â€œShe was warned…she was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.â€
That’s what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said yesterday when the Senate censured Elizabeth Warren. Her crime: reading aloud a letter from Coretta Scott King criticizing sitting senator and Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions back in the ’80s, when he was up for a federal judgeship. In the process, McConnell created a new meme — unwittingly or not.
The censure motion silences Warren for the remainder of the Senate debate over Sessions’s confirmation, shutting her out of the conversation entirely…or not. Blocked on the Senate floor (by a rule originally designed to shut down debate about slavery!), she took to Facebook Live to read Scott’s letter aloud, bypassing the gatekeepers to speak directly to voters:
Closing in on 8 million views as I write this! Online activists mobilized immediately, and 18 hours later #ShePersists still tops the list of trending hashtags when I go to Twitter.
McConnell’s dismissal of Warren clearly hit people personally: millions — billions — of women know exactly how it feels to be shut down by a man when they have something important to say, and they also know what it means to grind out the work day to day, regardless of the tedium and the slog. In other words, they persist.
But is McConnell sly like a fox? As James Hohmann and the Daily 202 team note:
Perhaps he is strategically trying to elevate Warren. Maybe he thinks that life will be harder for the 10 Democrats up for reelection next year in states Trump carried if Warren, not Chuck Schumer, is the face of their caucus. She has been getting less buzz recently, compared to some of the younger whippersnappers who also want to run. Maybe, seeing this, McConnell concluded that Warren is ultimately the most beatable potential Democratic nominee in a head-to-head with Trump in 2020. He plays the long game that way. Just ask Merrick Garland.
Perhaps. Actions can have unintended consequences, though, and as Jonathan Chait describes it, “Sessions has the votes for confirmation, but the grossness with which his colleagues have suppressed criticism of his record has given the opposition a platform, and a cause.”
A rallying cry, too: #ShePersisted t-shirts are already on sale, and the pop-culture tie-ins are flying like mad:
— A. Fannin (@junimae84) February 8, 2017
I wonder what Cory Booker and kirsten Gillibrand make of all this attention paid to a potential 2020 rival? Trump, too: after all, we know how much he really, really loves to have women stand up to him.