For the last two election cycles, Republican messaging has centered on branding Democrats as an angry mob. Indeed, the incessant hand-wringing we”;ve seen from the GOP of late about Democrats being a gaggle of radical socialists is an outgrowth of that line. It partially explains the unexpected gains Republicans made among Latinos in 2020. For many of them, “;socialism”; brought back flashbacks of the likes of Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Nicolás Maduro.
On paper, that canard should have been debunked once and for all with the Jan. 6 insurrection. If I were Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Sean Patrick Maloney, that day”;s horror would have made the task of crafting responses to Republican smears almost comically easy. After all, Trump, who spent the last three-plus years warning the nation about the dangers of handing the levers of power to a Democratic mob, had spent the better part of two months inciting an actual mob to storm the Capitol.
But Maloney doesn”;t just have Trump”;s incendiary tactics to mine for ad copy. He can look at the tactics of Trump”;s acolytes in the House–;many of which are among the very things they accuse those wild-eyed radical socialist Democrats of doing. Indeed, it”;s gotten to the point that these “;America First”; bomb-throwers have become the very thing Republicans claim to despise–;if they haven”;t become so already.
For instance, take the woman who is by far the most odious member of the House, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. She came roaring into Washington under the slogan “;Save America, stop socialism!”; As part of that effort, she billed herself as one of the foot soldiers in the conservative war against cancel culture.
And yet, for all her hand-wringing about cancel culture, Greene has no qualms about wanting to cancel her foes. For those who don”;t recall, Greene initially made a name for herself as a true believer in QAnon. However, in an unsuccessful bid to keep the House from stripping her of her committee assignments due to her dangerous and violent behavior before and after her election, Greene claimed to have renounced QAnon in 2018.
One problem–;that isn”;t true. As late as Jan. 31–;days before the House formally booted her off her committee seats–;Greene told fellow right-wing provocateur Raheem Kassam that some of the same “;anti-Trump pedos”; who made life miserable for Trump were after her as well.
What would the list of the anti-Trump pedos and associates look like? It would likely contain all of the people currently frothing with MTG hate. List though. Isn”;t that what they do? They put us all on list. After me, they are coming for more Republicans on their list. https://t.co/SQJdnSHJ2M
–; Marjorie Taylor Greene 🇺🇸 (@mtgreenee) February 1, 2021
For those who don”;t know, it”;s an article of faith among QAnon followers that if you loudly oppose The Messiah, Lord Donald Trump, The Most Merciful, you”;re likely covering for pedophiles–;that is, if you aren”;t a pedophile yourself. Greene and other QAnon followers know damn well that pedophiles, as well as those perceived as being cozy with them, rank among the lowest of the low on the social scale. If branding someone as a pedophile, or a supporter of pedophiles, isn”;t an attempt to cancel them, what is? Oh, silly me–;as we longtime Kossacks would say, it”;s okay if you”;re a Republican. Or in this case, it”;s okay if you”;re making America great again.
But that isn”;t the worst case of Greene attempting to cancel her foes. Not by a longshot. On June 29, while appearing on Steve Bannon”;s War Room podcast, Greene read out the private cell phone number of the director of the National Children”;s Museum, then urged the audience to call it. Greene was perturbed that the museum had anti-racism material on its website. But to essentially call for someone to be harassed over it? Hmmm, last I checked, that”;s no different from stirring up an angry mob.
That event echoes the tactics used by the colectivos, the irregular Venezuelan paramilitary groups who have few qualms about resorting to violence and intimidation in order to silence those who dare oppose the regime built by Chavez and continued by Maduro. Part of their playbook includes attacks on dissidents and death threats against journalists. What Greene did here is no different. So we have someone whose tagline is “;Save America, stop socialism!”; borrowing a page from Chavez and Maduro”;s playbook.
A slightly less egregious case of hypocrisy on Greene’s part comes from her full-throated support for a fellow Trump worshiper accused of some of the very things that have her QAnon friends up in arms, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. In case you somehow missed it, Gaetz stands accused of paying a teenage girl for sex and taking her across state lines to do so. And yet, Greene has few qualms about going on fundraising tours with him. If it does turn out Gaetz is guilty, Greene runs the risk of appearing to cover for a pedophile.
