Opinion: Why Congress had to take a stand on Paul Gosar’s video

What prompted the vote was Gosar’s tweet of a photoshopped anime video showing that he appears to be killing Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and attacking the President of the United States with a sword. Gosar has since taken the video down. He said he did not “advocate violence or harm against any member of Congress or Mr. Biden” and called the video “really a symbolic depiction of a struggle over immigration policy.”
The resolution also removed Gosar from two committees – including the Committee on Supervision and Reform, where he works with Ocasio-Cortez.
Gosar’s video was straight out of former President Donald Trump’s playbook, which we have learned had a toxic effect. In his book “Words on Fire: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront It,” Helio Fred Garcia found that after Trump verbally attacked groups – including Latin Americans and Muslims – the hate crimes against them increased.
It is particularly appalling that Gosar would tweet such a video in a year where we have already seen online extremism contagious on deadly violence on the Capitol. On the heels of these events, Gosar’s video will serve as a Trump-like nod to his supporters about taking matters into their own hands when they disagree with the policies of certain politicians.
Gosar’s selection of Ocasio-Cortez in the video is particularly alarming. Congresswomen are already targets for a disproportionate amount of online abuse. ONE 2020 survey of congressional candidates found that women received two to three times more offensive online messages than their male counterparts. Women with ethnic minority backgrounds, such as Ocasio-Cortez, struggled with the most abuse on social media.
And we’ve seen this form of misogyny against women lawmakers turn into efforts at physical violence recently. Last year, six people were indicted in a federal court for conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. A man has pleaded guilty of the charge, and five have pleaded not guilty. A lawsuit is planned for some time in early 2022.
Gosar's video is aimed at AOC and Biden, but backfires
She, too, had been nominated for degrading Trump. After a crowd shouted “lock her in” at a Trump rally last year, Whitmer’s then deputy digital director, Tori Saylor, said tweeted that “every time the president does this at a meeting, the violent rhetoric against her immediately escalates on social media.”

Endangering the security of our legislators threatens the democratic system created by the founders of the United States more than two centuries ago. If members of Congress and the President of the United States can not do their jobs safely, they will not be able to represent their constituents – and the structure of our government will become unstable. That’s why every American should be outraged that anyone – let alone a sitting member of Congress from whom we expect respect for his own office – would share a video like this.

Gosar’s tweet can be particularly detrimental to women and discourage them from running for office. We all know that there are misogynists online. But if women who are considering political careers also need to consider the prospect of a male colleague implicitly inciting violence against them – and that they may even be expected to continue working directly with such a man – I’m pretty sure that fewer women will throw their hats in the ring.

This is especially unfortunate for Gosar’s party. Of the 435 members of the House of Representatives, with 31 of them are Republican women (89 are Democratic women). At a time when we really need to see these numbers rise to ensure that women’s priorities and perspectives are represented in the legislative process, it is inconceivable that Gosar would do anything to discourage women from serving their country.
That’s why Gosar should face particular anger from the women in his own party right now. Republican Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming has said it is “indefensible” that the leader of the Representative Minority, Kevin McCarthy, has not fully condemned Gosar. McCarthy said he called Gosar about the tweet, but McCarthy did not specifically condemn it. He also claimed that Democrats have not kept their own party members to the same standards, saying that if Republicans recapture the majority in the meantime, they can take similar steps against certain Democrats.

Given McCarthy’s position, it’s no surprise that Congress did not meet Gosar’s promotion of violence and misogyny with a unanimous, resounding reprimand. However, our country cannot function if legislators cannot carry out their work safely. Those who support such a system – implicitly or otherwise – have no place in the elected office.

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