United States Representative Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) posted an anime-style video earlier this month that depicted him stabbing a fellow House member to death. The target of the congressman’s online murder fantasy, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), called out her “creepy” colleague for his inexcusable action. Gosar’s response? He claimed that he amplified this snuff film in order to “reach out to the newer generation that likes these anime, these cartoons fabricated in Japanese likeness to actually tell them what is harmful in this bill [Biden’s Build Back Better plan] that they’re missing.”
The notion that a 62-year-old dentist turned politician thought he could make a connection with young voters by portraying a knife attack on a 32-year-old colleague tells us everything we need to know about Gosar’s fragile state of mind.
But the worst part of the controversy that gripped the Congress this week was the reaction from the vast majority of Republicans in the House. Given a chance to hold Gosar to account, 99 percent of them rejected the move to censure the Arizonan for posting “a manipulated video on his social media accounts depicting himself killing Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Joseph Biden.”
In total, 207 Republicans voted against the censure resolution, which was approved mostly along party lines. Just two Republicans—the most ostracized and politically marginalized members of their party’s House caucus—voted with House Democrats to hold Gosar to account: Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, who has been excommunicated by her home-state party for supporting former President Donald Trump’s impeachment, and Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger, another Trump impeacher who has seen the writing on the wall and decided not to seek another term.
The vote marks the latest instance of the Republican Party’s degenerating into a crude cabal that threatens not only order in the House but even the basic underpinnings of US democracy. Rebuking Gosar should not have been difficult. As Ocasio-Cortez asked when she addressed her colleagues Wednesday, “What is so hard? What is so hard about saying that this is wrong? This is not about me. This is not about Representative Gosar. But this is about what we are willing to accept.”
An answer came before the vote, when Liz Cheney recognized that House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), whom she had once worked closely with as a member of the leadership team, would defend rather than admonish Gosar. “It’s a real symbol of his lack of strength, the lack of leadership in our conference right now,” she said, “and the extent to which he and other leaders seem to have lost their moral compass.”
Cheney was right, except they haven’t “lost” their compass. It’s been deliberately and permanently broken.
Republicans in Congress have determined that the GOP is the party of impunity. They will reject any form of accountability for themselves and their associates.
That was first made clear not on Wednesday but months earlier, on the evening of January 6, after Donald Trump incited his insurrectionist followers to storm the Capitol of the United States in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election that he lost by 7 million votes. On that night, after the deadly violence and chaos had been brought under control, the majority of House Republicans joined Gosar in endorsing the goal of the insurrectionists. The group that voted to block certification of results from states won by Democrat Joe Biden included McCarthy.
In June, the Republican leader joined Gosar and every House Republican, except Cheney and Kinzinger, in opposing the vote to create a select committee to investigate the January 6 attack. That came after Senate Republicans blocked a move to create a National Commission to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol Complex.
At every turn, the Republicans of the 117th Congress have embraced the impunity of Paul Gosar.
On January 13, only 10 House Republicans voted to impeach Trump for his role in inciting the insurrection, while Gosar and 196 opposed holding the former president to account. On February 13, only seven Senate Republicans voted to convict Trump, while 43 opposed accountability. On February 4, only 11 House Republicans voted to strip Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments for “trafficking in racism, anti-Semitism and baseless conspiracy theories, along with her support for online comments encouraging violence against Democratic officials prior to taking office.” Opposing accountability were Paul Gosar and 198 other Republicans, including McCarthy.
This week, Greene revealed that McCarthy had promised that her committee assignments would be restored if Republicans win control of the chamber in the 2022 midterm elections. The same day, Time magazine speculated that an “unmasked, unvaccinated and uncivil” and “wholly unaccountable” Greene might be the future of the Republican Party.
In fact, the future is here. On Wednesday, Republicans made it clear that the GOP is no longer the Grand Old Party of Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, or Dwight Eisenhower—or even the dismal party of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. It is Gosar’s Own Party. Or, after the pair stood together Wednesday and laughed off the censure vote, perhaps Gosar and Greene’s Own Party.
The Republican Party absolutely and unequivocally rejects accountability for Trump, for Greene, and now for Gosar. Their smashing of the moral compass does not stop in the House. The impunity displayed in Washington is being reflected in statehouses across the country. And, as a bogus assault on “critical race theory” gains traction as a political issue, in the meeting rooms where school boards gather.
“This nihilism runs deep,” Ocasio-Cortez told the House on Wednesday.
The representative from New York continued with a chilling reminder of why censuring Gosar was necessary, even if Republicans failed to take his actions—or their duty—seriously.
“As leaders in this country, when we incite violence with depictions against our colleagues that trickles down into violence in this country, and that is where we must draw the line independent of party, identity, or belief. It is about a core recognition of human dignity and value and worth. So when we talk about, as mentioned in the resolution, that these depictions are part of a larger trend of misogyny, racial misogyny, racist misogyny, in this has results in dampening the participation,” said the brave and clear-eyed congresswoman.
“So this vote is not as complex as perhaps the Republican leader would like to make folks believe. It’s pretty cut and dry,” she added. “Does anyone in this chamber find this behavior acceptable? Would you allow depictions of violence against women, against colleagues, would you allow that in your home? Do you think this should happen on a school board? In a city council? In a church? And if it’s not acceptable there, why should it be accepted here?”