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Nevertheless, She Persisted: Authoritarianism In Action

by The Women for Justice Team

· Authoritarianism,Civil Rights,Judicial Branch

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and ranking Republican Senators silenced Senator Elizabeth Warren during open debate on Sessions' confirmation hearing Tuesday night. 

McConnell cited Warren's reading of Coretta Scott King's letter as justification to invoke a rarely used Senate rule that prohibits senators from “impugning” their colleagues.  

After the Senate voted along party lines to officially silence Warren, McConnell tried to justify their actions by saying: "She was warned. She was given an explanation. 

Nevertheless, she persisted.”

This was open debate on the Senate floor about the fitness of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions to the be the Attorney General of the United States, the top law enforcement officer in the land and head of the Department of Justice.  

Given the scope of the debate and the things that have been said before by others without censure, characterizing what Warren was saying as disrespectful is ludicrous.  

Historical documents from a prior consideration of a similar but lower level job are certainly relevant.  

Warren was doing her job for the people she represents.

And let's remember, Elizabeth Warren is a white woman in a powerful position.  

If she can be silenced, how can a woman of color with no position of power hope to make her voice heard?

But just like millions of women before her, and millions yet to come, Elizabeth Warren persisted.  

She took to Trump's favorite bully pulpit, Twitter.

But she wasn't done speaking.  

It was her next tweet that really threatened the good old white boys' real agenda.

Five male senators subsequently read Ms. King's letter from the podium. 

None were censured.  

What does that say about how power is being used in this administration, in the foundation of our democratic processes?     

Bernie Sanders had something to say about it from the Senate floor Wednesday morning.

'It is unconscionable that Republican Leader Mitch McConnell silenced Sen. Elizabeth Warren because she read a letter from one of the great civil rights leaders, Coretta Scott King, in opposition to Jeff Sessions. 

When I read the same letter, no one prevented me from speaking. And when I asked to enter the entire text into the record, nobody objected. 

Sen. McConnell owes Sen. Warren an apology and of course she should participate in this important debate. 

In the U.S. Senate, you don’t ban a senator from engaging in debate.  

-- U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders

But then Sanders dared utter what Warren was not allowed to say from the floor of the United States Senate.

Donald Trump and Republicans are quickly moving us in an un-American and authoritarian direction.

This cannot be allowed to take place in the Senate.'

-- U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders

A key indicator that Trump intends to lead as an Authoritarian?  His utter disregard for the Judicial Branch, the only branch of government that can serve as a check on his rampant and errant executive orders.

The President has gone so far as to call one officer of the courts who disagreed with him a 'so-called' judge.  

Trump tweeted about the courts involvement in the executive order travel ban, "If the U.S. does not win this case as it so obviously should, we can never have the security and safety to which we are entitled. Politics!"

American Civl Liberties attorney Lee Gelernt, 2.8.17:

'We would prefer not to see the president say to the courts, "If you do this, the whole country’s security is on you." 

I mean, I think the courts are doing what they are supposed to do and looking at the Constitution. 

They are doing their best. 

And they are a co-equal branch of the government...

 

The rule of law is critical. 

The president has to respect the courts. 

I mean, that may be the overriding issue here. 

That’s bigger than any particular civil liberties issue.​'

Remember, there is NO Constitutional accountability under an authoritarian government. 

Which branch of the government interprets and enforces the Constitution?  

The Judicial.  The Courts.

Trump's undermining of the rule of law, the Constitution and the arbiters of justice sends a clear signal that he does not intend to be 'co-equal' with anyone.

What can we do about the authoritarian brand of government being practiced by the Trump administration?  

Call it what it is.  

Every time. 

For every abuse of power and indiscriminate denial of civil liberty.  

Tell them we know what they are doing - stealing our government for their own greedy purposes - and we will not be silent about it.  

Organize.  Resist.  Mobilize.  

Persist.

Elizabeth Warren was trying to remind her peers and The People of Ms. Coretta Scott King's previous testimony: Senator Sessions used his power in the 1960's to fight against the Voting Rights Act and the millions of women and men who carried that banner forward through the decades.

Now the Trump administration is looking to fill the cabinet with people who are comfortable

abusing civil rights. 

Can pay to play. 

Will say 'Yes Sir.

and  

How high, Sir?' 

Sessions, Tillerson, DeVos, Perry, Pruitt, Carson, Price, Mnuchin, Haley, and scores more will be the enforcers of the new Trump regime.  

They want to dismantle decades of progress and silence opposing voices, one way or another.

After all, Cabinet wannabes have already witnessed the Nixonian treatment by their boss toward the Acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, when she dared disagree with him on the immigration and Muslim travel ban.

Yates thought Trump's executive order was illegal, and she said so publicly.  

Yates is another white woman with immense power, to be sure. But even she was not allowed to disagree with the new President.

Trump fired Sally Yates because she dared persist.  

She spoke out even though she knew her career was on the line.  

What McConnell and Republicans* did to Senator Warren was following the lead of the head of their party: silencing dissent.

Like millions of women before them, being able to raise their voices and use it when it mattered was worth whatever they might lose.

Many people are focused on whether Trump is 

1. Corrupt or 

2. Incompetent. 

Our new president may be corrupt and incompetent, but the truly disturbing development is that Trump is acting on his tendency to be an authoritarian.  

Almost three weeks in, it's hard to deny.  

We are no longer living in a functioning democracy.

We need to call out Trump's abuse of power, his authoritarian style of government, and stop the campaign to put people in positions of power who will allow and enforce it.  

Sally Yates would not prop up Trump's illegal executive order. He is scrambling to appoint someone who has a history of trampling on civil rights and a level of comfort with abuse of power -- someone exactly like Jeff Sessions, who will be the top law enforcement officer in the country, Attorney General of the United States.

Trump's clear pattern of authoritarian behavior is alarming.

It should raise a huge red flag to all Americans. 

Women have been on the front lines of every civil rights battle and social justice movement, even the ones we haven't gotten credit for in the history books.

We will not be silent this time, either.

We will support each other.  

We will raise our voices for justice and yes.

We will PERSIST.

*Note: not all Republicans agreed with silencing Warren, but Republicans rule the Senate right now.  Without positions of power among their peers, dissenting Republicans are pretty much ignored.  

Women for Justice is an all-volunteer team.  

Take a look at our bios to see what we do and why we work together every day.

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