Gaetz himself has few qualms about stirring up an angry mob in order to make America great again. In 2019, Gaetz convinced at least 41 of his Republican compatriots to join him in barging into a secure hearing room to disrupt a classified hearing on Trump”;s attempt to shake down Ukraine. That scene looked like something you”;d expect in a movie about political turmoil in a developing nation.
And yet, just days later, Gaetz told Sean Hannity–;with a straight face–;that Bernie Sanders”; rise in the 2020 Democratic primary was a sign that the Democrats”; “;Venezuelan wing”; was beginning to flex its muscles. This after he led a stunt that would have done Maduro proud.
One of the Republicans who joined Gaetz in this Venezuelan-style stunt was another America Firster who has few qualms about encouraging mob behavior, Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona. Lately, Gosar has taken it upon himself to champion the cause of Jan. 6 insurrectionist Ashli Babbitt.
For those who don”;t know, it”;s gospel on the right that when a Capitol Police officer shot Babbitt as two of her fellow “;patriots”; hoisted her through a broken window in the Speaker”;s Lobby, it amounted to manslaughter at best and murder at worst. Gosar revealed himself to be of that mind on the Saturday before Memorial Day, when he tweeted out a memorial to Babbitt while repurposing the lyrics of a U2 song written in memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. Never mind that at least one of the people who stormed the Capitol recalled hearing repeated warnings to “;get back, get out of the way”; before Babbitt barreled through the window.
But such little things were lost on Gosar. In June, during hearings on the insurrection, Gosar joined the chorus of right-wingers demanding that the Capitol Police release the name of the officer who shot Babbitt. In so doing, Gosar justified why that cop”;s name is being kept private.
Gosar represents a swath of northwestern Arizona that is the reddest district in the Mountain Standard Time zone; it has a Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) of R+22, and Trump won it by punishing margins in both of his runs for president (68-28 in 2016, 68-31 in 2020). It includes some of the prettiest territory in the nation, including the Grand Canyon and Lake Havasu. Even before his willingness to effectively call a Code Red on the cop who shot Babbitt, Gosar had given us plenty of reason to wonder how such beautiful territory could be represented by a tool. This is a man who once called Native Americans wards of the government, claimed Pope Francis sounded “;like a leftist politician”; for–;horrors!–;talking about climate change, and suggested Holocaust survivor and longtime right-wing whipping boy George Soros was in bed with Nazis.
At first, it seemed there was a plausible explanation. Arizona uses nonpartisan redistricting, so it could be argued that he really does represent that district. But championing the cause of a woman who betrayed her oath to defend this country “;against all enemies, foreign and domestic,”; then going as far as to recklessly endanger the cop who shot her? That can”;t be explained just by the deep-red tint of his district. Gee, doesn”;t that sound like the kind of thing Gosar and friends accuse BLM and Antifa of doing? Oh, that”;s right–;it”;s okay if you”;re making America great again.
Lest you think that this sort of far-right grandstanding is limited to the older generation of Republicans, the youngest member of the House, Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, seems to be following the deplorable example of his elders. We got a hint of this with this tweet being the first thing he did after his election as congressman for Asheville and the Blue Ridge.
Cry more, lib.
–; Madison Cawthorn (@CawthornforNC) November 4, 2020
A month after the election, he told a Turning Point USA conference that he intended to object to the count of electoral votes–;and urged the audience to “;lightly threaten”; their representatives to join him in doing so.
True to his word, Cawthorn objected–;and maintained that objection even after the Capitol was secured. But on Jan. 23, CNN”;s Pamela Brown pressed Cawthorn to admit that there was no voter fraud–;in the same breath that he claimed the insurrection “;didn”;t affect my thinking”; about voter fraud claims.
