A superb microcosm of where American politics stands at this moment, as there’s a 95 percent chance that this standoff is a stunt on both sides when the country desperately needs its lawmakers to be serious and cooperate. For Republicans, resisting the metal detectors is an opportunity to engage in performative defiance of gun-grabbing, rights-squelching Democrats. For Pelosi, insisting upon them is a none-too-subtle way of implying that Republican members of Congress are a physical danger to their colleagues and need to be screened.

Ninety-five percent chance that it’s a stunt. I don’t want to think about the other five percent. And even if Dems are overreacting to the reports of mysterious “tour groups” wandering the Capitol the day before last week’s riot, it’s possible that they’re genuinely suspicious of some of their Republican colleagues. The detectors may be Pelosi’s way of trying to ease her caucus in their misguided — but sincere — paranoia.

What lies at the heart of this is a test of wills over whether the hardcore MAGA wing of the House GOP has to follow the same rules as everyone else. They crave opportunities for defiance since they know their constituents relish it. Pelosi knows it too, and realizes that if she doesn’t impose penalties for rulebreaking, the Gohmerts and Boeberts and Gosars and Greenes in the House will break them all day long and YouTube themselves doing it in hopes that Fox News or Newsmax will air the footage. The first penalty, which is still just a proposal, is a $500 fine for refusing to wear a mask on the House floor. The new penalty for refusing to go through the metal detector is much stiffer:

House members make $174,000 per year. It would take 18 violations for any one of them to spend the next 12 months working for free. Assuming, that is, that the fines are constitutional:

That’d be a fun lawsuit. I don’t know that a fine aimed at behavior would qualify as “varying the compensation” since, in fact, their compensation isn’t being varied. They’re each still in line to receive $174,000. Whether they choose to do so or to voluntarily forfeit some of it by refusing to obey safety rules is up to them.

Most Republicans have been complying by submitting themselves to the magnetometers. Not all have. Some haven’t been friendly about it either, even though the Capitol Police just lost two members and is under tremendous strain as they prepare for the inauguration:

At least 12 Republicans dodged the detectors before Pelosi laid down the new fines. We’ll see what happens in the coming days and weeks now that the battle of wills is joined. The thing about being a “performance artist” congressman who’ll stand up to the libs via attention-grabbing stunts is that you look weak if you back down once they get serious. How much money is Lauren Boebert willing to lose to make sure that Newsmax fans know she won’t submit to Pelosi’s anti-gun rules?

“There is a trend, in both parties, of members who seem more interested in dunking on folks on social media and appearing on friendly cable networks than doing the work of legislating,” said Michael Steel, a Republican strategist and former press secretary for the former House Speaker John Boehner. “They seem to see public service as more performance art than a battle of policy ideas.”

“There used to be a level of gatekeeping that went on with how members developed a profile when they got to Washington,” said Kevin Madden, a strategist who served as a senior adviser to Mitt Romney during his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. “Usually you had to work for it and earn that notoriety. Now it’s given to you with one YouTube video.”…

“I don’t know what the consequences are going to be for people who hold power and don’t ever want to be held accountable,” Rep. Tim Ryan, Democrat of Ohio, told NPR on Wednesday about lawmakers who bypassed security measures in the Capitol. He added that defiance by lawmakers was “a sign of how obnoxious things have become for some of these folks who were supporting Donald Trump. The rules don’t apply to them.”

Pelosi’s trying to show the MAGA caucus who’s boss. The irony is that the obvious substantive argument for banning guns from the House floor no longer applies thanks to the most hardcore members of the MAGA caucus’s base. Ideally, you don’t bring guns into the House chamber because you don’t need them. It’s a forum for civil debate, not intimidation, and it’s protected by a dedicated police force. Nothing can or should be able to hurt you there.

Eight days after the Capitol was overrun, what’s left of that argument? If anything, everyone *except* the Gohmerts and Boeberts and Gosars and Greenes might benefit from packing heat at this point. The MAGA legislators have nothing to fear from the sort of domestic terrorist who’d break into the Capitol to “stop the steal.” Only their colleagues do.

But since they’re anti-gun, they don’t want members packing. And they feel no sympathy for Republicans who resent the new imposition:

Some Democrats jeered their counterparts. “Do these people not understand that literally everyone else has to go through metal detectors to get in here?” said Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va. “Get over yourselves.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., from the Detroit area, tweeted, “Now they know how HS students in my district feel. Suck it up buttercups. Y’all brought this on yourselves.”

I’ll leave you with new “Squad” member Cori Bush asking why employees feel entitled to defy the rules of their workplace, especially when they comply with those same rules elsewhere.