Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Lock Him Up

Jamaal Bowman deserves more than a House censure for his moronic attempt to thwart republican government.

Rep. Bowman Is Joined By TikTok Users To Speak Out Against Banning The App

Dr. Jamaal Bowman is in trouble.

The representative from the 16th congressional district of New York, Ed.D., has been censured by his colleagues on Capitol Hill for pulling a fire alarm this fall in order to delay a House vote on a stopgap spending bill. Three Democrats—Chris Pappas of New Hampshire, Jahana Hayes of Connecticut and Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez of Washington—joined Republicans in the censure vote. Five members, including one Republican—Andy Harris of Maryland—voted “present.”


The congressional condemnation follows an earlier slap on the wrist for the much-discussed fire alarm incident. In October, Bowman was charged in the District of Columbia for raising a false alarm, pled guilty, and received the maximum fine of $1,000. Bowman and his defenders (chief among them fellow “Squad” members Ayanna Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) claimed the proceedings against the New Yorker were a witch hunt, a vast right-wing conspiracy to harass a political opponent by abusing legal procedure.

The New York Times has taken a similar line, describing the censure as “the latest partisan use of a once-rare congressional action formerly reserved for grave offenses.” That spin is rather difficult to maintain, because Bowman and the Democrats’ explanation for the incident is entirely implausible.

Even after the guilty plea, the fine, and the censure, Bowman has stuck to his original story. He was running late, rushing from the Cannon House Office Building to the Capitol in hopes of making it in time for the spending vote. He came upon the door that he always uses to get to the Capitol from his office, but found it unexpectedly locked. He believed that pulling the alarm would cause the door to become unlocked, maybe because he read a sign instructing him to “push for 15 seconds” before the door would open. He didn’t mean to set the alarm off, and he didn’t mean to delay the vote—on the contrary, he was rushing as fast as he could to make the vote, and in his hurry he made a stupid mistake.

The problem with that story (as with a couple others) is that security cameras exist, and the U.S. Capitol complex is full of them. Footage of the incident shows Bowman strolling up to the doors in question, pulling two signs off of them, then flipping the alarm before walking off in the opposite direction. He does not seem especially frenzied. He does not even turn back around to the doors after pulling the alarm—plainly disproving the claim that he hoped they would suddenly become unlocked.

Even discounting the security camera footage, for Bowman’s version of events to be true would suggest that the man is simply too stupid to sit as a member of Congress. (When the bar is so low, you almost have to marvel at the feat of crawling under it.) Jamaal Bowman has a doctorate (kind of) and spent ten years as a middle school principal before running for Congress. Did he really not know what would happen when he pulled the lever in the big red box that said “FIRE” in giant capital letters? Given the evidence before our eyes, how could we possibly believe the official narrative, or support the course of action that has been built on it?

The false fire alarm was the tool, yes, but it is hardly the crux of the matter. That Bowman faced only such a minor charge is transparently corrupt—a kind of cushy treatment that can only be afforded to the useful idiots of the Democratic left. What Bowman was actually doing, and what he ought to be charged with, is obstructing an official proceeding of the United States Congress. This is a federal crime for which the maximum penalty is a five-year prison sentence.

When private citizens face FBI raids for edgy memes and praying at abortuaries—when the instruments of justice are wielded without any reference to the law itself—why should a member of the ruling class be absolved of an actual crime, one caught on video and committed in an effort to thwart the conduct of republican government? When countless Americans are still rotting in D.C. jails for the crime of aggravated tourism, why should Jamaal Bowman be let off with a symbolic pronouncement and a $1,000 fine? The only differences between his actions and theirs are that his offense was committed while sitting in the Congress, and that he had no good apparent reason for doing what he did.

Even the double standard is secondary, though. What is actually at issue here is political authority over the truth. There is a video, and there is a logical way of interpreting what it shows us. The Democrats present us with an absurd alternative, one that beggars belief, and insist that we accept it. In effect, they have claimed the power to rewrite reality—a power central to their political vision. For as long as Jamaal Bowman walks free, it is a claim we have conceded.