Tag Archives: Marjorie Taylor Greene

There Will Be Blood

What is so hard, what is so hard about saying that this is wrong?Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, on the floor of the House during the debate over censuring Representative Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona, for posting a violent video depicting him murdering Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Joe Biden.

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Picture by Hilary Stone Ginsberg

Someone will be killed. People will die. The eagerness of some Republicans to portray violence against members of the opposite party and the willingness of most of the rest of the party to condone those depictions, inevitably, will lead to violence. Violence begets violence. Of that, there is no question. And, when the inevitable occurs, blood will be on the hands of virtually every Republican, including those who lacked the courage to say: This is wrong!

Ocasio-Cortez’s question was directed at Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy, who once again demonstrated his willingness to tolerate violent and hateful speech and actions from members of his caucus. McCarthy has said nothing publicly about the cartoon Gosar posted on the Internet. McCarthy’s silence condones Gosar’s ugliness, encouraging the Arizonan and others to engage in more vileness while inviting actual violence. 

Make no mistake about it: Gosar’s posting endangers members of the Congress and the president of the United States. If anyone without the protection of a congressional seat posted a similar video, he or she would have had the Secret Service and the FBI at his or her doorstep in a split second. Threatening an official of the United States government is a felony. 

Gosar has not apologized for the video. He mocked what he called the “faux outrage,” which he finds “infantile.” He says,“The hyperventilating and shrill accusations that this cartoon is dangerous [is] laughable or intentionally hyperbolic.” In his defense on the House floor Wednesday, Gosar noted he took down the video — after three million views of it — and tried to portray himself as the victim. He vowed to “continue to speak out.” 

Only two Republicans — Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — voted with Democrats Wednesday to censure Gosar. No doubt many fear the anger of ultra-conservatives. Officials report that death threats against members of Congress have more than doubled in the last few years. Colorado Democrat Jason Crow says such threats “are unfortunately the reality of congressional life.” Ohio Republican Representative Anthony Gonzalez recently announced he would not seek reelection because of threats against him following his vote to impeach then-President Donald Trump. Gonzalez, who is 37, is leaving Congress after only two terms because of fears for the safety of his wife and young children.

Gonzalez is not exaggerating the danger. Representative Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, received an obscene and violent voicemail in which the caller said, “I hope you die. I hope everybody in your fucking family dies.” Upton’s “crime”: He voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, along with 12 other House Republicans and 19 Republican Senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

It is, of course, extremely telling that what raises the ire of Republican right-wingers is not Gosar’s gross video but the votes of those 13 House Republicans. Apparently, doing the people’s business is now a crime on the right. Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene — who may be even nuttier than Gosar — said this about her colleagues: “Any Republican that votes yes to an infrastructure bill that helps Biden pass his agenda when bumbling Biden doesn’t even know what he’s doing, then that Republican is a traitor to our party, a traitor to their voters, and a traitor to our donors.” 

Nuttiness is endemic on the right these days. Gosar, for example, claims that Ashli Babbitt, the insurrectionist shot dead by Capitol Police on January 6, was “executed in cold blood” by an officer “lying in wait.” Gosar asserts, “Facts are coming to light that the FBI might have had a hand in planning and carrying out” the insurrection, though he fails to cite any of those “facts.” Gosar was one of more than 20 Republicans who voted against awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the officers who defended the Capitol on January 6. Finally, Gosar has consorted with White nationalists.

And, Republicans are angry at their colleagues who voted for better roads and bridges! As Kinzinger tweeted: “So let me understand, Gosar’s creepy anime of murder and such is ok but [New York Republican Representative] John Katko is the sinner for negotiating and voting for infrastructure?”

In remarks on the floor Wednesday, McCarthy accused Democrats of making “rules for thee, but not for me.” McCarthy has his facts wrong. The last censure vote in the House was in 2010 when New York Democratic Representative Charlie Rangel was rebuked for ethics violations in a bipartisan vote. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — a Democrat — read aloud the resolution censuring Rangel for bringing disgrace on the House. 

But, the debate over who is doing what to whom and who is or is not being consistent is beside the point. The important point is simple: Violence is unacceptable. Members of Congress cannot issue threats against their colleagues nor against the president (nor against anyone else, for that matter). Gosar is lucky he was only censured. He should be expelled and prosecuted for his felonious action.

Violence begets violence. Inevitable in this atmosphere is a shockingly violent act. When it happens, there will be blood not only on the hands of Paul Gosar and his ilk, but on all his enablers, whose ranks include Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and every member of the GOP caucus save the two who voted for Gosar’s censure. Sickeningly, even then, they likely will duck responsibility. When will Americans hold them accountable?

Posted November 19, 2021

 

 

Baby Steps

Picture by Hilary Stone Ginsberg

I may be a cock-eyed optimist, but I think I discern tentative steps — baby steps — indicating cracks in the facade of right-wing Republican extremism and subservience to former president Donald Trump. Two recent events indicate that some semblance of common sense may be appearing within Republican ranks. I stress the may be, but the votes of 17 Republican senators to take up a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill and the results in Tuesday’s special election in Texas seem to indicate a return to levelheadedness in a party that has gone off the rails in the last several years.

The infrastructure bill has not yet been drafted, but the 67-32 vote in the Senate to move the package forward and begin debate came hours after a centrist bipartisan group of senators reached a compromise on the proposal to provide federal money for roads, bridges, rails, water, and other physical infrastructure programs as well as funding expansion of broadband to rural areas of the nation. Just last week, Senate Republicans blocked consideration of a similar infrastructure bill. 

