Joe Flood The Capitol protected by the DC National Guard
After the failed coup attempt, a fence has gone up around the Capitol, protected by the DC National Guard. (Photo: Joe Flood, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

Hav­ing seem­ing­ly lost their enthu­si­asm for defend­ing Don­ald Trump and dis­put­ing the results of the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Repub­li­cans at the fed­er­al and state lev­el have turned to grum­bling loud­ly about the secu­ri­ty mea­sures that have been put into place in our state and fed­er­al cap­i­tals, both to pre­vent the spread of COVID-19 and to stop domes­tic ter­ror­ists from hurt­ing and killing people.

In addi­tion to requir­ing the wear­ing of masks and prac­tic­ing phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing, Democ­rats at the fed­er­al lev­el have intro­duced new secu­ri­ty mea­sures, includ­ing screen­ings for weapons and dan­ger­ous objects out­side of the entrance to the House cham­ber. Thou­sands of Nation­al Guard troops are now sta­tioned in and around the Capi­tol, as well, to ensure the build­ing can­not be suc­cess­ful­ly attacked and ran­sacked again, and a new fence sur­rounds the Capitol.

Joe Flood The Capitol protected by the DC National Guard
After the failed coup attempt, a fence has gone up around the Capi­tol, pro­tect­ed by the DC Nation­al Guard. (Pho­to: Joe Flood, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

So far, Repub­li­cans seem the most upset about the secu­ri­ty screenings.

For mem­bers of Con­gress to enter the floor of the U.S. House, we now have to go through intense secu­ri­ty mea­sures, on top of the secu­ri­ty we already go through. These new pro­vi­sions include search­es and being wand­ed like crim­i­nals. We now live in Pelosi’s com­mu­nist Amer­i­ca!” howled Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Deb­bie Lasko.

What’s the prob­lem, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Lasko? if you haven’t done any­thing wrong, then you have absolute­ly noth­ing to wor­ry about… right? After all, that’s what Repub­li­cans like you have been telling the rest of us for years!

“You are cre­at­ing a prob­lem you do not under­stand the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of,” snarled a very upset Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Steve Wom­ack to Capi­tol Police when he entered the House cham­ber ear­li­er this week.

Actu­al­ly, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Wom­ack, that’s a per­fect descrip­tion of what you and your col­leagues have been doing. By con­tin­u­al­ly enabling Don­ald Trump and his insur­rec­tion­ist fol­low­ers, you set the stage for all the changes that are now hap­pen­ing in our seat of gov­ern­ment, includ­ing these more strin­gent secu­ri­ty screen­ings out­side the House cham­ber that annoy you to no end.

So much for “Law and Order!” and respect­ing law enforcement.

Once again, Repub­li­cans have proven that they are whol­ly unwill­ing to accept the rules and stan­dards that they want to impose on every­body else.

Every time I enter a cour­t­house (local, state, fed­er­al), I go through a met­al detec­tor and send my belong­ings through an x‑ray machine. And often get wanded.

I wish it weren’t nec­es­sary, but I under­stand the wis­dom of ensur­ing that peo­ple don’t bring guns or oth­er weapons into courtrooms.

Why should the Capi­tol be any dif­fer­ent, espe­cial­ly giv­en the hor­ror of last week? And why should mem­bers of Con­gress be treat­ed any dif­fer­ent­ly than any­one else com­ing to the Capi­tol? As any secu­ri­ty expert knows, an insti­tu­tion is only as strong as its weak­est link. A trai­tor­ous law­mak­er allowed to bypass secu­ri­ty screen­ings could eas­i­ly cause may­hem. Dis­turbing­ly, many of the Repub­li­cans sent by vot­ers to Con­gress are Trump cult mem­bers who are more loy­al to him than the Con­sti­tu­tion, as today’s impeach­ment vote once again proved.

(It has also been report­ed that some Repub­li­can law­mak­ers were show­ing insur­rec­tion­ists around the Capi­tol in advance of the Jan­u­ary 6th attacks.)

