A full night had passed since the United States Senate voted to make Elizabeth Warren stop talking, so she got up on Wednesday morning, put on a magenta suit and her trademark rimless eyeglasses, and immediately commenced being the noisiest silent woman of the 24-hour news cycle.
“I thought I was just going to debate Jeff Sessions as the attorney general of the United States,” the Democratic senator from Massachusetts said to some colleagues at a videoed breakfast-time meeting she posted to Twitter, appearing elaborately flabbergasted. “Only to discover that reading a truthful statement from an eyewitness to history, about the man who has been named attorney general to the United States, was out of order!”
She jabbed the air with her index finger, while Cory Booker (D-N.J.) leaned back in his chair, and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) took a sip of coffee. “We will not be silenced!” Warren enjoined them. “We will not be silenced!”
In a post-“Deplorables” era, where the best response to an enemy insult is to embrace it, Wednesday saw Warren ready to relieve Hillary Clinton of all her official Nasty Woman duties. An intended humiliation instead turned into a battle cry; an intended silencing instead handed Warren a megaphone and an army.
Wednesday was Warrenday.
The evening prior, because of an obscure century-old Senate rule designed to prevent literal fistfights on the floor, Warren had been rebuked by her Senate colleagues for reading out loud a letter by civil rights icon Coretta Scott King. The letter spoke negatively of Sen. Sessions; after being told to stop reading it, Warren continued.
“She was warned,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), explaining why he thought Warren should be forced to stop talking, and to sit out all remaining Sessions-related debate. “Nevertheless, she persisted.”
McConnell ostensibly did not realize “Nevertheless, she persisted” would sound like a rusty nail on a dusty chalkboard to any woman who’d ever been told she talked too loud or nagged too much — but it did. #NeverthelessShePersisted spread and memed on social media all through Wednesday. T-shirts were sold. Tattoos were designed.
Warren, meanwhile, went on “Good Morning America.” “We had a chance to hear Coretta Scott King’s voice, specifically, about the nominee who stands before us,” she told the interviewer, against the backdrop of the Russell Senate Office Building Rotunda. “You know what I think Republicans object to? The facts.”
She scooted a few feet around the Rotunda’s balcony and went on CNN. “McConnell said, ‘This is out of line,’ and he shut me up,” she told the interviewer.
The screen switched to CNN anchor Dana Bash, who had a breaking-news question of her own: In Warren’s absence, her Democratic colleagues had been taking to the Senate floor to read Coretta Scott King’s letter themselves, Bash relayed, and Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) had just tweeted something: “When I read the same letter as @SenWarren, no one prevented me from speaking. Sen. McConnell owes Sen. Warren an apology. #LetLizSpeak.”
What did Warren think the Republicans were up? “I have no idea what the Republicans are up to!” Warren replied. “You should ask them that!” (Though McConnell is active on Twitter, he did not address the online backlash to Warren’s rebuke. Nevertheless, it persisted.)
“Walk us through what this was like,” asked an MSNBC reporter at Warren’s next stop in the Rotunda.
“I just went on the floor to do what I was supposed to do,” Warren said, arguing that it was her duty to fully examine Sessions as a nominee.
“Some say it was sexist to silence you on the floor.”
“You’d have to ask Mitch McConnell,” Warren replied, somewhat coyly. “He’s the one who shut me down.”
“Do you think it was sexist?” the MSNBC reporter asked.
“I think it was wrong,” she replied. (A new banner appeared at the bottom of the screen: “I think it was wrong.”)
Meanwhile, the Coretta Scott King letter — the original subject of consternation — was reprinted in full on news sites around the world. On Facebook, activist groups organized plans to show up at McConnell’s house and read him the letter from the street, and it all kept persisting, all over the place.