WASHINGTON – As lawmakers entered the Capitol on Wednesday for one of the U.S. government’s most solemn undertakings, the impeachment of a president, Representative Lauren Boebert, caused a spectacle even before entering the chamber. She pushed her way through the newly installed metal detectors and ignored the police who asked her to stop so she could check her with a hand wand.
It picked up a standoff from the day before, when Ms Boebert, a Republican rookie from Colorado, refused to show the guards what was inside her purse as she entered the building. Either way, she eventually gained access, but not before she crafted a made-for Twitter moment that delighted the far right.
After joining her colleagues on Wednesday, Boebert spoke in the House to denounce the impeachment vote which took place a few hours later.
“Where is the responsibility of the left after having encouraged and normalized violence?” Ms Boebert asked aloud, arguing Democrats tolerated excessive violence last summer during the racial justice unrest. “I call bullshit when I hear Democrats calling for unity.”
The standoff of the metal detectors was a characteristic blow of Ms. Boebert. She’s only 10 days into her tenure, but has already curated several episodes that showcased her brand of far-right defiance as a conspiracy theorist who proudly boasts of carrying her Glock handgun in Washington. She’s just one of 435 House members, but Ms Boebert, 34, represents an incoming faction of the party for whom breaking the rules – and gaining notoriety for doing so – is exactly the point.
In the same way that Republican leaders had to adapt to the Tea Party over a decade ago, House leaders now face a part of the party that not only carries Mr. Trump’s anti-establishment message, but connects with voters who are so loyal to him – and so crucial to future elections.
In the process, Ms Boebert and her cohort infuriated other lawmakers and Republicans.
“There is a tendency, in both sides, of members who seem more interested in making fun of people on social media and appearing on friendly cable networks than doing the job of legislating,” said Michael Steel, strategist. Republican and former press secretary for former Speaker of the House John Boehner. “They seem to see public service as more of a performance art than a battle of political ideas.”
In recent days, Ms Boebert and a group of other freshman Republicans, including QAnon devotee Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, a 25-year-old freshman who claimed he was armed during the Capitol riots, have questioned or outright flouted guidelines designed to protect lawmakers from violence, intruders or the spread of the coronavirus.
Their mastery of social media, their access to conservative television and talk radio platforms, and their combativeness with journalists on live television allow them to gain notoriety in non-traditional ways.
“There was a level of control that went with the way the members developed a profile when they arrived in Washington,” said Kevin Madden, a strategist who served as a senior advisor to Mitt Romney during his presidential campaigns. 2008 and 2012. “Usually, you had to work on it and gain this notoriety. Now it is offered to you with a YouTube video. “
In a sort of intro video she aired last week, Ms Boebert was shown walking over a Washington background with a gun in her waist holster. “I refuse to give up my rights, especially my Second Amendment rights,” she told the camera.
During her short time in office, Ms Boebert already argued with a fellow Republican over security breaches on Capitol Hill last week and expressed interest in bringing her gun to work. Her Twitter account was temporarily suspended after she spread the lie that the presidential election was rigged.
She has also faced criticism and some requests to resign, for tweeting information about the locations of some lawmakers during the Capitol siege by a violent crowd last week.
The behavior displayed by Ms Boebert and some of her fellow Republicans freshmen prompted Timothy Blodgett, the House’s Acting Sergeant-at-Arms, to send a note to lawmakers on Tuesday advising them that security checks would be required for members wishing to access the bedroom. and that lawmakers who refused to wear masks would be removed from the floor of the House. Several Republicans responded by shouting that their rights were being violated when walking through metal detectors, behavior that infuriated Democrats.
“I don’t know what the consequences will be for people who hold power and never want to be held accountable,” Rep. Tim Ryan, Democrat of Ohio, told NPR on Wednesday of lawmakers who bypassed the security measures in the Capitol. He added that the contempt of lawmakers was “a sign of how odious things have become for some of those people who have supported Donald Trump. The rules don’t apply to them. “
Ms Boebert unofficially launched her campaign for Congress in September 2019 in Denver, telling Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke that he would not be taking one of the most powerful symbols of rural autonomy: his guns.
“I was one of the Americans with guns who heard you talk about your ‘Damn, yeah, I’m going to take your AR-15 and AK-47,’ ‘Ms Boebert told Mr. O’ Rourke at the time. . “Well, I’m here to say no you’re not.”
She expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy group, although she tried to temper this by saying that she was not a follower.
Ms Boebert ran a restaurant in the ranch country of Colorado – where she encouraged waiters to openly bear arms – when she stunned the state’s Republican establishment by beating a five-term primary holder, then by winning the general election.
“She was so inexperienced,” said Dick Wadhams, former leader of the Colorado Republican Party. “I don’t think she even knew she didn’t stand a chance, which turned out to be a good thing for her. She took everyone by surprise.
So far, it has had the same effect on Washington. On Wednesday, Capitol Police and Ms Boebert’s office declined to respond to inquiries about whether she actually carried a gun whenever she struggled to enter the bedroom. Mrs Boebert has said that she has a Concealed Carry Permit, issued by the District of Columbia, for her weapon and has claims on Twitter that she has the right to transport freely around the Capitol complex, which is not true.
A spokeswoman for the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department did not respond on Wednesday when asked whether Washington Police Chief Robert J. Contee III had met with Ms Boebert to explain the district gun laws, as he had said. do last week.
Ms Boebert has often defended her behavior as one of the reasons she was elected. Just like Mr. Trump did with his base, she tells her supporters she is fighting for them. As for her right to carry a gun, she wrote on Twitter that “self-defense is the most basic human right”.
In Colorado, Ms. Boebert’s District covers much of western Colorado, a sprawling and politically diverse landscape of mesas and jagged mountains that includes liberal enclaves like Aspen and Telluride as well as often overlooked towns where ranching livestock, mining and natural gas drilling pay the bills. . For generations the district elected deep-rooted local men who, whether Democrats or Republicans, tended to be moderates wearing cowboy boots and focused on the local economy and natural resources.
Once a reliable Red State, Colorado overturned Barack Obama’s 2008 election, and Republicans struggled to regain a foothold. Democrats now occupy the two Senate seats, the State House and the governor’s office.
Republicans seeking to maintain viability in the state view Ms. Boebert’s behavior with caution.
“I think most Republicans here are still behind her,” Mr. Wadhams said. “But she can’t just pick fights in Washington. She must also pay attention to the problems of her district: water, natural resources, mines. If she doesn’t, she’s in real trouble.