Rep. Lauren Boebert has a tell. She looks up and to her left when she is expressing an unoriginal idea. (Screenshot from Lauren Boebert Twitter)
The first person to represent Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, starting with the district’s inception in the 1914 election, was a Democrat from Pueblo named Edward Keating.
He was the son of immigrants. He moved to Colorado from a Kansas farm with his widowed mother, and he left school at 14 to contribute to their livelihood. He became, at 23, the youngest person ever elected to the office of Denver city auditor. Keating later was known to Coloradans mainly as a journalist. He worked his way up from proofreader, and for five years before constituents sent him to Washington he was the editor of the Rocky Mountain News.
Keating is remembered as a lawmaker primarily for two things — his groundbreaking advocacy for labor protections, particularly his sponsorship of the first federal child-labor law, and for casting 1 of 50 House votes on April 6, 1917, against entering World War I.
Those were different times.
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Rep. Lauren Boebert is the 15th person to represent Colorado’s 3rd District in Congress. Don’t bother looking for achievement or principled public service in the seat today.
The first-term Republican’s approach to leadership has been to completely dispense with substance and replace it entirely with style. And the style she favors is all calculation and provocation, contrivance and performance. Superficialities are total in the execution of her duties. She doesn’t bother with “issues.” Her priorities are pretty straightforward: reflexive promotion of “freedom,” zeal for guns and fealty to former President Donald Trump.
Boebert is never more in her element than when drawing attention to herself or creating a spectacle. Her entrance onto the national stage was a combative exchange in 2019 with then-presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. There was the time she noisily unfurled a space blanket during President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address. And when she threw a mask at a House staffer and defied COVID-19 safety measures. And when she tried to walk through a House metal detector, possibly armed, and refused to relinquish her bag to Capitol Police less than a week after the Jan. 6 insurrection. She thrives on polarizing attention.
Boebert’s specialty is video appearances. She established something of a template with a fundraising video she released in January, her first month in office. The spot, produced with a tone similar to that found in prescription drug ads, delivers the message that Democrats are horrible, Washington, D.C., is irredeemably dangerous, and if you mess with her she will shoot you with her Glock.
Every time the Radical Left tries to make some nasty hashtag like #LaurenBoebertIsSoDumb trend, I flip it on it's head & claim a victory for FREEDOM!
— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) October 13, 2021
Her most revealing videos, however, the ones that unwittingly expose everything that’s corrosive about her style, are those she films herself. It’s here that her style is distilled to its vapid essence. Everything about her delivery is unnatural. Every inflection is phony. Every utterance hits a false note. Every clip gives the impression of a reality star in an audition tape.
If that were the only problem, it would warrant little concern, but the videos, like everything she does in her public life, seek to foment extreme grievance among her conservative followers, persuade supporters that Democrats are the country’s enemy, and prepare the ground for Trump’s return to power. They are as toxic as they are awkward.
A comparison with more estimable peers is instructive. Watch Boebert’s arch nemesis Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or Colorado’s Rep. Diana DeGette, or Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming. You might dislike the politics of one or all of these elected leaders, but they’re able to speak in such a manner that leaves little doubt about the substance and understanding behind their words.
In contrast, Boebert’s political themes — the election was stolen, liberals are trying to destroy America, fanatical devotion to the Constitution, opposition to immigration, disdain for big government — exhibit the quality of being acquired. The right-wing talking points do not ring true in her telling. They sound derivative, rehearsed. Boebert has a tell. When she performs for the camera, and she starts to resemble a nobody reciting lines for a screen test, she looks up and to her left. She does this a lot.
This is not to say she lacks conviction. Quite the contrary — that she is bereft of original ideas makes her all the more unyielding in her fidelity to others’ ideas, because without them she has little within on which to fall back. She clings to them like a life raft lest she drown. Her relationship to them is tenacious, but it is not deep. There is one political characteristic that seems authentically Boebert’s own, and that is an affinity for fascism.
Boebert’s political emptiness is not merely distasteful. It translates into a failure to deliver for her constituents. So far she has sponsored 21 bills in the House. None has earned any bipartisan support. Most barely had partisan support. None has succeeded. Most are solely posturing — her latest bill sought to impeach Biden for high crimes and misdemeanors.
President Woodrow Wilson might have been expected to turn his back on Keating after the congressman’s anti-war vote, but Wilson endorsed Keating for reelection, citing his “splendid” progressive record.
It wasn’t enough to preserve Keating’s prospects, and he lost the 1918 election to a Republican from Canon City, Guy U. Hardy, who represented the 3rd District for seven terms. While in the House Hardy compiled what became a standard account of the institution of Congress and the duties of its elected officers.
When Hardy died in 1947, members, both Republicans and Democrats, eulogized him on the House floor.
Those were different times.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this commentary included a quote about Rep. Guy Hardy by Rep. John E. Rankin of Mississippi. That quote, upon consideration of Rankin’s bigotry, has been removed.
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