Republicans across the country are waging a movement to remove and censure Democratic lawmakers simply for speaking out against the GOP — a movement that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) is saying is the next natural step after the GOP-backed attempted coup on January 6, 2021.
On Wednesday, Ocasio-Cortez spoke at a rally with Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Florida) and Tennessee state Rep. Justin Jones (D), who Republicans voted to expel from the legislature earlier this month. At the rally, she said that the January 6 attack was just one of the first steps toward the GOP’s goal of total political control; rather than a large, violent coup, the GOP is implementing a slow takeover across the country.
“For [Republicans], January 6 was just a dress rehearsal. Because, legally, let’s not lose the plot: They were trying to block a duly elected official, in this case the president of the United States, from taking office,” she said.
“Legislatures across the country looked at that and [said], ‘you know what? Let’s try to get Representative Jones out from office. Let’s try to get Rep. Zooey Zephyr in Montana out of office. Let’s try to kick out the people because we cannot beat them,’” continued Ocasio-Cortez. “That is their motive.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s speech came as Montana Republicans voted to ban Zephyr, a Democrat and the first openly trans woman to be elected to the state’s legislature, from the House chamber for the remainder of the legislative session. The vote came after she spoke up for trans rights during a debate on a bill that would ban gender affirming care for minors, saying that Republicans backing the bill would have “blood” on their hands for voting to restrict access to the life-saving care.
Republicans honed in on the “blood” statement in supposedly justifying her removal, though it’s clear that their actual motivations were to silence a trans woman and Democrat in the chamber; saying one’s opponents would have “blood” on their hands is a common phrase in politics, but only Zephyr, it seems, has ever been punished for using it.
Zephyr’s removal is just one of Republicans lawmakers’ recent moves to silence their Democratic colleagues, in blatant displays of fascism. Just three weeks ago, Republicans voted to expel Jones and his colleague Tennessee Rep. Justin Pearson (D) because the two participated in a peaceful protest in the state House calling for gun safety reform after a horrifying shooting at a school in Nashville killed three 9-year-old children and three adults. The two were later reinstated after widespread outcry over their expulsion.
These votes came after the Republican-dominated U.S. House voted in February to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota), the first Black Muslim woman in Congress, from her committee assignments for what she said amounted to pure Islamophobia.
Meanwhile, Republicans and far right officials are rapidly eroding democracy across the country, slashing people’s rights, working to destroy voting rights in Democratic-leaning areas in particular and stoking vast corruption within the judicial system. Republicans’ fascist takeover seems to be happening in plain sight, while mainstream Democrats seem content to let it happen — though Ocasio-Cortez struck an optimistic note, saying that progressive movements will be able to stop them.
“I cannot emphasize enough — they will not win. This is the last gasp of a movement that is dying. This is what fascism does when it is on its hind heels,” she said. “It is always darkest before dawn. We are winning this thing.”