To paraphrase the Book of Matthew, you live by the sword and you die by the sword. Two thousand years later, this is just as true. A once-proud political party, the one that gave us Abraham Lincoln, stoops to playing footsie with deranged conspiracy theorists and white supremacists and lo and behold, here’s what gets elected to the U.S. House of Representatives under their banner: No less than Marjorie Taylor Greene, the 46-year-old former gym owner who holds views that can, at the very least, be described as wacky or fringe-y but also clearly racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, fascist, insurrectionist and un-American.
Exceptionally gross comes to mind, too, particularly given that the Georgia Republican believes that infamous mass shooting events such as the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary were phony or perhaps staged to feed a gun control narrative. And did I mention she’s been known to ridicule young victims of school shootings?
But then you don’t really need a casual observer to point all of this out. It’s not exactly a secret. No less a personage than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a robust condemnation of her just this week describing the congresswoman’s views as “loony lies” and a “cancer” for his political party.
“Somebody who’s suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were prestaged and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.’s airplane is not living in reality,” McConnell said. I would celebrate the senator’s clear-eyed take on this, except it’s years late and does not go far enough. Where was he when Donald Trump slipped off the rails these last four years and went around endorsing such crazy candidates and then attacked voting? Missing in action is where. Even now, the senator can’t quite bring himself to acknowledge the role of his party and his president in creating this legacy.
The vigorous call for the congresswoman to be denied her seats on committees (especially the one that supervises education, for heaven’s sake) is so plainly needed that one wonders why House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy hasn’t already embraced it. Oh, right, because he’s even more committed to the ex-president than McConnell. Has it occurred to him that the upcoming impeachment trial is going to explore the recent attack on the U.S. Capitol and that the party’s casual acceptance of riot cheerleaders like QAnon-fan Greene, who has specifically endorsed violence against fellow House members (liking a 2019 social media comment about putting a “bullet to the head” of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example), is going to look really, really bad. Good on Maryland’s own Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, for promising a vote to strip those committee assignments if Republicans can’t police their own.
It’s also thoroughly unsurprising that Greene sees herself as a victim in all this brouhaha, lashing out at McConnell and suggesting Monday that “the real cancer for the Republican Party is weak Republicans who only know how to lose gracefully.” But hey, if Republicans knew how to lose gracefully, the Jan. 6 attack wouldn’t have happened, so there’s another wacky theory down the drain along with Barack Obama is a Muslim, Hillary Clinton ran a human trafficking ring out of a D.C. pizza parlor and the attack on the Capitol was a product of the Black Lives Matter movement. One can only assume that lots of voters living in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District don’t buy most of this malarkey (to use a Joe Bidenism), but they may think this comes with the “outsider who shakes things up” political persona that Trump so popularized.
In more civil times, political parties actively discouraged extremism if only as a matter of self-preservation in a nation where most voters seem themselves in the middle of the political spectrum. Now, they seem to encourage it as a way to energize their base. And with the rise of social media, candidates don’t really need traditional party structure to do their fundraising, outreach and organizing. Greene isn’t the first of her kind and she’s unlikely to be the last (paging Colorado Rep. Lauren “Today is 1776″ Boebert). Democrats may see advantage in this, but they probably shouldn’t. A failure of Republican Party centrists bodes poorly for the governance of this nation. And the Democrats have their own left-wing issues to contend with. Perhaps none quite so out-and-out crazy as Greene, but Twitter certainly hosts its share of liberal extremists, too. Just with fewer nutty conspiracy theories.