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Republicans Rethink “Law and Order” Once They Become Its Target

Much of Congress thinks rules are for other people.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In the wake of last week’s Capitol riot, the path to Congress now includes a metal detector. To secure the chamber, Capitol police set up a security checkpoint outfitted with a series of magnometers. Like most people who have ever boarded a plane, attended public high school in the last 20 years, or gone to any professional sporting event, members of Congress are now being asked to empty their pockets and take out their electronic devices. Despite this ubiquity, congressional Republicans are upset. They have decried the checkpoints as unnecessary and unconstitutional. It’s a petulant, performative protest, for the most part, but it does offer a useful peek into how seriously many of the conservative legislators take last week’s events and their slobbering allegiance to “law and order.”

Among the most extreme reactions, we have that of Representative Russ Fulcher, a Republican from Idaho’s first district, who pushed an officer aside on Tuesday after trying to rush through the metal detectors. Wednesday morning, Markwayne Mullin and Steve Womack exploded on Capitol Police officers, bellowing about the grave injustice of being asked to wait in line for a couple minutes and walk through a plastic door.

Doing the Lord’s work, HuffPost’s Matt Fuller staked out the checkpoint and recorded legislators’ reactions—Paul Gosar set off the alarm and kept walking; Alex Mooney gave police the I’m on the phone hand wave; Louie Gohmert dodged them entirely, as did Mullin, Jeff Duncan, Garret Graves, Chip Roy, and Bob Gibbs.

Beyond their performed outrage, this is another example of ostensibly conservative actors refusing to submit to the “law and order” they claim to worship. That’s because it’s a worldview in which the rules only apply to others, particularly Black and brown people and poor people. As the sociologist Harel Shapiro wrote of the modern militia movement, and so many of the congressional lawmakers who share its views, “These men are not opposed to the government or the police, rather, they are opposed to themselves being governed or policed.”

This is how you end up with Steve Stivers telling cops posted at the Capitol that he believes the metal detectors are unconstitutional while pledging his support to legislation that installs “metal detectors and armed resource officers” in American schools. And people are carrying weapons onto the floor: Madison Cawthorn openly admitted to The Smoky Mountain News last Thursday that he was carrying a loaded gun during the Capitol riot.

The Capitol riot—in the eyes of the majority of House Republicans, as evidenced by their votes to decertify the election—was not a crisis. The metal detectors, however, are another story.