Collage of black and white photos of five republicans with a circus in the background.

That’s What She Said

The Day the Circus Came to Congress

At Wednesday's impeachment debate, the GOP confirmed who they really are: corrupt carnival barkers and Putin's henchmen

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I once had a job that required me to watch Super Nanny, an experience that inspired me to punch myself in the ovaries every week (an act that is now probably outlawed in several states because Republican men believe an ovarian follicle is a baby). Each episode was a cacophony of tears and tantrums as a child broke the rules and then spewed nonsense in an impotent rage when they got caught, while a parent tried calmly to explain why they were in a timeout. And this was exactly what watching Wednesday’s congressional debate on the articles of impeachment was like: The Republicans used their time to employ every rhetorical tool in the shed, from invoking Jesus’s crucifixion to “the troops,” while the Democrats stuck to the facts, explained over and over again the charges, and stressed that if everyone only did the right thing we could all, as the Super Nanny would say, have hugs after. Only the toddlers on the Republican side have a frightening amount of power. And while we’re waiting for them to tire themselves out, they’re pouring gasoline on the house and lighting it on fire. The Democrats may be the grownups, but while they’re being reasonable and level-headed, the Republicans are smearing poop on the walls and we’re never going to rid ourselves of that stench.

Like this season of The Watchmen, it’s hard to even unpack all that happened in these “debates.” The Republicans were led by Rep. Doug “Irregardless” Collins of Georgia, who spoke with the rapid-fire twang of someone trying to sell a pig at auction, which I suppose is what he was trying to do—get the American people to believe in the innocence of Donald Trump, a swine who has always gone to the highest bidder. He countered almost every Democratic speaker with an auctioneer patter of buzzwords. I got Witch Hunt. Do I hear Abortion? Can I get a Scripture? What about Elite Socialists? In between, he announced a parade of white men who blustered in what was all too often a Southern accent, employing cheap courtroom theatrics. One representative announced he was going to read out all the crimes Donald Trump committed, and then—wait for it—remained silent for the duration of his time. Another gentleman took a moment of silence for all of the 63 million Trump voters who were being “silenced.” Rep. Drew Ferguson of Georgia raised a “collective middle finger” to “this whole flippin’ goat rodeo.” They audibly harrumphed and booed like it was Parliament, although given the fact that it’s white nationalists in charge there, too, I understand their confusion. And all of them called out the same Republican dog whistles like it was bingo night at the local KKK lodge. “Partisan impeachment.” “Swamp creatures.” “Socialists.”  If it was a drinking game and your word was “sham,” you’d be dead in a pool of your own vomit by the time they called the vote.

But make no mistake, they were laying the foundation for 2020 as much as anything, and nowhere was that more evident than in repeating and juxtaposing the words “Democrat” and “Socialist” as frequently as possible, whether it was the Democrat Socialists or the Socialist Democrats or the Socialist Baby Killing Liberal Elite Godless Hippie Vegan Hollywood Democrats. No matter who we nominate, they are branding us socialists, creating a false narrative that will only stoke fear among the uninformed electorate the GOP currently runs on.

Which brings us to the gaslighting. The Republicans repeatedly wrung their hands like the matriarch in a Tennessee Williams play over the “partisan politics.” Carnival Barker Collins even threatened: “You’ll be back in the minority and it ain’t going to be that fun,” as if this weren’t the same party that cock-blocked Merrick Garland while forcing sexual predator Brett Kavanaugh on us, passed a tax reform that was punitive toward everyone but their rich friends, and tried daily for almost two years to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. There were also frequent references to overturning the will of the 63 million people who voted for Trump, which mischaracterizes the entire impeachment process. The point isn’t to protest an election or its results, but merely to bring charges against a sitting president. Even removing him from office—which is unlikely, thanks to Comrade McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, who has declared his loyalty to Trump and not his oath of office, not to mention the other Republican cowards in the Senate—would result in President Pence (if you just threw up in your mouth a little, know you’re not alone), which would presumably sit well with the 63 million hateful bigots who voted Republican in 2016.

But it also ignores the nearly 3 million more of us who voted for Hillary Clinton, whose will has been overturned since 2016 via an archaic electoral college system that disproportionately favors the whiter corners of this country. The Republican shills repeatedly affected outrage at the idea that we would “silence” and “disenfranchise” 63 million voters. And yet they do it to 66 million of us every day like it’s their job. And they relish it.

If the cruelty is the point, then the real question should be, “Why?” Why are they doing this and why now? The Republican Party, while never on the side of those of us who didn’t look or worship or love like them, used to at least have some integrity. There were certain things you could count on them doing like defending us from Russia, who they now seem to be playing for. Even in their hatefulness there was at least a consistent adherence to their agenda, but now they will say anything, no matter how contradictory, to further their own twisted narrative. We are truly living on Earth 2 when Wednesday’s debates saw both a Republican comparing these impeachment hearings to the persecution of suspected communists during McCarthyism, while the same party that brought us McCarthyism also continued to spit out “socialist” like an epithet. There is not only no bottom for the present-day Republican Party; there are no rules or standards. And that they are contorting themselves like a Cirque du Soleil performer (that’s Freedom Circus to you!) in bastardizing what respectable beliefs they once had all in an effort to defend the actions of man and administration this corrupt truly boggles the mind. When Kentucky congressman Andy Barr said Ukraine was “the third most corrupt place on Earth,” I can only assume that’s behind us and Russia at this point. The way this Republican party sold their souls to the devil, you’d think they’d all be better guitar players.

One refrain echoed repeatedly by the Putin Players was that there were no charges, and this was all a sham because the Democrats hated Trump. “Why do they hate the man so much?” they intoned, tortured eyes rolled heavenward. But the problem isn’t that we hate Trump, vehemently and passionately and most importantly, justifiably. The problem is that they don’t. Trump is a cancer on our country and their party: He’s compromised our national security; alienated our allies while aligning with dictators; sold out the future of our planet with deregulation; given solace to bigots and separated families seeking refuge before imprisoning them. And yesterday was just another display that the Republicans have chosen to be part of the disease and not the cure. And in this fight for the life of our democracy, these are the only two options left to be.

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