There are 211 Republicans in the House of Representatives, only 10 of them voted in favor of impeachment. That means over 95% watched as insurrectionists broke into the Capitol with Confederate battle flags held high and white supremacist symbols adorning their bodies as they apparently searched the building for government officials to execute, and decided, “This is fine.” Of course, the overwhelmingly white Republican caucus may have correctly surmised that they weren’t the ones in mortal danger on Jan. 6. Rather, Democratic members of Congress—especially women and Black and brown members—represented the primary targets of the mob’s ire, as newly emerging details have revealed.
The same day the impeachment vote was taken, the Boston Globe reported that as Rep. Ayanna Pressley and her staff barricaded themselves in her office to keep safe from the intruders, they discovered all of the panic buttons in the office had been torn out. On Instagram Live the evening before the vote, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said that during the attack she “had a very close encounter where I thought I was going to die.” Both Pressley and Ocasio-Cortez are part of The Squad, an outspoken group of progressive Black and Latina Democratic representatives elected to the House of Representatives in 2018 and 2020, which also includes Bush and Reps. Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Jamaal Bowman. As highly visible avatars of women and BIPOC’s growing political and demographic power, members of The Squad have long been on the receiving end of racist rhetoric and right-wing death threats. The events of Jan. 6 suggest at least some people had designs on carrying those threats out, possibly even with help from members of Congress who graciously offered “reconnaissance tours” to the insurrectionists.
The attempted coup also posed a significant risk to a great many Black and brown people who aren’t lawmakers. The residents of Washington, D.C. itself—a largely Black city—along with Congressional support staff and Capitol building custodians had to contend with the trauma of being descended upon by a white supremacist mob, and afterward, were left to clean up the mess that same mob left behind. Overly credulous news coverage praising “principled” Republicans not only threatens to miss the racial realities of where most of the party stands, but also the narrowly circumscribed and race-specific extent of its support for the working class.
With the looming threat of more insurrectionist violence in the coming days, it is of the highest moral and political significance that so many House Republicans condoned and aided the racist incitement that put the republic, fellow Americans, and the lives of their own Congressional colleagues in serious peril. And because the animating impulses behind the Capitol insurrection won’t wane with the dawn of the post-Trump political era, it’s imperative that we in the media don’t close our eyes to what the impeachment vote actually has to tell us about race, politics, and power in the United States.
Ashton Lattimore is the editor-in-chief of Prism. Follow her on Twitter @ashtonlattimore.
Prism is a BIPOC-led nonprofit news outlet that centers the people, places and issues currently underreported by our national media. Through our original reporting, analysis, and commentary, we challenge dominant, toxic narratives perpetuated by the mainstream press and work to build a full and accurate record of what’s happening in our democracy. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.