Missouri Rep. Demands California Rep. 'Go Back To Puerto Rico,' Where He Is Not From
It's been an embarrassing week for Republicans and the voters who pretend they aren't racist. The House voted Tuesday to reprimand relative-of-abolitionists Steve King for his latest in a long series of racist remarks. Concerned op-eds were written about how these racist incidents were distracting from the GOP's platform of starving people of all races. Then came Thursday and a Republican made another "racially charged" comment on the House floor. "Racially charged" is the media's favorite euphemism for "racist," because racism is actually the electric current powering the modern GOP.
Missouri Rep. Jason Smith shouted, "Go back to Puerto Rico" at Democratic Rep. Tony Cárdenas, who was at the podium waiting to speak during a voice vote on a continuing resolution to reopen the government. Cárdenas is a representative from California, which is not in Puerto Rico. We checked.
"I was shocked, because I often heard those kinds of comments when I was a kid growing up in Pacoima, California, where I was born and raised," Cárdenas said in an email.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer noted the outburst and said, "I'm not sure what's going on, but I object." (This is also a common form of pillow talk from Mike Pence.)
"I would hope that we could refrain from any implications which have any undertones of prejudice or racism or any kind of 'ism' that would diminish the character … of any of our fellow members," the Maryland Democrat said.
Jesus, do they pay this guy by the word? His loquaciousness could render upon oneself an ache in the cephalic region. "No racist shit, please" is the most cogent retort. But poor Hoyer was distraught. Didn't the House just send a white supremacist member to his room without supper? Now more members are acting out. Whatever happened to old values, fine morals, and good breeding? Now nobody even says "oops" when hurling tired old "go back to where you belong" racist rhetoric.
Cárdenas said Smith called him to apologize. However, Smith's public response through his communications director, Joey Brown, argued that his remarks were aimed at "all the Democrats who were down vacationing in Puerto Rico last weekend during the shutdown, not any individual."
Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico not even a year and a half ago. The Trump administration botched its response to the disaster through a fatal combination of incompetence and malice. People are still hurting there. All our politicians should regularly visit Puerto Rico -- certainly more so than, say, Iowa.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus that Cárdenas leads organized last weekend's trip to Puerto Rico, but it's unlikely they were "vacationing" there. It's a pretty "racially charged" implication that Hispanics are goofing off on the beach while federal workers "at home" suffer. It also reduces Puerto Rico, a functioning part of the US, to just a holiday spot where people make questionable decisions on girls' weekends.
Conservatives also react this way whenever a Democrat visits Hawaii. Sure, unlike certain red states, there's more to do than just visit the gift shop at Cracker Barrel, but that doesn't mean any trip to Hawaii or Puerto Rico is inherently frivolous. Republicans acted like Barack Obama made up family in Hawaii so he could bilk sunny vacations from the US taxpayer. Kellyanne Conway jibed Nancy Pelosi for going to Hawaii during the government shutdown: "Less hula, more moola," she said because she is a moron. Hawaii has telephones and wi-fi. It's perfectly legal to work on the lanai outside your condo (we can confirm).
Dave Wiegel at the Washington Post reported that lawmakers flew to Puerto Rico as Donald Trump was considering ways to raid hurricane relief funds to pay for construction of stupid WALL. That is the greater offense, not Democrats seeing "Hamilton" or relaxing on a beach. There is downtime during almost all work-related trips. Politicians clogging their arteries with assorted meats on sticks at the Iowa State Fair is an admittedly high price to pay to launch a presidential campaign, but it's still just as much an appreciation of the "local culture" as actually enjoying yourself in Puerto Rico or Hawaii.
Besides, if Republicans wanted Democrats back in DC hard at work, why would Smith shout, "Go back to Puerto Rico"?Cárdenas, who we repeat is from California, is right there in room with him. It's like Smith wants two things or he's just being racist.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.