By Bill Rice, a student at Georgetown University Law Center
What we saw on display in Washington, DC yesterday, January 6th, was fascism, plain and simple. And if there’s one thing we know about fascism from world history, it’s that it cannot be tolerated and must be met with a strong, definitive response. Those who participated in, facilitated, or otherwise supported such fanatical violence aimed at overturning our constitution and our democracy must be held accountable for their actions. To let such actions go unanswered is only to let this cancer to our democracy fester and grow.
Our nation is rightfully having this conversation at the national level, for instance with elected officials discussing exercising Section 4 of the 25th Amendment and introducing Articles of Impeachment against President Trump for inciting the violence. Of important note is Congresswoman Cori Bush’s resolution calling for the expulsion of those members of Congress who “have sought to overturn the 2020 Presidential election.”
In Virginia, one of our very own legislators openly participated in this seditious, violent madness. State Senator Amanda Chase not only participated in the rally that preceded the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol building, she was a speaker at the event. During this speech, she repeated conspiracy theories about election fraud while emphasizing the importance of Second Amendment rights. Even after she left the event and witnessed the violent coup attempt that occurred after, Senator Chase went on to post on social media defending the actions of these insurrectionists, saying that: “when you back people in Virginia and across the United States into a corner, you will end up with a revolution. And I believe that’s what you’re starting to see.”
While this is certainly another level for Chase, this isn’t exactly new. She has participated in events with right-wing militias and alt-right groups. During this pandemic she’s endangered her colleagues by refusing to wear a mask during legislative session and she’s endangered all Virginians by spreading COVID-19 denialist conspiracy theories.
It is clear from this past behavior and these most recent actions, that Senator Chase is no longer fit to hold public office and that her remaining in office presents a threat to our democracy. Participating in and inciting violent mobs of fascist individuals hell-bent on using force to prevent our constitutional democratic processes from occurring is a clear violation of the bedrocks of our constitutional republic and of the ideals on which the Commonwealth of Virginia was founded.
Like our Federal Constitution, the Virginia Constitution includes a mechanism for expelling legislators. Section 7 of Article IV of the Virginia Constitution states that the House and Senate may “with the concurrence of two-thirds of its elected membership, may expel a member.” This Virginia Constitution expulsion clause mirrors exactly the language in the U.S. Constitution’s expulsion clause. As such, looking at the history of the U.S. Constitution’s expulsion power would be informative to how Virginia’s expulsion clause could be exercised against Senator Chase. According to a 2018 report from the Congress Research Service, the reasons for which the expulsion power “may be exercised are left to the discretion of the respective bodies of Congress.” At the same time much legal commentary “indicates that the bodies should act judiciously in exercising that power.” The report also adds that “the predominant basis” for expulsion in U.S. history has been regarding “disloyalty to the United States.” In our nation’s history, there have been 5 House members expelled, 3 of them over disloyalty to the union, and there have been 15 Senate members expelled, 14 of them over disloyalty to the union.
While expulsion is not a power that should be exercised lightly or readily, what we have here is a legislator who has engaged and continues to engage in a movement and in events that clearly constitute anti-democratic, bigoted attempts to violently suppress and attack our constitutional institutions and suppress the rights of Virginians. We cannot allow someone who so prominently participates in and defends such fascistic, hateful insurrection to wield the broad powers of government. And we cannot allow someone to contribute to attempts to silence the votes of millions of Virginians.
The violent insurrection we witnessed Wednesday in our nation’s capitol, by bigoted hoards of modern-day fascists, was reminiscent of the violence enacted by white mobs against Black voters attempting to exercise their right to vote during the Reconstruction era. During this time, the perpetrators of such violence were rarely held to account. We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. Senator Amanda Chase must be held to account for her participation in this anti-democratic, fascist insurrection.