WASHINGTON – When lawmakers entered the Capitol on Wednesday for one of the most solemn undertakings in the US administration, the impeachment of a president, Deputy Lauren Boebert, caused a spectacle before she even entered the room. She made her way through newly installed metal detectors, ignoring police officers who asked her to stop so they could check her with a portable magic wand.
This was another deadlock from the night before, when Mrs. Boebert, a freshman Republican from Colorado, refused to show the guards what was in her handbag when she entered the building. In either case, she eventually gained access, but not before developing a made-for-Twitter moment that delighted the far right.
After joining her colleagues on Wednesday, Ms. Boebert went to the House of Representatives to denounce the impeachment vote that passed a few hours later.
"Where is the responsibility for the left after encouraging and normalizing violence?" Ms Boebert asked loudly, arguing that Democrats had tolerated excessive violence during the turmoil over racial justice last summer. "I mention bullcrap when I hear the Democrats demand unity."
The deadlock at the metal detectors was a characteristic stunt by Mrs. Boebert. She's only 10 days into her run, but has already arranged several episodes showcasing her brand of far-right resistance as a conspiracy theorist who boasts proudly carrying her Glock pistol to 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 – is just the point.
In the same way that Republican leaders had to adapt to the Tea Party more than a decade ago, house leaders now have to contend with a narrow but increasingly vocal part of the party that not only carries Mr Trump's anti-establishment message, but is also in touch with the voters who are so loyal to him – and so crucial to future elections.
In the process, Ms. Boebert and her cohort have irritated other lawmakers and Republicans.
"There is a trend, on both sides, of members who seem more interested in dunking people on social media and appearing on friendly cable networks than making laws," said Michael Steel, a Republican strategist and former press secretary for the former. House Speaker John Boehner. "They seem to see public services more as a performance art than a battle for policy ideas."
In recent days, Ms. Boebert and a group of other freshman Republicans, including QAnon devotee Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia and Madison Cawthorn from North Carolina, a 25-year-old freshman who claimed Armed during the Capitol riots, he has questioned or outright violated guidelines designed to protect lawmakers from violence, intruders or the spread of the coronavirus.
Their mastery of social media, access to conservative television and talk radio platforms, and combative with live television reporters allows them to gain prominence in non-traditional ways.
“There used to be a level of gatekeepers that continued with how members developed a profile when they arrived in Washington,” said Kevin Madden, a strategist who served as senior adviser to Mitt Romney during his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. “Usually you had to work for it and earn that reputation. Now you get it with one YouTube video. "
In a introductory video of sorts that she released last week, Ms. Boebert was shown walking against a background in Washington with a gun holstered around her waist. "I refuse to give up my rights, especially my rights to the Second Amendment," she told the camera.
In her short tenure last week, Ms. Boebert already sparred with a Republican colleague about security holes in the Capitol and expressed interest in putting her gun to work. Her Twitter account was temporarily suspended after she spread the untruth that the presidential election was faked.
She has also been criticized and some are demanding that she resign, for tweeting information about the locations of some lawmakers during the siege of the Capitol by a violent mob last week.
The behavior of Ms. Boebert and some of her fellow freshman Republicans prompted Timothy Blodgett, the House's acting sergeant-at-arms, to send a memo to lawmakers on Tuesday saying that security investigations would be needed for members who wanted access to the room. and that lawmakers who refused to wear masks would be removed from the House floor. Several Republicans continued to respond shout that their rights were violated when they went through the metal detectors, behavior that has vexed Democrats.
"I don't know what the consequences will be for people in power who never want to be held accountable," said Rep. Ohio Democrat Tim Ryan, NPR Wednesday on lawmakers circumventing security measures in the capital. He added that opposition from lawmakers “was a sign of how unpleasant things have become for some of these people who supported Donald Trump. The rules don't apply to them. "
Ms. Boebert unofficially began her campaign for Congress in Denver in September 2019, announcing to Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke that he would not take one of the most powerful symbols of national autonomy: her weapons.
"I was one of the gun owners of Americans who heard you talk about your & # 39; Hell yes, I'm going to take your AR-15 & # 39; s and AK-47 & # 39; s & # 39;" said Mrs. Boebert at the time. to Mr. O & # 39; Rourke. "Well I'm here to say no, you're not." "
She has expressed support for the conspiracy group QAnon, though she has tried to temper that by saying she is not a follower.
Ms. Boebert was running a restaurant in Colorado ranch country – where she encouraged servants to openly bear arms – when she stunned the state's Republican establishment by defeating a sitting president of five office-holders and then winning the general election.
"She was so inexperienced," said Dick Wadhams, the former head of the Colorado Republican Party. "I don't think she even knew she didn't have a chance, which turned out to be a good thing for her. She surprised everyone."
So far it has had the same effect on Washington. On Wednesday, the Capitol police and Mrs. Boebert's office declined to respond to requests as to whether she actually carried a gun, both times when she struggled to enter the room. Mrs. Boebert has said that she has and has a concealed carry permit issued by the District of Columbia for her gun claimed on Twitter that she has the right to deportation within the Capitol complex, which is not true.
On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department did not respond to the question whether Washington Police Chief Robert J. Contee III had met Ms. Boebert to explain to her the district gun laws, as he had. said he would do last week.
Mrs. Boebert has often defended her behavior as one of the reasons why she was chosen. Just like Mr. Trump has done with his base, she tells her followers she's fighting for them. Regarding her right to bear a gun, she has written on Twitter that "self-defense is the most basic human right." & # 39; & # 39;
In Colorado, Mrs. Boebert's district covers much of western Colorado, a vast, politically diverse landscape of mesas and jagged mountains with liberal enclaves such as Aspen and Telluride, as well as often-overlooked towns where ranching, mining and natural gas drilling pay the bills. For generations, the district chose deep-rooted local men who, whether Democrat or Republican, were mostly moderates in cowboy boots who focused on the local economy and natural resources.
Once a reliable red state, Colorado changed with the 2008 election of Barack Obama, and Republicans are struggling to regain a foothold. Democrats now hold both Senate seats, the state house and the governor's office.
Republicans who want to maintain viability in the state are cautious about Mrs. Boebert's behavior.
& # 39; I think most Republicans are still behind her here, & # 39; said Mr. Wadhams. "But she can't just fight in Washington. She also needs to pay attention to the problems in her neighborhood: in water, natural resources, mining. If she doesn't, she's really in trouble."