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Why MTG’s comments on Jamaal Bowman are so dangerous
“This is not surprising behavior. But it’s behavior that’s been used to, of course, endanger, and sometimes kill Black men and Black people as a result of their claims,” an expert told Supercreator.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York is known among the Capitol Hill press corps for embracing opportunities to publicly debate his colleagues on the other side of the aisle, including Republican Reps. Byron Donalds of Florida on presidential politics and Thomas Massie of Kentucky on gun violence.
And although I wasn’t on the Hill on Wednesday when Bowman and Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene held court on the steps of the House after a vote to refer an expulsion resolution for George Santos to the House Ethics Committee, the exchange appeared to be the same bipartisan banter we’ve seen before.
Greene saw it differently the following morning though.
“I will tell you what’s on video is Jamaal Bowman shouting at the top of his lungs, cursing, calling me a white supremacist, which I take great offense to that,” Greene said during the question-and-answer portion of a press conference to announce articles of impeachment against President Joe Biden and members of his cabinet and administration. “It’s like calling a person of color the n-word, which should never happen.”
They are not the same: White people can say white supremacist but not the n-word.
“It’s reckless and dangerous what she said, okay, characterizing me and my interaction with her yesterday,” Bowman told reporters during a gaggle after he learned about Greene’s comments. “I never invaded her personal space. I was laughing and gregarious the entire time.” Here’s a clip of the exchange to see for yourself.
In an interview with Supercreator, Dr. Kaye Wise Whitehead, professor of African & African American Studies at Loyola University Maryland and president of the National Women’s Studies Association, described Greene’s comments as unsurprising and the latest public example of white women using their power as damsels in distress.
“This is not surprising behavior. But it’s behavior that’s been used to, of course, endanger, and sometimes kill Black men and Black people as a result of their claims,” Whitehead said. “So with that context in mind, that’s how I’m viewing it.”
During his exchange with Greene, Bowman told her to “save her party” from the extreme elements that Democrats say she and other House conservatives have laundered in recent years.
“I kept telling him, ‘No, save the country.’ Because no matter what our political beliefs are — I don’t know what his political beliefs are. I know what mine are. But we both swore an oath to serve the country here in Congress as representatives,” Greene said. “So I am very concerned about Jamaal Bowman and he’s someone that people should watch.”
Whitehead said these comments extend beyond the fact that Greene is a white woman and Bowman is a Black man.
“That conversation is framed around her calling him aggressive, and how he was cursing, and how he was using boisterous lies — that entire behavior frames what she said very differently,” Whitehead added. ‘“Save the country’ has a different meaning.”
This is because, Whitehead argues, violence has become a part of political expression, a phenomenon that traces back to the election of former President Barack Obama into the presidency of Donald Trump into what happened in Virginia with the tiki torches and the killing of Heather Hayer.
“It became a natural step that if you do not agree, and typically, it is those who are in the MAGA party, the ‘Make America Great Again’ party, who are willing to say, ‘I am willing to use violence and force to take this country back. We are no longer going to be polite about what has happened to America because we believe America is being destroyed,’” she said.
It’s an environment that puts not just politicians in harm’s way, but also grassroots activists and scholars who study and speak about white supremacy and political extremism.
“I get threatened on my own campus. I have received death threats. I have received calls. I have to have a panic button in my office. I have to inform my university when the emails threatening to rape me to attack me or to find my sons happen,” she said. “So when it happens to Congressman Bowman, I am not surprised if it happens to me on a lower level.”
But Whitehead also said the moment offers the country an opportunity to use Congressman Bowman as a lens to talk about what it means to be in a vulnerable position whenever you speak up against what is happening with the American far-right conservative movement in this country.
“Because you are actually putting your life, and your livelihood in some cases, on the line,” she said. “It’s a dangerous position and a dangerous place to be in.”
In a statement following his gaggle with reporters, Bowman said Greene’s comments have put a target on his back.
“This is, historically, what white supremacists do,” he said. “They try to dehumanize Black people, Black skin, and Black humanity — so that we can be targeted for harm.”
When reached for comment, a spokesperson for the Congressional Black Caucus referred Supercreator to Bowman’s statement.
A spokesperson for Greene did not respond to a request for comment.
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Congress leaves town as negotiators keep talking a deal
A lingering question on the Hill this week was whether the Senate would keep its coveted Memorial Day recess on the calendar as the government hightails toward a first-ever default on its debt.
We got our answer from Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer Thursday afternoon: Senators can go home but will have 24 hours to get back to Washington to pass an agreement if one ultimately emerges and makes it out of the House.
This is unsurprising: Lawmakers would always rather be back home in their states and districts or on the road fundraising and campaigning. And although there have been some expressions of cautious optimism by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Schumer, the House was always expected to vote on any eventual bill to raise the debt limit and set next fiscal year’s budget priorities first. The hope is that House members will do so next week before they take their own week-long break.
What shouldn’t be lost in all the speculation is that there still isn’t a deal.
And as I reported in Thursday’s newsletter, Senate Democrats want President Biden to be ready to invoke the 14th Amendment if House Republicans extract too many concessions from the White House on progressive priorities like food security, climate justice, student loan debt relief, and health care.
There’s a trust deficit between the two parties that leaves rank-and-file members on one side skeptical that the other is working in good faith.
