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Ashley Pratte Oates House's Gosar censure vote tally says more about Republicans than Democrats

The GOP lawmakers willing to stand up to these disturbing narratives are few and far between. And their ranks are shrinking.

It’s easy to blame former President Donald Trump for the many problems with and within the Republican Party. But it’s also clear that the GOP’s embrace of racism, sexism and vigilante violence, not to mention its profound disrespect for our democracy, are flourishing with or without his support. The latest scandal embroiling Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., is a case in point.

While Democrats celebrated the outcome of the vote, a handful of the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump did not vote to censure Gosar.

On Wednesday, the House voted along primarily party lines to censure Gosar for tweeting a graphic photoshopped animated video that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., assaulting President Joe Biden, and immigrants migrating to the United States being met with brute force. (Gosar deleted the tweet after outcry but has since retweeted it.)

While Democrats celebrated the outcome of the vote, a handful of the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump did not vote to censure Gosar. That’s a quietly depressing slide backward. The only two Republicans who continued to take a moral stand against the ills of the GOP were Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.

Even the people who were in the Capitol as it was under siege Jan. 6 now refuse to condemn the kind of violent rhetoric that fired up the conservative base prior to the insurrection. Instead of recognizing Gosar’s behavior as wildly unbecoming of a U.S. congressman and just downright deplorable as an American citizen, Republicans continue their efforts to gaslight America by claiming Democrats are trying to silence them.

This is far from the first time Gosar has shown an affinity for racist and violent rhetoric. Earlier this year, he was a speaker at a white nationalist conference and has indicated he supports their cause, “America First”. This isn’t about partisan games, it’s about a GOP chronically incapable and unwilling to condemn its own members’ blatant extremism, as well as showing its dark underbelly.

This symbolic censure vote wasn’t really about Gosar or Ocasio-Cortez. It was yet another public litmus test the GOP failed. And it highlighted once again that Republicans believe in free speech only when it suits them.

Republicans love to claim that they’re for transparency, accountability and the rule of law. But the truth is there’s been almost zero accountability for the political ringleaders of the insurrection. Ditto for those who have spread false claims about the events of that day. As his colleagues attacked him on the House floor, Gosar showed no remorse. “I reject the false narrative categorically,” he told his fellow lawmakers. This “false narrative” excuse is their latest flimsy ploy to defend the indefensible — including, now, the violent video distributed by Gosar. But there’s nothing confusing or unclear about a congressman tweeting a video in which he violently attacks his own colleague. And his lack of remorse indicates this problem could get worse, much worse.

Of course, a lack of remorse isn’t necessarily surprising, given that Trump has always acted like he was above the law and often appeared reluctant to respect the fundamental framework of our democracy. The message was clear, and it was received by those who are following in his footsteps seeking to disrupt our American democracy and ethos.

In fact, since Jan. 6, dozens of the insurrectionists have stated that they attacked the Capitol that day because they believed Trump wanted them to do so and were following his guidance.

I fear that in the days, weeks, months and years to come, the GOP will only double down on its inflammatory rhetoric, even as it employs dangerously divisive “us vs. them” narratives and campaign strategies. Meanwhile, the Republicans left in Congress with any sort of backbone to stand up to these disturbing narratives are few and far between. And their ranks are shrinking.