In an interview last week with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene had this to say about the ongoing mask mandate in Congress:
“You know, we can look back at a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star, and they were definitely treated like second class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany. And this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.”
Yes, Greene compared Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s continued insistence that House members wear masks on the floor – as a means of preventing the spread of Covid-19 – to the systematic murder of 6 million Jews at the direction of Adolf Hitler.
To which Republican congressional leaders responded with, well, nothing actually.
As CNN’s Ryan Nobles noted Monday morning: “House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, house GOP Whip Steve Scalise and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik have not responded to multiple requests by CNN to respond to Greene’s remarks.”
That silence should be notable. After all, Greene’s comments are clearly a) anti-Semitic b) ignorant of history and c) deeply offensive. None of that has anything to do with what party she represents in Congress. This is, at best, a very dumb thing to say – and every politician who calls himself or herself a leader within the GOP should not only say something about it but actually do something about it.
See, because this isn’t a one-off for Greene. Prior to winning a seat in Congress in 2020, she had a long history of making Islamophobic and anti-Semitic remarks. She also publicly promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory. She has made a cottage industry of hassling New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) – both before and now during her time in Congress. Greene has promoted her decidedly odd workout routine as a way to keep from getting Covid-19. She has forced a series of time-wasting votes to adjourn the House.
Greene’s statements and actions led to a call earlier this year for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) to penalize her by stripping her of her committee assignments. After much hemming and hawing, McCarthy decided to do nothing. The House Democratic majority then picked up the mantle, kicking Greene off her committees in a roll call vote in early February, with 11 Republicans joining them to punish her.
McCarthy, in a statement, said that while Greene’s comments don’t “represent the values or beliefs of the House Republican Conference,” he opposed stripping her committee assignments because the move amounted to a “partisan power grab” by Democrats. Huh!
Combine that decision with the silence by McCarthy and the rest of the GOP leadership on Greene’s latest comments comparing masks to the Holocaust and you get this takeaway: Republican leaders are effectively condoning Greene’s rhetoric and actions by refusing to take any actual steps to walk away from her.
Look. Greene is an elected member of Congress.
And her noxious views were well known (or at least known) to Georgia voters who chose her as their next representative last November. Given that, removing her from office is a non-starter, as that sort of move is typically reserved for those who have been convicted of crimes.
But there’s a WHOLE lot of space between what Republican leaders are doing right now (nothing) and voting to remove Greene from office. They could work with House Democrats to censure Greene, for example, a formal reprimand that would keep her in office but make clear that her views are condemned by the bipartisan group in the House. They could release a joint statement from the entire House Republican leadership distancing themselves from Greene and refusing to participate in fundraising for her or to accept any money she might raise for the Party.
They haven’t done any of that.
And, if past is prologue, the most anyone can expect from McCarthy and his fellow leaders is a statement saying Greene doesn’t represent the views of the broader GOP. Which, weak sauce.
Why won’t Republican leaders take any sort of actionable stand against Greene? Because to do so would run the risk of putting them at odds with the base of the GOP and its leader – former President Donald Trump.
See, Greene (like Florida’s Matt Gaetz and North Carolina’s Madison Cawthorn, among others) are the offspring of Trump’s political revolution. They seek out controversy. They say wild – and wildly offensive – things to “own the libs.” And the base responds – sending millions of dollars their way – as they are further fêted by conservative media outlets for their anti-woke messaging.
Which makes the likes of McCarthy very nervous. Because he wants to be speaker if Republicans win back the House next November, and he knows the only way he does it is with the base liking (if not loving) him. And so, he sits silently when words (and actions) are very necessary.
The question McCarthy and his fellow Republican leaders have to ask themselves at this point is this: Is it worth leading a party that stands for nothing outside of total and utter loyalty to a single man – and which is unwilling to strongly condemn clear intolerance and ignorance? Is leading that empty shell leadership at all?