“We know President Biden can cut deals. We know that he’s a man of his word. And I have confidence and faith in the president in these negotiations,” Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon said on Thursday. “But I do not have faith in Speaker McCarthy and right-wing Republican House members.”
Speaking of: The House Freedom Caucus, the most conservative bloc of House Republicans, released a letter that called on Speaker McCarthy and Senate Republicans to use the debt limit to force their debt limit and spending cuts proposal into law.
“There should be no further discussion until the Senate passes the legislation.”
That’s nonsensical, to be clear. The House GOP’s bill was never going to be signed into law as it was passed. And the fact that both House conservatives and progressives have vocalized their demands so loudly in the past 72 hours is an indication that a compromise could be on the way.
Meanwhile, there’s an election in 17 months. And the House Democrats’ campaign arm launched a microsite targeting more than 30 vulnerable House Republicans who voted for the plan the Freedom Caucus said is the official position of the conference. The site allows people to see how their congressperson’s vote to disinvest funding from popular and critical social programs would negatively impact their family and community.
“While vulnerable House Republicans sided with the extremes of their party and voted for the ‘Default on America Act,’ they sold out hard-working families in their districts and pushed our economy closer to a job-killing recession,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson Courtney Rice said in a statement. “Voters will hold them accountable for these disastrous cuts to programs veterans and seniors depend on, and the shameless mid truths they’ve been telling their constituents about their vote.”
With the president in Japan for the G7 Summit, Vice President Kamala Harris had taken the lead at home on raising awareness of the stakes and calling on communities to urge lawmakers to raise the debt limit ASAP.
“Make sure members of Congress know a default would not be acceptable under any circumstances. Talk with your friends, your neighbors, your colleagues, and make sure they understand the real consequences a default would have on their lives — immediate consequences — and do what you all on this call, in particular, do best,” Harris said on Thursday during a press call with community leaders. “Let’s organize, activate our communities, and remind folks of what’s at stake and get the word out about why this issue is so important and why Congress must act.”
Jeffries rages against the Santos ethics referral
Democrats are still fuming at House Republicans for referring a resolution to expel Republican Rep. George Santos of New York to the Ethics Committee on Wednesday.
“This is what is so cynical about the extreme MAGA Republican effort to shield a serial fraudster from accountability,” House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said on Thursday. “All Democrats asked for was an up-of-down vote. But they didn’t even want to provide the voters of the Third Congressional District in New York, the voters across America, with an up-or-down vote.”
Several House Republicans told reporters they voted to refer him to the committee because it preserved Santos’ right to due process. But Democrats saw the referral as a delay tactic.
“The Ethics Committee has had the George Santos matter for months,” Jeffries said. “So what are you referring to the Ethics Committee? It’s already before the Ethics Committee.”
As he’s done throughout this Congress, Jeffries took specific issue with what he described as a pattern of moderate Republicans adopting mainstream positions in the press and back in their districts then toeing the party line on the House floor.
“George Santos was protected and defended and coddled by House Republicans, many of whom, including so-called moderates in New York, promise accountability,” he said. “But the first opportunity they got to prove whether they meant what they said, the so-called moderates voted with the extremists, as they always do, to shield and defend and coddle George Santos. This is who the Republican Party, unfortunately, has become at this moment in time.”
Jeffries told reporters that House Democrats would continue to explore ways to hold Santos accountable. But the reality is that they’re limited as the minority party since they don’t control which bills receive a floor vote and when.
“This was an effort to bury accountability for a serial fraudster. Why? Perhaps it’s because extreme MAGA Republicans actually need George Santos’s vote. He is critical to their ability to govern,” Jeffries said. “George Santos was the deciding vote in passing the Default on America Act. And to me, that explains, in part, the actions that have been taken by this extreme MAGA Republican majority.”
The expulsion resolution was offered by Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia of California on Tuesday who argues Santos, who was recently indicted on 13 federal felony charges and has admitted to several lies and falsehoods about his life and career, is unfit to serve in the body.
A vote to expel Santos would have required a two-thirds vote. The House could have also tabled the resolution, which would have required the same simple majority the Ethics referral required.
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President Biden is in Japan for the G7 Summit. He will participate in a working dinner with G7 leaders this evening local time on Miyajima Island before returning to Hiroshima. Here’s what he was up to while you were sleeping:
The president and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden arrived at Hiroshima Peace Park and Memorial Museum where he visited with G7 leaders. Biden participated in a wreath laying, official welcome photo, and a tree planting with the G7 leaders.
Biden also had a working lunch and working session on Ukraine. (President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will attend the G7 in person as the leaders lay out new sanctions for Russia for its invasion.)
The president traveled to Miyajima Island to tour the Itsukushima Shrine before participating in another group photo with G7 leaders.
Vice President Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff this morning will travel to Los Angeles. This afternoon, Harris will tour the Baby2Baby Facility where she will speak about maternal health outcomes and maternal mental health.
Dr. Biden is in Japan and participated in several events on the G7 spousal program:
She visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum with G7 spouses.
Dr. Biden attended a luncheon with the G7 spouses.
She also attended the Next Generations' Symposium with G7 spouses.
Dr. Biden attended a dinner with G7 spouses as well.
The House and Senate are out.
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