A group of House Democrats is pushing to censure Republican Rep. Paul Gosar after he shared an animated video altered to show him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Joe Biden. Aside from expulsion, censure is the harshest penalty the House can impose on a member … and it's likely to be a point of pride for Gosar, to say nothing of a fundraising angle.
"For a Member of Congress to post a manipulated video on his social media accounts depicting himself killing Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Biden is a clear cut case for censure," the ten Democrats said in a statement. "For that Member to post such a video on his official Instagram account and use his official congressional resources in the House of Representatives to further violence against elected officials goes beyond the pale."
But the Democrats' statement also hints at why Gosar won't face any penalty he finds meaningful: Because he's just the leading edge of a Republican Party increasingly committed to violence.
"As the events of January 6th have shown, such vicious and vulgar messaging can and does foment actual violence. Violence against women in politics is a global phenomenon meant to silence women and discourage them from seeking positions of authority and participating in public life, with women of color disproportionately impacted," the Democrats said. "Minority Leader McCarthy's silence is tacit approval and just as dangerous."
Gosar is defiantly unapologetic. While the video, which drew a warning from Twitter, is no longer on his Twitter or Instagram pages, he said in a statement Tuesday, "It is a symbolic cartoon. It is not real life. Congressman Gosar cannot fly. The hero of the cartoon goes after the monster, the policy monster of open borders. I will always fight to defend the rule of law, securing our borders, and the America First agenda."
The rule of law here includes representations of himself killing one of his colleagues in Congress and attacking the president of the United States, something you'd think might draw Secret Service attention.
So Democrats and a very few Republicans may or may not censure Gosar, and it will not make one bit of difference in his behavior, because the violence of today's Republican Party is not something that gives a damn about the traditional rules or the traditional punishments. Gosar may be, as his own sister said on CNN, a "sociopath," but the structures around him—the fact that, as she also said, "No one holds him accountable"—are what allow him to continue his dangerous behavior without consequences.
And the more Republicans like Gosar—or Reps. Andy Biggs and Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert and Mo Brooks—get away with constantly inciting their followers to see Democrats as the inhuman enemy and violence as a reasonable response, the more the entire Republican Party will continue to move in that direction. All the while the Justice Department under Attorney General Merrick Garland remains obsessed with not appearing to do anything that could ever be construed as partisan, like prosecuting the crimes of high-profile Republicans.