State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler) joined right-wing conspiracy theorists Wednesday in insulting and belittling the child survivors of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting. Instead of praising the teenagers for bravely calling on lawmakers like us to do more to protect them, Metcalfe dismissed them as "students" in quotation marks — implying they were not actually students who survived the attack that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
All Americans should be mourning the schoolchildren and educators murdered by a man armed with an AR-15-style rifle last week. As the mother of a kindergartener, the reality of this terror attack hit home when the superintendent of my son's school sent an email to parents explaining how the district was working to prepare my 6-year-old for an active shooter situation. How heartbreaking that our schools must prepare for such a scenario in these times.
But instead of mourning the lives lost in this latest school shooting — and every school shooting before it — right-wing extremists are attacking Stoneman Douglas students calling for gun control measures as "crisis actors" — a made-up term also used to describe survivors of the Las Vegas and Sandy Hook tragedies.
Does Metcalfe believe the demonstrably false right-wing conspiracy theory that these student survivors are paid "crisis actors"? Does he believe legislators should ignore the "policy advice" and interests of people under the age of 18 — that is, of children?
These are questions worth asking of a lawmaker who also recently attacked a colleague in a homophobic manner; refuses to allow legislation banning LGBTQ discrimination to advance from the State Government Committee, which he chairs; and invited a white supremacist to testify on a racist proposal to make English the "official" language of the commonwealth.
I believe elected officials must be held to a high standard in our conduct and behavior. I believe that knowingly spreading falsehoods, such as the conspiracy theory that Stoneman Douglas students advocating for gun control are actually paid actors, should be disqualifying.
That is why I reached out to the House Democratic staff to find out how to initiate proceedings to formally rebuke Metcalfe for his hate speech — only to be informed that no such procedure exists.
There's really only one way to hold him accountable.
Every member of the General Assembly is elected by voters like you. Sure, the playing field can be uneven, as the ongoing congressional redistricting process has borne out. Then there's unlimited campaign spending, secretive PACs, local political machines that protect their patronage jobs, and other advantages that advance certain candidates while dooming others.
But at the end of the day, voters decide who they want to represent them. And those voters get to speak for all of the eligible Pennsylvanians who simply do not regularly exercise their right to vote or — like most Stoneman Douglas students — are not yet eligible to vote.
Voting isn't just a right, it is a responsibility. For every person who voted to elect Daryl Metcalfe as their state representative, there are at least two other constituents who did not vote, giving additional weight to the Metcalfe voters.
And because the vote is so central to our democracy, very few mechanisms exist — rightly — to undo elections. So it actually makes sense that representatives cannot be rebuked by their colleagues — because we are not elected by our colleagues and do not answer to them.
We answer to you.
Especially if you vote.