- Republicans had their chance to bench conspiracy theory-spouting Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
- But they didn’t because while QAnon is fading away, conspiracy theorists are now part of the GOP base.
- The House voted to strip Greene of committee assignments, but her apology-free speech proved she knows she’s untouchable in the GOP.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene gave a victory speech to the House on Thursday.
Greene, a day after Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy declined to preemptively boot her from assignments on two committees, gave a defiant address on the House floor prior to a vote on whether to advance another vote to force her off of those assignments. Greene claimed to have “moved on” from her support of vile anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, demonstrable Islamophobia, violent political rhetoric, 9/11 and school shooting trutherism, and of course – QAnon.
But she didn’t apologize for a thing.
Instead, she played the culture war hits, railing against “big tech censorship,” “illegal aliens,” and comparing the mainstream media to the QAnon cult.
It was a spectacle, watching a member of Congress say that “9/11 happened” and “school shootings happen,” before quickly pivoting to calling abortion murder.
And it happened because Republican leadership has tacitly admitted they need the Greene wing of the party.
Even as QAnon falls out of favor, the Republican party allowed conspiracy theories to take hold with the Trump-supporting base of the GOP, and now they know the party can’t win without them.
Keeping the conspiracy theorists inside the “big GOP tent”
While McCarthy, along with much of the GOP congressional leadership, has forcefully denounced Greene’s toxic social media history, they have refused to hand down actual consequences.
Preemptively removing Marjorie Taylor Greene from any committee assignments would have been their chance to assert the authority of the “facts matter” wing of the Republican Party.
But when it came time to put up or shut up, McCarthy declined to marginalize Greene. To do so, he said, would be to surrender to the Democrats.
That’s a tacit admission the Republican party allowed the fringe elements of their movement to grow into a key constituency – and now needs to appease the Greene wing of the party.
Politics being a metaphorical bloodsport, McCarthy knows that being perceived to have bent to the Democrats’ demands will look like weakness. It’s pragmatic, but it’s a cop-out.
Republicans removing the Georgia freshman wouldn’t have been a surrender, it would have been responsible.
Sure enough, the Democratic-controlled House (including 11 Republicans) voted on Thursday to boot Greene from the committees anyway.
Had McCarthy refused to throw the party’s weight behind Greene, it would have severely hampered Nancy Pelosi’s efforts to label the GOP as the QAnon Party.
Now there’s no turning back. Greene is the GOP, and the GOP is Greene.
QAnon is over, “Stop the Steal” is forever
The real reason McCarthy wanted to have it both ways – to wrap Greene’s wrists with a condemnation, but issue no meaningful punishment – is because she’s far more popular among Republican voters than the reality-accepting “Trump lost the election” wing of the party – including the House’s third-in-command Republican Rep. Liz Cheney and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
And so McCarthy, issuing his mealy-mouthed rebuke of Greene, fumbled through the word “QAnon,” unconvincingly claiming to have never heard of the conspiracy theory cult, even though he explicitly denounced it last August.
Greene might be part of a small and mostly powerless fringe of internet-created edgelords in the Republican House caucus, but she also represents the GOP base, warped by conspiracy theories, that will never admit Trump lost a free and fair election.
Republicans quietly continue to live in fear of the “Stop the Steal” wing of the electorate, as demonstrated by their inability to – even now – publicly accept Joe Biden is the legitimate President of the United States of America.
Of the 147 congressional Republicans that voted – on the night of the Trump-incited January 6 insurrection at the Capitol – against certifying the Electoral College results, only 10 have since rebuked the false and thoroughly-debunked narrative that massive election fraud cost Trump the election, according to a report by Reuters.
And a portion of the GOP House conference clearly identifies with the Greene wing of the party, as the conspiracy theory-spouting lawmaker received a standing ovation from some members at a Republican meeting on Wednesday night.
So while Greene can play the “Who me?” charade regarding her extensive history of swimming in the Alex Jones-wing of the internet, she knows she’s untouchable within the party itself.
Trump might be gone, but the culture warrior conspiracy theorists carry on his legacy in Congress. And Republicans still dare not cross them.