Some called it an historic moment, but the expulsion of Rep. Mike Nearman from the Oregon House of Representatives really was more about making a clear statement regarding unbecoming conduct by a lawmakers and its consequences.
GOP lawmakers united with majority Democrats in the House and voted to expel Nearman on a 59-1 vote. The only vote against the lawmakers was his own. The expulsion is the first in the 160-year history of the House.
Readers probably remember the latest undisciplined political brush-up that occurred last December, when Nearman let a group of protesters into the Capitol building as legislators convened an emergency session to decide on a path forward through the economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic.
Protestors barged into the building — closed because of COVID-19 restrictions — tangled with police and sprayed them with bear spray.
Nearman maintained he only let the protestors in because he believed the Oregon Capitol should be open to voters. Nearman would be correct if the individuals seeking to enter were not carrying guns, brandishing bear spray and generally acting like a mob. A group of voters who seek to peacefully commune with elected leaders is not a mob.
Nearman’s actions point to a far larger problem that manifested itself in a more serious manner in January when another mob stormed the nation’s capital and threatened lawmakers.
The larger problem is a sudden loss of common sense and discipline among those of us who should know better. Actions, such as the Nearman’s stunt in Salem and the attack on the nation’s capital in January, are not part of democracy. The two incidents are prime examples of mobs running amok.
No doubt there are those who believe the actions by protestors in both Salem and Washington, D.C., were justified. They are opinions that should be heard. That is what democracy in America is all about. Disagreeing over a political issue is part of our American DNA. We should never be afraid to debate.
Toting guns and screaming rhetoric and then running wild through the hall of Congress, though, is not productive. Already there are extremely stringent security measures in place at the U.S. Capitol. Those security measures mean access to the government is restricted — not because of a foreign security threat, but because of an American mob.
Oregon lawmakers made the right call with Nearman, but in the end they did not have much choice.
Mob violence has no place in American democracy.