Would anyone be surprised if Rep. Andy Harris sponsored a resolution in the House of Representatives to award Congressional Gold Medals to Ocean City police officers for defending the seaside resort against young Black vapers?
I wouldn’t put it past him.
Maryland’s 1st District congressman seems determined to set his image as far right on the political dial as the weird conspiracy-embracing Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia.
It’s apparently not enough to simply make clear that you support Donald Trump and believe that election fraud deprived the former president of a second term. That’s nutty and dangerous for democracy, but apparently doesn’t make Harris sufficiently confident as he runs for a seventh term that he once promised not to seek.
He must also believe that he should stand against the old-fashioned notions of decency and truth, and pander to his Trumpiest supporters by trying his hand at “owning the libs.”
For the latter, Harris joined Greene two months ago in proposing that the House award congressional medals to local police officers who “protect American cities from Black Lives Matter (BLM) terrorists.”
The dishonesty of that resolution cannot be overstated. Last year’s BLM protests of George Floyd’s murder-by-cop were overwhelmingly peaceful. A survey by The Washington Post found that, when violence erupted, it was often sparked by police and counterdemonstrators.
But Trump conflated BLM demonstrators with violent antifa groups, and that conflation continues to serve the right’s what-aboutism regarding the horrible attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump’s supporters.
Most Americans put the Jan. 6 insurrection in a class by itself. Historically, it was one of the worst days in American life.
But, as with their belief in a stolen election, way too many Republicans either say in polls they aren’t convinced Trump supporters attacked the Capitol or they say left-wing agitators started it to make Trump look bad.
So Andy Harris, cynically sizing all this up, joined congressional Republicans in challenging Biden’s Electoral College victory. Then, two months later, he joined 11 House Republicans who refused to support a resolution honoring police officers who defended the U.S. Capitol against the pro-Trump rioters who wanted the election overturned.
When another version of the bill came up for a vote this week, 21 Republicans voted against it, and Harris was right there again, saying he opposed the measure because he didn’t believe what happened on Jan. 6 constituted an “insurrection.”
So, with this vote, Harris opposed old-fashioned decency and truth — decency, because that’s what Congress displayed by voting to honor the police officers who protected them, and truth, because that’s what the resolution was based on.
I don’t believe Andy Harris opposes decency and truth. But he appears to be a deeply insecure man who feels he has to position himself even further to the right to secure reelection.
Imagine a Republican, and not some “woke Democrat snowflake,” opposing medals for police officers — and in the same week that police in Harris’ district are being criticized for exerting excessive force against young Black men on the boardwalk.
We haven’t heard from Harris about this. (His office did not respond to my request for a comment.) But you’d think he would want to join the chorus of those who say the Ocean City police did nothing wrong — or that they gave the young men what they deserved for being profane and resisting arrest after they were caught vaping outside of designated areas.
You’d think Harris would echo what I’ve heard repeatedly since my Wednesday column on this subject: If the young men had not mouthed off and obeyed the police, none of this would have happened.
What people don’t get or willfully ignore is reality: People break laws or do stupid, ugly things and need to be arrested. Cops are supposed to be trained to defuse tense situations, not heighten them, and to make arrests without the excessive force we’ve seen in too many smartphone videos.
There’s been progress on training and accountability. But as Tom Manger, who was police chief in Montgomery County for 15 years, put it to me in an email, “We still have a long way to go to regain the level of trust from the public needed to get the ‘benefit of the doubt’ when videos like the ones from OC surface.”
Such videos, said Manger, now a public safety consultant, make it tougher for police in departments that have embraced reform. “Unfortunately for the great many progressive agencies, the narrative today seems to focus solely on the worst of our profession,” he said. “To say it is discouraging for the good men and women that make up the vast majority of our profession is an understatement.”
He added this: “Good cops don’t need to be pushed to do the right thing. They do it day in and day out, often under very challenging circumstances.”
Yes, and none more challenging than the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — more than 150 officers injured, one dead, two more dead from suicides after the attack, 17 still out with injuries.
And Andy Harris refused to honor them because he didn’t like the use of a word in the resolution?
That’s not representing the majority of people in his district. That’s just being afraid to stand up for decency and truth because, incredibly, it might hurt his chances for reelection in 2022. That’s not politics. That’s pathetic.