Rashida Tlaib, a newly elected Democratic representative from Michigan, began her tenure in Congress by saying what most members of her party are merely thinking. “When your son looks at you and says, ‘Mamma, look, you won—bullies don’t win,’” she said at a MoveOn event in Washington shortly after her swearing-in ceremony. “And I said, ‘Baby, they don’t, because we’re gonna go in there and we’re gonna impeach the motherfucker!’”
The Oedipal jab at President Donald Trump prompted a wave of hand-wringing in Washington. Some observers expressed concern that the Democratic Party was following in Trump’s footsteps by abandoning civility in the public sphere. “Rep. Tlaib took the politics of Washington deeper down the drain,” Utah Senator Mitt Romney wrote on Twitter. “Elected leaders should elevate, not degrade, our public discourse.” Democrats fumed to reporters, for the most part anonymously, that the insult upset their party’s talking points on potential impeachment charges. “I don’t really like that kind of language,” Representative Jerrold Nadler, the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said on CNN.
While debates about civility in American politics are often performative, this one was revealing. Most of the criticism of Tlaib centered on her use of the word “motherfucker” rather than her substantive point, leaving Trump to be his own loudest defender against the idea of removing him from office. “How do you impeach a president who has won perhaps the greatest election of all time, done nothing wrong (no Collusion with Russia, it was the Dems that Colluded), had the most successful first two years of any president, and is the most popular Republican in party history 93%?” he wrote on Twitter last week.
Presidents typically don’t need