The Republican Party, long at war with itself, has an immediate problem on its congressional doorstep — the future of Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene.
How the GOP deals with the conspiracy-spewing, race-baiting representative from Georgia will speak to whether the party still has a future in mainstream politics or will retreat to the lunatic fringe that Greene so ardently represents.
Green topped a nine-candidate GOP primary field, then bested neurosurgeon John Cowan in an August runoff, with help from members of the House Freedom Caucus and Trump administration heavy hitters like chief of staff Mark Meadows. The first-time candidate already had a long resume of racist, anti-Semitic, and Islamophobic rants and a well-documented devotion to outlandish QAnon conspiracy theories. Pedophiles running the “deep state,” Jewish-sponsored lasers starting California’s wildfires? Yep, all part of Greene’s fact-free mindset.
Perhaps most offensive have been her delusional denials that such heartbreaking events as the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the Parkland high school shooting, which took 17 lives, ever happened. A video has surfaced of her chasing down and berating Parkland survivor and anti-gun activist David Hogg as a “coward” during an encounter at the Capitol a year after the Parkland shooting.
Greene’s preelection litany of offenses also includes “likes” for Facebook posts calling for a “bullet to the head” of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others suggesting former President Obama, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and FBI agents in the “deep state” be hanged.
It’s not as if taking an oath to “preserve and protect the Constitution” has sobered her up. Since taking office, she has continued to insist that the 2020 election, particularly Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia, was “stolen.” (Of course, that hardly makes her an outlier in her own party.) A hallway encounter with Representative Cori Bush over Greene’s failure to wear a mask was so hostile it prompted Bush to ask that her own office be moved to another part of the building.
Greene’s controversies have prompted some Democrats to call for her expulsion, but unless she’s found to have violated a law or congressional ethics rule, it should be up to the people of Georgia to decide if she returns in 2022. Cowan has promised a rematch.
Censure also remains a possibility. But the most immediate — and most effective — punishment available would be stripping Greene of her committee assignments, especially her Education Committee post, which has incensed those who take offense at her denial of school shootings.
Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, whose only response to date has been through a spokesman — to the effect that he finds Greene’s comments “deeply disturbing” — could take away her committee spots himself. But there are other ways to boot her. On Monday, House majority leader Steny Hoyer warned McCarthy that if Republicans don’t strip Greene of her committee assignments within 72 hours, Democrats will bring the issue to the House floor.
That should be an easy call for McCarthy, not because of Democrats’ threats, but because it’s the right thing to do. And there is precedent, in the 2019 stripping of Representative Steve King of Iowa of his committee assignments after King’s defense of white nationalism, not to mention his years of racist pronouncements. King lost his primary in 2020.
As long as Marjorie Taylor Greene remains the poster child for the delusional wing of the GOP, she represents an ongoing embarrassment to what remains of the rest of the party — the party that once prided itself on being the party of Lincoln. Republican leaders now have a chance to shape the future of the party for the better, but that means taking out the trash.
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