Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who made history this week as one of the first two Muslim American women sworn in as members of Congress, has sent some people into spasms by talking about impeaching President Donald Trump and using a four-letter word in the process.
“And when your son looks at you and says, ‘Mama, look, you won. Bullies don’t win,’ and I said, ‘Baby, they don’t,’ because we’re going to go in there and we’re going to impeach the motherfucker,” she told a crowd of supporters on Thursday night celebrating the new Democratic majority in the House.
It was entirely predictable that conservatives and Trump supporters would erupt with faux outrage at hearing foul language from a Democrat. And Trump ― the president who famously spoke of grabbing women “by the pussy,” called Haiti and some African nations “shithole countries” and who has even publicly hurled “motherfuckers” himself ― said Tlaib “dishonored her family” with the comment.
As ridiculous as that is, it also wasn’t so unpredictable that some liberals would clutch their pearls as well.
Their argument is that this kind of attack fuels Trump’s hard-core base — as if they’re not already on rocket fuel, revved up by his every tweet — and turns off swing voters and independents, who may be on the fence. CNN’s Chris Cillizza bizarrely warned Democrats about being “too anti-Trump,” lest they scare the fence sitters.
But both are facile and, frankly, ridiculous arguments in the age of Trump.
We heard the same thing when Robert De Niro said, “Fuck Trump,” at the Tony Awards last year and when other celebrities have engaged in similar “strong language,” as Sarah Huckabee Sanders described Trump’s use of four-letter words. New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, grabbing for the smelling salts, warned of dire consequences of De Niro’s and other Trump opponents’ use of such foul language in a June column with a headline that didn’t age well, “How to Lose the Midterms and Re-elect Trump.”
As I wrote then, you can’t be too anti-Trump because there is nobody on the fence about him. Even if people don’t like Tlaib’s language, what voter who opposed Trump is suddenly going to now vote for him because a Democrat called him a bad name?
Sure, Tlaib is now a member of Congress, not a Hollywood celebrity. And yes, in addition to calling him a motherfucker, she also said Democrats were going to impeach him. Democratic leaders have been careful to downplay impeachment talk but at the same time not rule it out. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just this week said it was something to look at but only after special counsel Robert Mueller issues a report on the Russia probe.
But it’s no secret that many Democrats — and many Americans in general — believe Trump should and will be impeached. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) reintroduced articles of impeachment against Trump this week, and legal observers and political pundits, including conservative ones, have speculated that Trump will likely be impeached and that it’s just a matter of when.
Sherman and a few other Democratic House members came out against Tlaib’s language, but not only did she state that she is unapologetic but also Pelosi downplayed Tlaib’s comment as “nothing worse than what the president has said.”
“I wouldn’t use that language, but I wouldn’t establish language standards for my colleagues,” Pelosi said.
Thankfully, she and other Democratic leaders seem to be listening to their progressive base — which, despite the naysayers in the pundit class, was overwhelmingly supportive of Tlaib on social media.
There is no downside and only upside to Tlaib’s statement because, like De Niro and others before her, she is firing up progressives who feel her passion. Trump himself set new rules on what he termed “political correctness” in politics. The notion that this means only he can use foul language while others will pay a price is silly. No matter how vulgar Trump opponents’ language may be, their words don’t even come close to matching his horrendous actions.
This is a man who has put children in cages, has shut down the government over his demands for a border wall, has rolled back protections for the environment and is cozying up to dictators and adversaries of this country — with whom he may have colluded to win the presidency.
Calling him a motherfucker is nothing.
Michelangelo Signorile is a HuffPost editor-at-large. Follow him on Twitter at @MSignorile.