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  • Victoria A. Brownworth

Why we have to talk about the GOP

May 26, 2019 Philadelphia Gay News

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

It’s a conundrum. Democrats, progressives and even the center left media don’t want to give Marjorie Taylor Greene a scintilla more oxygen to spew her incalculable willful ignorance and bigotry.

But we must. Greene has made herself the leading voice of the Republican Party. She has subsumed Donald Trump as the person who has the ear of the right wing media. Fox News, OANN, Newsmax — they can’t get enough of her.

The far-right conspiracy theorist serving as the U.S. representative for Georgia’s 14th congressional district has found a way to make herself the center of every conversation about Washington and the current Congress. Most recently Greene compared Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s House mask mandate and other nationwide mask mandates to the Holocaust.

The Georgia Republican said of mask mandates in a grocery chain, “Vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the Nazis forced Jewish people to wear a gold star. Vaccine passports and mask mandates create discrimination against unvaxxed people who trust their immune systems to a virus that is 99% survivable.”

More than 600,000 Americans have died over the past 15 months from COVID-19.

Greene repeated her commentary about the Holocaust on several TV programs. It took five days for GOP leadership to respond with a condemnation of those remarks. That condemnation, according to CNN reporting, came as a direct result of a major GOP donor — who is Jewish — calling Greene out for her egregious comments.

This was not even Greene’s first anti-Semitic diatribe. It was just the first one that GOP leadership grudgingly acceded to chastising her for.

Marjorie Taylor Greene is a chaos agent. But she is much more than that. She is the representative of who the post-Trump presidency GOP has become. With her half-million Twitter followers, huge Facebook following and her ability to coalesce attention, Greene has the ear of the Republican voter, and that is why she can’t be dismissed.

Greene has moved seamlessly into the vacuum left by Trump’s ejection from social media. She has silenced her few critics on the right. She has taken center stage with no intention of leaving. She may have been considered a fringe outlier back in February when she was stripped of her committee assignments for promoting violence against prominent Democrats, but no more. There are stories about Greene every day in the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and elsewhere.

In February an investigative piece by Mother Jones magazine revealed Greene served as the national director of a far-right Facebook group that expressed support for executing leading Democrats and featured violent memes amplifying conspiracy theories. House Democrats and 11 Republicans voted to strip her of her committees.

Yet Greene had run on “taking out the Squad” — four congresswomen of color: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. Greene had even posed with a photo of the women with her rifle pointed at them in campaign ads. And she has since continually stalked and harassed Ocasio-Cortez.

Stripping Greene of her committee assignments did nothing to silence her nor make her penitent. More disturbing is that Republicans outside Congress love her bold, raw extremism. Just as 12 million more Americans voted for Trump in 2020 than had in 2016, Greene fast became the sounding board for who the GOP has become outside Washington.

Greene is now the leading fundraiser in the GOP Congress. Which means anyone who thinks she will be voted out next year is wrong. Greene knows her base — and that base is also the Republican base. Greene raises money with racist, homophobic, transphobic, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim language.

Prior to her election, Greene also had a history of egregious anti-LGBTQ statements. She spoke out against the Equality Act in February in the House, after which Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL), whose daughter is trans, placed a trans flag across the hall from Greene’s office.

In retaliation, Greene hung up a poster that said: “There are TWO genders: Male & Female. Trust The Science!”

Marjorie Taylor Greene has found her niche. She’s not just anti-Semitic, anti-gay, anti-trans and anti-Muslim. She’s the voice of her party. In a few short months in Congress, she’s risen to be one of the most famous, popular, and powerful Republicans in America. She has fixated on the white identity politics and grievance politics Trump championed. She flips every argument against her back onto her critics.

And she’s winning the war of words. Even in their comments condemning her Holocaust remarks, the GOP leadership also condemned Democrats. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) said, “We also need to be speaking out strongly against the dangerous anti-Semitism that is growing in our streets and in the Democrat party.”

We can’t ignore what Greene is doing because she is who the Republican Party is becoming: The GOP that won’t pass a policing law or a Voting Rights Act.

The GOP that has 60 statewide anti-LGBTQ bills in process that can only be vitiated by an Equality Act that is, unfortunately, in permanent GOP limbo.

The GOP that just passed the most restrictive anti-abortion legislation in the country.

The GOP that was silent for five days about Greene’s Holocaust statement, even as they chastised President Biden for not being supportive enough of Israel during the most recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The GOP that refuses to agree to an independent commission to investigate the insurrection on January 6. An insurrection that Greene supported and which House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was complicit in with his attempt to decertify the vote on Jan. 6.

On May 26, Greene added her name to a letter from 30 Republican lawmakers about “the rise of left-wing extremism and politicization in our Armed Forces.”

To borrow from Liz Cheney’s (R-WY) comment on Greene’s anti-Semitism, “This is lunacy.”

That’s the same Liz Cheney who was thrown out of her position as Republican Conference Chair for refusing to support the Big Lie and for supporting an investigation into the Capitol insurrection. Thrown out despite having one of the most conservative voting records in the House and having voted for Trump twice.

It’s easy to claim Marjorie Taylor Greene is an unrepresentative outlier and extremist. Yet polls show 70% of Republicans don’t believe Biden was elected without fraud and 50% believe Trump is the real president.

But more importantly, Greene is the future of the GOP in all its fringe and bigoted manifestations. The ouster of Cheney exemplifies this.

The assault on the Capitol was a singular event but it was also emblematic of what has happened to fully half of the country. The Marjorie Taylor Greenes are in charge of the opposition party. And we would be foolish to dismiss her voice — and all the hate and extremism it embodies — as anything less than an acute danger to ourselves and our democracy.

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