Why Republicans are standing by extremist Marjorie Taylor Greene

Rather than taking a stand on the congresswoman’s incendiary and racist statements, the Republicans have chosen to play party politics. 

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On Thursday, House Democrats, joined by 11 of their Republican colleagues, voted to strip Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments in Congress.

Greene, a new representative from Georgia, has pushed racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic views. In 2018, she suggested the wildfires in California were caused by a space laser, potentially linked to the Rothschild banking firm. That same year, she shared a video that argued Muslims were invading Europe, and that Jews were to blame. In 2019, she showed up at Congress to, by her own admission, force the then newly elected Democrat members Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to retake their oaths of office on a Bible, not the Quran. She also liked a comment on a social media post about executing Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, and put out a campaign picture in which an image of her holding an AR-15 rifle is superimposed next to a collage of the faces of Omar, Tlaib and their fellow progressive congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

This week, House Democrats gave House Republicans an ultimatum: either you strip her of her seats on committees, or we will. (Greene was on the committees for budget and for labour and education; the latter was seen as particularly troubling, given that she has supported the view that two school shootings were actually “false flag” staged operations.) Instead, when Greene spoke to her Republican colleagues on Wednesday at a meeting to discuss her place on committees, they stood up and applauded. And on Thursday, all but 11 of them backed her.

Some Republicans have also floated the idea that, if Greene is stripped of her committees, then others, such as the Democratic representative Ilhan Omar, should be too. In 2019, Omar tweeted that political support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins”, which was understood by many to play on an old trope about Jews using money to control politics. Omar apologised.

[See also: How should US anti-Semitism be defined in the Biden era?]

But to point out the difference in the specific example is beside the point. If a person is serious about combating anti-Semitism or, indeed, any bigotry, they should not deflect accusations against those in their own party by saying, “What about Ilhan Omar?” Jewish Democratic lawmakers reminded their Republican colleagues of this – that politicising anti-Semitism is counterproductive – in a letter last year.

More than that, though, comparisons between the person holding an AR-15 in a photo and the person who is being threatened in that photo is a troubling false equivalence. “This is about whether it is OK to hold an assault rifle next to Members’ heads in a campaign ad and incite death threats against them,” Omar said on Thursday on the House floor. Tlaib, speaking on Thursday night, teared up as she told of the death threats she has received since her first day in office.

The idea that there is an equivalent between either of those congresswomen and Greene does not only smear two Muslim female representatives; it also raises Greene up to their level. It says that she’s not an exceptional case, but just another politician with whom people have their disagreements. Republicans could have used this moment to demonstrate that having basic standards for how to treat one’s colleagues, let alone strangers or anyone else, was more important than protecting Greene, but instead they decided to make this about Democrats vs Republicans. They defended Greene as if they were defending the party itself.

Greene showed the Republicans who she is, and they decided that’s who they are too.

[See also: Why the Republican Party can’t - or won’t - dump Trump]

Emily Tamkin is the New Statesman’s US editor. 

She co-hosts our weekly global affairs podcast, World Review

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