I want to thank Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Not for his public service record or anything like that; I am not a fan of him and do not support any of his political beliefs. No, I want to thank him for accidentally giving Democrats, feminists and anyone else who does not agree with Trump’s appointments or actions their next rallying cry.

By now, I’m sure everyone has seen the instantly iconic phrase “Nevertheless, She Persisted” or #LetLizSpeak on Twitter or Instagram. On Tuesday night, during a Senate debate on the nomination of Jeff Sessions, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) read a 1986 letter written by Coretta Scott King in which King argued against confirming Sessions for a federal judgeship. But, Sen. McConnell interrupted her by citing a rule, one that is rarely used, meant to keep a certain level of civility in the Senate.

I’m not surprised that he tried to quiet his opponent. I would expect that from any politician, especially one who refused to hold hearings to fill the vacant seat left by Antonin Scalia, former U.S. Supreme Court justice. But I wonder what he thought would happen when he tried to shut up one of the most vocal Democratic voices in the country. Did he really think that a woman who exchanged blows with Donald Trump on Twitter and joined protesters in a Boston airport following Trump’s travel ban would stop speaking?

McConnell should have realized that any attempt to silence her would have the opposite effect. Sen. Warren is not someone who will sit quietly in the background if you tell her to. She was barred from speaking on the Senate floor, so she said what she needed to outside of the Senate and broadcasted it to millions of people. Whether or not you warn her against doing something, she will do what she feels needs to be done. If anything, attempts made to silence her, like the one on Tuesday, will just make more people listen to her and make her message more potent.

I hate the fact that attempts to silence progressive female politicians continue to happen, but I love what follows. When Trump or McConnell try to dismiss their opponents, the result is never what they intended. With Trump, it was “Nasty Woman”; with McConnell it is “Nevertheless, She Persisted.” In both cases, these statements were reclaimed and used to band women together. They gave us great memes and slogans for shirts, but they also gave many women something they could connect to. This shows that there are people, masses of people, who oppose the limits Trump attempts to set on freedom and who will support each other in the fight against him.

Sen. Warren, and other senators fighting against Trump, give me hope that he will not just stomp on and tear down what people have worked hard to achieve. I need this reassurance.

For the past few months, national political news has seemed like a constant stream of disappointments. Watching Trump be inaugurated as president, hearing the news of the confirmations of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education and Jeff Sessions as attorney general and seeing the anger and frustration of my friends leaves me worried. The people who are coming to power have records showing that they are unfit for these jobs and that they do not have everyone’s best interest in mind. They want to bring the old rules of the game back; the ones that say if you’re not rich, white and male, you may as well count yourself out and watch while the boys play.

Seeing this political shift is discouraging, but this shift has forced people out of complacency. It has encouraged people to take a more active role in government; this is obvious by the amount of protesters at the Women’s March and even in late-night shows. It brings attention to the voices of minorities and other marginalized groups because Trump will affect everyone. Hopefully, this activism and inclusion will continue. We need to keep this attitude and sustain this energy; we cannot allow the events Trump has orchestrated to become the norm. We need to stay vigilant, not just right now but always, to ensure that the government is filled with people like Elizabeth Warren, who does not just advocate for the rich and ignore the concerns of minorities like Betsy DeVos or Jeff Sessions do. 

Warren’s actions, those of other senators speaking out against Trump’s nominations and actions and the protests that followed Trump’s election win and travel ban show that no one is going to quietly take their seat. People will speak whether Trump or Sen. McConnell want to hear it or not. Any attempt to silence us will only make us louder. If you try to stop us or to warn us, nevertheless, we will persist.

Corey Dulin can be reached at cydulin@umich.edu.

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