Words matter. Democratic Representative Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) made that point masterfully during a 10-minute speech (viewed 12-plus-million times in one day!) in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday, condemning Republican Representative Yoho for verbally denigrating her earlier last week as they passed each other on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Her speech called out a culture of disrespect toward all women exhibited by him, his Republican colleagues and President Donald Trump. Yoho had wanted to express disagreement with her explanation for why New York City burglaries were on the rise but instead of using data and logic to justify his disagreement, he resorted to waving his finger in her face and calling her disgusting.
To top it off and within earshot of a reporter from the publication The Hill, he was heard referring to her as a “f***ing b*tch!” The reporter published an account of the incident, which elicited a public outcry. Yoho felt compelled to apologize, denied that he had called AOC a “f***ing b*tch!” but admitted to using other words of disrespect towards her policies.
Calling legislative colleagues or their policies disrespectful names does not advance discussion of consequential policies, like the policy of providing emergency aid to unemployed families in the middle of a pandemic so that family members are not compelled to steal food. For all of his faults, President George W. Bush encouraged bipartisan collective brainstorming by congressional leaders during the economic meltdown of 2008. Trump is the opposite, gratuitously using racial slurs when referring to the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, characterizing peaceful protesters around the country as anarchists and rioters, telling U.S.-born congressional women of color to “go back to the countries you came from” and using belittling nicknames for his political opponents.
Republicans choose to hurl invectives instead of engaging in the problem-solving needed to resolve our current economic and public health crisis. It is no wonder that Republicans are losing the women’s vote and the support of educated suburbanites! They are destined this November to learn the hard way that words matter.