The composition of the 116th Congress has garnered a lot of attention. The singular event for the House Democrats was the swearing-in of its diverse caucus, a happy moment amid the gloom of the ongoing government shutdown. Among the new faces was Representative Rashida Tlaib, one of two Muslim women first to hold a seat in Congress. Two Native American women gained House seats for the first time. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the rock star of the Rainbow Congress, at 29 is the youngest woman ever to win a seat. Only 38% of the Democratic members are white men. When Democrats saw the class photo, their hearts soared proudly at the picture of diversity.
Meanwhile on the other side of town, Donald Trump cringed as he examined the picture of the Rainbow Congress. . The scene looked like a shuk, an outdoor market in the square of a Middle Eastern town. He double-checked the photo for goats and donkeys before tossing it on the Resolute Desk. Trump thought, this is a picture of the end of America.
Two Trains Running
Two competing concepts propel American historical study. One is the narrative of American triumphalism. It extols the founders’ prescience, the virtues of industry and capitalism and the “great man” theory of history. The other narrative is that of American progressivism, the story of the disenfranchised, persistently struggling against monied, reactionary interests.
In the Progressivist narrative, American history becomes as a story of enlightened people, forever seeking to overcome the Constitution’s slavery-driven imperfections. Under the conservative and incremental legal system inherited from England, it chronicles the inexorable journey toward a more perfect union.
Both narratives are needed for a coherent, non-pixelated view of American history. Trimuphalists consider the Rainbow Congress to be the democratic experiment gone horribly wrong. People are taking office who weren’t meant to hold power or even to have a voice in government. They will ruin our institutions.
Progressives hold that the Rainbow Congress proves the striving narrative. If Progressives remain strong, their efforts will win them a seat at the table. The Blue Wave Midterm success fulfills the Progressive aspiration for universal equality contained in the Declaration of Independence.
The Morning After
On the second day of the Rainbow Congress, Representative Tlaib publicly referred to Donald Trump as an M.F., as in “impeach the M.F.” The putative MF-in-Chief, scolded the freshman representative, saying that she disrespected the nation and disgraced her family.
Representative Ocasio-Cortez defended her colleague, tweeting:
Republican hypocrisy at its finest: saying that Trump admitting to sexual assault on tape is just “locker room talk,” but scandalizing themselves into faux-outrage when my sis says a curse word in a bar.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi had tried to avoid the I-word.” Now, she had to address it, as well as deal with Tlaib’s coupling of it to the Oedipal sobriquet. Pelosi said that while she doesn’t monitor her caucus’s language, she thought it wasn’t much different from Trump’s remarks, such as referring to certain black pro football players as SOBs.
For at least one day in a suddenly different Washington, political correctness, along with the federal government, stood in recess.