Commentary: Lauren Boebert, American menace

Many public officials are guilty of bad behavior. But few can as readily be held responsible for harassment, personal threats and violence as Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado.

What’s worse, ghastly conduct represents the totality of her public service. Her legislative record is a dismal exhibition of performative gestures that offer no real benefit to Coloradans and serve mainly to complement her TV segments and social media showboating. 

And if she were just an entertainer who happened to possess a congressional pin, her constituents might be content to wait out her place-holding stint as the representative from the 3rd Congressional District until a true public servant were ready to succeed her.

But she is more than a mere circus act. She is responsible for causing personal harm to multiple people.

The latest example involves Nina Jankowicz, a disinformation expert whom the Department of Homeland Security assigned to lead its new Disinformation Governance Board. The board was meant to ensure the delivery to Americans of reliable information about homeland security, until disinformation about the board itself and vile abuse directed at Jankowicz prompted the department in May to abandon the project.

Boebert, with a trademark style of dishonesty and provocation, helped lead an anti-board mob and inspire personal threats against Jankowicz. In an interview on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” Jankowicz described the outcome of vitriolic rhetoric from members of Congress, such as doxxing, sexually abusive language, body-shaming, allegations of pedophilia, and violent threats.

“They’re encouraging this sort of abuse from the people who listen to them and follow them,” Jankowicz said. “One person said, ‘This is a hill to die on. Get ready. We will not tolerate this.’ And this to me seems to have come directly from a tweet that Rep. Lauren Boebert sent out saying that this was Stalinist or Mao-level and this was a hill to die on — so, directly echoing her language in the threat.”

Worst of all, in light of the routine slaughter of school children in America, is Boebert’s pathological promotion of firearms.

A white supremacist last month who gunned down Black shoppers in a Buffalo grocery store was motivated by the “great replacement” theory, which falsely holds that white Americans are intentionally being replaced by non-white populations. The racist Fox News host Tucker Carlson is the most visible promoter of this erroneous narrative, but Boebert is arguably its most influential proponent in Colorado.

“This is why the Southern Border is wide open,” she tweeted in September. “They want to replace the unvaccinated with foreign workers at a lower price. Get ready, they will replace you if you won’t comply.”

The “great replacement” falsehood was behind other acts of violence, including mass shootings in El Paso and Christchurch, New Zealand.

Bigotry is baked into Boebert’s character. In November, she was caught in a video suggesting that if Democratic Rep. Ilhah Omar were wearing a backpack she would suspect the Minnesota lawmaker, who is Muslim, of being a suicide bomber. The comments were “hateful and dangerous,” as Omar herself described them, and, as was depressingly predictable, death threats against Omar followed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi characterized Boebert as making “repeated, ongoing and targeted Islamophobic comments and actions against another Member of Congress.”

Boebert shared blame for the danger that befell elected officials in her own party during the Jan. 6 insurrection, when members of Congress fled for their lives. In the lead-up to the event, her office reportedly was in communication with organizers of the protests that led to the attack on the U.S. Capitol, during which rioters angry at the then-vice president chanted “Hang Mike Pence” — a call for an execution of which former President Donald Trump approved.

Boebert helped foment mob grievances by promoting falsehoods about the election and, on the morning of Jan. 6, tweeting, “Today is 1776,” which was understood by her followers as a call to arms.

Worst of all, in light of the routine slaughter of school children in America, is Boebert’s pathological promotion of firearms. Other crises in America might directly affect more individuals. Not a single human in the world can escape the adverse effects of climate change. The erosion of democracy threatens constitutional order. The elimination of abortion rights would be a staggering reversal of progress. But the proliferation of gun violence — in that it manifests so grotesquely in mass murder, and because conservative political obstruction so clearly precludes obviously effective gun safety measures — most starkly portends a cratering of national stability, and few figures in the country embody its blood-drenched gun culture with more diabolical gusto than Boebert.

Boebert might have mostly forsaken her constituents in Colorado, but she has amassed a fanbase that extends way beyond the state’s borders. She could use her platform to help improve people’s lives, promote the interests of vulnerable Americans, heal the divisions that jeopardize the country’s future.

But she does the opposite. She degrades and attacks people, particularly those who are vulnerable. She thrives in and exploits divisions and leaves them deeper.

There’s a word for this sort of person. She is a menace.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

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