Four years ago, in perhaps her first official action as a congresswoman, Seattle’s newly elected Rep. Pramila Jayapal made a last-ditch effort to stop Donald Trump from becoming president.
Addressing a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2017, Jayapal stood and objected to the certification of the Electoral College vote. She tried to cite evidence of voter suppression in Georgia.
The president of the Senate, who was chairing the joint session, interrupted.
“For what purpose does the gentlewoman rise?” he said. Jayapal started to answer. The president of the Senate slammed down his gavel. “There is no debate,” he said.
Jayapal tried to continue. “Mr. President, even as people waited hours in Georgia…”
The president of the Senate slammed his gavel again. “There is no debate.”
The president of the Senate? That was then-Vice President Joe Biden, presiding over the chamber.
Four years later, Georgia is one of the key states that’s made Biden the president-elect, Trump is tweeting false conspiracy theories about election fraud and Jayapal is ebullient. Biden appears on track to win the exact same number of Electoral College votes, 306, that Trump won four years ago. Jayapal was one of his top fundraisers.
Sometimes, as Seamus Heaney wrote and Biden is fond of saying, “hope and history rhyme.”
On Saturday, reminded of her inauspicious debut, Jayapal laughed and said she felt she had to make one last effort to warn the country about the kind of president she thought Trump would be. Four years later, she feels maybe not vindicated, but something like it.
“Everyone should really celebrate this moment,” Jayapal said in a phone interview. “We were at a crossroads for this country. Another four years would have sent us down the path to fascism and the destruction of our Constitution and I cannot overstate how critical it was that we had the kind of turnout we did.”
On Saturday morning, shortly after the Associated Press called the presidency for Biden, Jayapal posted a video of herself dancing on her West Seattle porch.
She pumps her fist, twirls and uses a wooden spoon to drum on a metal bowl. “Ohhhhh thank you!” she yells. “Thank you, voters!”
“Today is only possible because people across our state and throughout our country put aside cynicism, doubts and fears to step up, speak out and organize —not only for this election but for the past four years of the Trump presidency,” Jayapal said. “These results prove that our democracy still works and that the power always belongs to the people through the power of the vote.”