Dems’ protest photo-op a pathetic parody


An email popped up in tens of thousands of mailboxes Tuesday from “Team Maloney.” That’s the reelection campaign of Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who has been forced this year to compete in a bruising primary battle against Jerry Nadler, her fellow Democratic member of Congress from New York City.

“We wanted to make sure you heard this news,” the email said. “Carolyn was arrested today while protesting the overturn of Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court.”

A photograph of Maloney walking alongside a peace officer accompanied the email’s appeal for [sic] “an $10 contribution to her campaign.” 

Maloney was one of 17 Democratic members of Congress who showed up at the court with the clear intent of getting busted. They were not arrested as an act of civil disobedience. They were arrested for blocking traffic, which they did not have to do; there was plenty of sidewalk, grass and dirt for them to protest on.

And they had a high old time. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar put their arms behind their backs as though they had been handcuffed, which they had not been. They and fellow members of the “Squad” — Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley — also took a bucolic photo under a tree with fists raised, as though they had been fishing together and were holding up their catches for the camera.

Another 18 regular folk were detained as well. This means nearly 50% of the arrestees were from the House of Representatives. To give you a sense of how distorted this is as an example of popular protest, the 435 members of Congress constitute .0001% of the population of the United States. That’s pretty close to 1 in a million, not 49 out of 100.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney used the protest as an opportunity to fundraise for her primary battle.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney used the protest as an opportunity to fundraise for her primary battle.
Kevin Wolf/AP Images for CPD Action

In a saner world, these members of Congress would have been laughed out of town for their behavior Tuesday. Public protests give voice to the voiceless, who gather together en masse to amplify the point they have to make — a point they cannot make individually because no one will listen.

But members of Congress are exactly the opposite of voiceless. They are among the incredibly tiny few in this country who do have a voice, a say, a vote in making direct change. They have been selected through a grueling political process, first in their own parties and then in a general election, that grants them the power and authority to effect change from the inside.

That’s their job. That’s what they’re supposed to do. It’s not easy. To change things, they have to work arduously in a system designed to make change difficult. They have to negotiate with others, often giving up things they want for the things they need. And then they have to do it again and again and again.

Rep. Ilhan Omar getting led away by a police officer with her hands behind her back.
Rep. Ilhan Omar getting led away by a police officer with her hands behind her back.
Kevin Wolf/AP Images for CPD Action

In short, they are elected by ordinary people who might, on occasion, have to protest because they need to have their voices heard. The act of getting arrested may help Maloney raise money to beat Jerry Nadler, but it’s actually a contemptible parody of actual protest. She’s not there to go outside on a hot day and waste the time of cops by involving them in her photo ops.

Voters deserve to have their elected officials spend their time indoors, with their colleagues, doing the hard work of legislating. But no, sorry — they’re too busy cosplaying on the taxpayer’s dime.

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