I’m not sure why the story of Rep. Lauren Boebert, the Republican from Colorado, getting escorted out of a Denver stage performance of “Beetlejuice” bothers me, and a lot of other people, so much. It’s just a play, right? Musical entertainment. What’s a little raucous behavior when one is having fun?
After all, what did she really do — besides vape in front of a pregnant woman, sing along with the cast, take flash pictures, indulge in a little slap-and-tickle with her date, give the usher the finger and pull the “do you know who I am” card. Plus, followed it up with a chaser of a canned apology.
Well, maybe it was a bit over the top.
There was the hypocrisy.
The professed pro-life politician ignored the complaint of a pregnant woman who thought a theater was one place she could enjoy a quiet, smoke-free evening. And, when called out, said congresswoman blamed it on a “fog machine” until a video caught her in the act. Boebert claimed amnesia, swearing she did not “recall” the incident.
The audience member, who wanted to remain anonymous — and who could blame her — said that when she and her husband returned to their seats after intermission, Boebert called her a “sad and miserable person.”
“The guy she was with offered to buy me and my husband cocktails. I’m pregnant!” the woman told The Denver Post.
Perhaps what rankled was the privilege.
Many members of the GOP, led by former president and current candidate Donald Trump, love to portray themselves as victims of everything. They try to convince voters that a wealthy politician is “one of them.” If they can do it to me, they will do it to you, the refrain goes.
But when a member of Congress chooses to insult an usher just trying to do a job, who, exactly, is “the little guy” and who is the victimizer? It’s a perfect example of punching down, on insisting that rules only apply to some, and freedom to act out is granted only to the “elites” they claim to disdain but clamor to join.
If laws weren’t broken, rules certainly were.
We already know that certain politicians’ support for obeying the law and law enforcement is conditional. Rioters who attacked police officers at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attempt to overturn an election are labeled political prisoners, deserving of pardons and free time to practice ridiculously righteous anthems as members of a J6 choir.
Meanwhile, “just comply” is the advice whenever an interaction between police officers and civilians goes south. So why didn’t Boebert and date simply comply when confronted with their infractions instead of offering resistance?
The belated apology hit all the required beats, as well as the final sour note.
She simply “fell short of my values,” Boebert claimed, sounding far different than she did when I covered her speech before a North Carolina Faith & Freedom Coalition conference. Then, — this was only a year ago — she said, “We need men and women of God to rise up” and labeled herself someone who had been called by God. Now, she named “a public and difficult divorce” as the invisible hand behind her public display.
Blame everything and everyone else instead of taking personal responsibility. For good measure, she said, she dumped her “Beetlejuice” beau, as though he might have been the villain, someone whose political affiliation led her astray.
In a land that values its freedom, there is still something to be said for decorum. A country as vast and crowded as America only works if citizens follow the Golden Rule. If you bump into someone, say, “Sorry.” When you ask for a favor, it doesn’t hurt to say, “Please.”
It’s called plain, old-fashioned home training.
The same folks who refuse to mind their own business, who want to tell you what book you can find on a library shelf, the ones who invite themselves into your doctor’s office, tend to have a fit when expected to model common courtesy toward others.
Even if a theater isn’t your safe space, as it is mine, anyone who’s been out of the house has heard the often soothing, sometimes comic reminder that photos are forbidden, and patrons must turn off or silence all cellphones before the performance begins.
That’s also true in Denver.
It’s not complicated — and it’s more than manners. Doesn’t this woman have a job, a pretty important one, representing the 3rd District of Colorado?
When I spoke with the challenger who lost to Boebert in 2022, he lamented the attention paid to things that don’t matter. Will Democrat Adam Frisch carry the same message into his 2024 run to replace her, now that he has a ready-made example of Exhibit A? He has already called it “just another notch in the belt of embarrassment.”
I’m not sure it will resonate, considering every pollster and pundit has noted that in a divided country, voters revert to teams come Election Day.
But by creating this little scene, a distraction from the business of keeping the government running, a concern that’s been on the front page of every newspaper, Lauren Boebert may be in danger of losing an important constituency — any theatergoer who has ever said “shush” to the annoying person who just won’t shut up.
Could that eliminate the 546-vote margin that put her in Congress in 2022?
We’ll see what kind of character American voters want in 2024 — and how Boebert acts when “Mamma Mia!” blows through Denver.
Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. She is host of the CQ Roll Call “Equal Time with Mary C. Curtis” podcast. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.