much anger towards this—the forced kidnapping of children from their families to vaguely send a message to other people from Mexico and Central America, as if they all know each other—is permissible?
Hoyer’s response to this is emblematic of why so many progressives have believed from the beginning that congressional Democrats—particularly those who were elected during the first year of the Reagan administration—are woefully unprepared to deal with the Republican Party under Trump. Trump has moved the political center on this issue so far to the right that Democrats were at one point willing to curb legal immigration, a position that was considered untenable in the Republican Party just three years ago.
Now, however, Republicans are studying the immigration proposals of the European fascist parties like they’ll be on the SAT, and Hoyer’s preferred response would seemingly be for all of his fellow Democrats to politely disagree with their good friends from the great state of Iowa and New York. He apparently would rather them try to win over hearts and minds in the House with the argument that immigrants aren’t insects or rats, or maybe just fire off some tweets about it and not do shit at all.
Steny Hoyer is not the New York Times. He has no obligation to objectivity or to The Discourse. He’s not even a member of the Senate, where being sworn in comes with a free lobotomy. He is a member of the leadership team of the House Democratic caucus. With this wormlike response, he has thrown his fellow members—and immigrants who have absolutely no good reason to trust the Democrats—under the bus. He is telling them that, at a time when Republicans are waging a war to keep the country as white as possible for as long as possible, their rage just isn’t acceptable.
Hoyer is wrong. The five CHC members understood that their position as elected members of the federal government automatically affords them the attention and a microphone that the people they’re fighting for do not typically get. These times call for direct action and for confronting the miserable sacks of shit who are responsible for all of this suffering.
They do not call for business as usual. Fuck decorum—always, but now more than ever.