So if Cawthorn knew there was no voter fraud, then why give succor to those baseless claims by voting to object? Why did he call his Republican compatriots “;spineless cowards“; for backing down from their plans to object after the insurrection? And why did he fundraise off these baseless claims? To this North Carolinian”;s mind, Cawthorn brought as much dishonor upon our state in a few weeks as Jesse Helms brought in 30 years.
It looks like we may be seeing more of the same from Cawthorn. He has openly admitted that he has oriented his staff “;around comm[unication]s rather than legislating.”; In other words, he cares more about bomb-throwing than actually doing some good for the people of western North Carolina.
This contrasts sharply with how the members of the Squad have performed. Take Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for instance. Over the last two years, we”;ve gotten a lot of joy seeing her posterize those foolish enough to come for her on Twitter. But unlike Cawthorn, she cares about the actual work of being in Congress.
Indeed, her speeches in committee and before the full House show a level of preparation that we usually don”;t see from ten-termers. For instance, watch her grill Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross about Trump’s effort to add a citizenship question to the census, quoting the relevant law chapter and section.
AOC and the other members of the Squad–;Reps. Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Cori Bush, and Jamaal Bowman–;represent districts with PVIs of at least D+20, and will all likely grow old in those seats. And yet, with few exceptions, we haven”;t seen the kind of unhinged bomb-throwing we”;ve seen from the likes of Greene, Gaetz, Gosar, and Cawthorn. All of them represent districts with PVIs of at least R+9, and only Cawthorn would even be remotely under threat in a normal year (though Greene”;s outrages have led to the spectacle of Democrats lining up to run in an R+28 district).
When you represent a district that is either so blue it would elect a comatose Democrat or so red that it would elect a comatose Republican, you have two choices: you can either use the tremendous job security you will likely enjoy representing your district with honor and integrity, or you can act like an unhinged monster. It has been amply demonstrated that Greene, Gaetz, Gosar, Cawthorn, and their fellow America Firsters in deep-red districts have chosen the latter route.
All things considered, one has to wonder if racism drives how Republicans call Democrats an angry mob when bomb-throwers like Greene, Gaetz, Gosar, and Cawthorn engage in some of the very things that they accuse Democrats of doing. There”;s no denying race does play a role in it. Look no further than Trump himself. In September 2019, for instance, when he attacked several Democratic lawmakers as “;savages,”; he damned well knew that he was referring to a Latina (AOC), two Black folks (Omar and Pressley), an Arab (Tlaib), and two Jews (Reps. Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler).
But there”;s ample evidence that it”;s not all racial, though. For instance, remember the furor over Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripping a copy of Trump”;s 2020 State of the Union speech? She actually faced calls for her resignation over it, with law professor Jonathan Turley arguing that Pelosi either didn”;t know or understand she was representing the whole House.
But there was nary a peep when Cook Political Report House editor Dave Wasserman revealed that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had told him on a number of occasions prior to Jan. 6 that he knew Biden had won. So when McCarthy joined his Republican colleagues in signing on to a legal Hail Mary that was nominally filed by Texas, but actually drafted by Trump”;s legal team, he did so knowing it was bogus. And when he objected to the vote count, he did so when he damned well knew that there was no basis for doing so. There is something wrong if merely ripping a copy of a speech draws more hackles than knowing pernicious lies about an election are pernicious lies and doing nothing.
Moreover, McCarthy sat on his hands when Gaetz organized the raid on the secure hearing room–;even though his own second-in-command, Minority Whip Steve Scalise, helped lead it. We all know he wouldn”;t have remained silent had the Democrats done something like this in a Republican-led House.
The GOP likes to brand itself as “;the party of personal responsibility.”; Well, they”;ve shown precious little of that “;personal responsibility”; when they accuse Democrats of being an angry mob while engaging in tactics that make them look like, well, an angry mob. The likes of Greene, Gaetz, Gosar, and Cawthorn care more about “;owning the libs”; than dealing with the real issues at hand. However, Democrats are willing to get their hands dirty with the actual work that comes with being in Congress. Hopefully, those paying attention will see that one party actually cares about governing.
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