If the goal is “Law and Order!”, then mak­ing sure that only trust­ed, trained police offi­cers are car­ry­ing guns in the Capi­tol seems like an extreme­ly pru­dent idea.

Here at the state lev­el, Repub­li­cans have com­plained bit­ter­ly that parts of the Capi­tol Cam­pus are off lim­its to the pub­lic and sur­round­ed by a chain-link fence with yel­low cau­tion tape, patrolled by the Wash­ing­ton Nation­al Guard.

They keep ask­ing, rhetor­i­cal­ly, why peo­ple can’t be allowed inside the Capi­tol to watch their gov­ern­ment at work. But they know why: it’s not safe.

The Wash­ing­ton Capi­tol Cam­pus is more than just the Ever­green State’s seat of gov­ern­ment. Like the U.S. Capi­tol, it’s also a work­place. Repub­li­cans may feel com­fort­able putting their lives at risk by ignor­ing pub­lic health guid­ance and rec­om­men­da­tions from secu­ri­ty experts in the wake of the Capi­tol attack, but they can­not be allowed to put oth­ers’ lives at risk with their absurd demands.

The argu­ment that the tem­po­rary clo­sure of some of our pub­lic build­ings is a trag­ic for­fei­ture of our God-giv­en lib­er­ties is ridicu­lous. These build­ing restric­tions have not caused peo­ple to lose their con­sti­tu­tion­al rights. For exam­ple, it’s still pos­si­ble to protest, even on the Capi­tol cam­pus, as unwise as that may be.

Giv­en the Repub­li­can Par­ty’s lega­cy, it’s odd they’re so bent out of shape about these build­ing clo­sures. Recall, for a few moments, all of the mea­sures they have pre­vi­ous­ly insist­ed on and defend­ed as nec­es­sary to wage a “War on Terror”.

Remem­ber the Boston Marathon bomb­ings? In the wake of those hor­ri­ble events, the author­i­ties effec­tive­ly shut down an entire city for sev­er­al days while they hunt­ed down the per­pe­tra­tors. I don’t remem­ber hear­ing any com­plaints from Repub­li­cans about that. Inde­fen­si­bly, many Repub­li­cans sim­ply do not regard white Chris­t­ian ter­ror­ists as a threat like they do Islam­ic ter­ror­ists, even though white Chris­t­ian ter­ror­ists are the big­ger threat accord­ing to secu­ri­ty assess­ments.

Hap­pi­ly, this isn’t 1921. It is not nec­es­sary to be phys­i­cal­ly present to observe one’s gov­ern­ment at work first­hand. Even before the pan­dem­ic and the recent rise in domes­tic ter­ror­ist activ­i­ty (includ­ing not only the attack on the Capi­tol, but the breach­ing of the gates to the Exec­u­tive Man­sion grounds in Olympia), watch­ing com­mit­tee meet­ings and floor activ­i­ty on TVW was a more advan­ta­geous way to mon­i­tor the goings-on in the state­house than observ­ing in person.

It’s so advan­ta­geous, in fact, that peo­ple who work on the Capi­tol Cam­pus, includ­ing reporters and leg­isla­tive assis­tants, use it exten­sive­ly, despite being in close phys­i­cal prox­im­i­ty to the rooms where the broad­casts are originating.

Why leave the office when TVW can bring the action to you?

That said, we agree that it is valu­able for peo­ple to be able to vis­it the seat of their gov­ern­ment and walk the same halls their elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives walk. Vis­it­ing the state capi­tol and the U.S. Capi­tol is an expe­ri­ence every­one ought to have. Accord­ing­ly, we ful­ly sup­port the restora­tion of phys­i­cal pub­lic access to these sacred build­ings when it is safe. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, right now, it isn’t.

You might think mem­bers of a par­ty that fer­vent­ly bran­dish­es the phrase “Law and Order!” as a ral­ly­ing cry would under­stand this, but sad­ly, you’d be wrong.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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