Updating the nation’s outmoded and decaying infrastructure always promised to be the most likely part of President Joe Biden’s ambitious legislative plans to win bipartisan support. Everyone — on both sides of the political divide — believes the nation’s infrastructure is in serious disrepair, and fixing bridges and roads has wide public support. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — who previously boasted that he was “100 percent” focused on torpedoing Biden’s agenda — voted to begin debate. 

McConnell and the rest of the GOP are in a tough spot on infrastructure. Passing the bill would, of course, give Biden a major victory, but, on the other hand, filibustering a very popular measure would give Democrats a significant campaign issue in 2022. No Republican up for reelection next year wants to have to explain to constituents why he or she voted against repairing a local crumbling bridge or pothole-filled road. 

But here is what is most interesting about the votes of a third of the Republican Senate conference: They were cast in defiance of the wishes of former president Donald Trump, who urged GOP members to wait until after the 2022 midterm elections, when Republicans presumably would control Congress, before considering an infrastructure bill. It was something of a running joke that, as president, Trump repeatedly promised to have an “infrastructure week,” but no legislation was ever introduced. After Wednesday’s vote to allow debate on infrastructure, Trump lashed out at the minority leader: “Under the weak leadership of Mitch McConnell, Senate Republicans continue to lose.” The former president particularly savaged Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney: “Hard to believe our Senate Republicans are dealing with the Radical Left Democrats in making a so-called bipartisan bill on ‘infrastructure,’ with our negotiators headed up by SUPER RINO [Republican in name only] Mitt Romney.” 

It is difficult to know if the sudden courage of Senate Republicans to challenge the party’s cult leader owes anything to the surprising results in the Texas special election to fill the post of Representative Ron Wright, who died in February. Trump backed Susan Wright, the former representative’s widow, but she lost by six points to Jake Ellzey, a member of the Texas state legislature, in a runoff between two Republicans after no one secured a majority in the first round of voting in May. It is, of course, possible that Democrats in the suburban Dallas-Fort Worth district voted for Ellzey to rebuff Trump, but regardless of the vote breakdown, the results are an embarrassment to the former president and bring into question the clout he wields among Republican voters. 

Trump’s influence among Republicans will be put to the test in next week’s primary in Ohio, where a number of Republicans are vying to replace former Representative Steve Stivers. Trump is backing Mike Carey, a former energy lobbyist running for the Columbus-area open seat. But, several Trump allies favor rivals. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is supporting Ron Hood in the primary, and Debbie Meadows, the wife of former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, is promoting Ruth Edmonds.

Trump world views these interventions as acts of disloyalty, though both Paul and Meadows say they simply are backing rival candidates. Paul claims he favors a fellow libertarian, while Meadows had endorsed Edmonds, who is Black, arguing she “will be a powerful voice in Congress countering the growing BLM/Marxist movement” and whose “life experiences” as a Christian “have uniquely prepared her to stand up against the race-baiting bullies of the radical Left.” Whatever the motives of Paul and Meadows, Trump allies say their apostasy “will be remembered.”

Republican baby steps toward acting like a normal political party could easily lead nowhere. The infrastructure bill has yet to be drafted and many in both political parties are not pleased with the scope of the bill and the manner in which it will be funded. Republicans may be up to their usual shenanigans, stringing along negotiations until the clock finally runs out with no deal at all. Progressive Democrats are not happy with the framework for the bipartisan deal, and they desperately want to get a much more expensive companion bill dealing with “human infrastructure,” such as combating climate change and expanding Medicare, passed as well. That bill would have to become law without any Republican votes, requiring several hesitant moderate Democratic senators to support it. 

Republican voters may choose the Trump-backed candidate in next week’s Ohio primary. A victory for Carey would reinforce the view that Trump is a kingmaker in Republican primaries, forcing Republicans to shy away from working with Democrats and discouraging any shows of independence from the emperor of Mar-a-Lago. Nothing scares a Republican running for reelection more than the possibility of a primary challenge from the right. 

Still, the infrastructure deal and the Texas election results give reason to hope that at least some Republicans are beginning to return to some semblance of normal. Not all, of course, as Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, and their ilk are still around. But, a healthy two-party system in which thoughtful political leaders can reach viable compromises is essential for the stability of the American body politic. For that reason alone, we should all applaud the recent developments. 

Posted July 30, 2021

What’s in a Label?

America is a nation with a border, and a culture, strengthened by a common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions. From a draft of the proposed America First Caucus Policy Platform.

Picture by Hilary Stone Ginsberg

Organizers are apparently scrapping plans to launch an America First caucus in the House of Representatives. Blowback from all sides of the political spectrum apparently frustrated even such a dedicated xenophobe as Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene. A spokesperson said Greene has “no plans to launch anything,” though her office had said last Friday that she would launch the caucus “very soon.”

According to Greene, the manifesto announcing the caucus — the one cited above with its nod to “uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions” — was “a staff level draft proposal” she had not read. Greene, who does not have a history of bowing to public pressure, used a lengthy Twitter thread to attack the media for releasing the “draft” proposal, but she did not disavow the thrust of its contents. “I believe in America First with all my heart…. I will never back down and I will never stop fighting for America First,” she tweeted, adding, “I have plans to drive President Trump’s America First agenda with my Congressional colleagues but we won’t let the media or anyone else push the narrative.”

I will let others sort out where exactly the draft of the proposed platform fits in the plans to establish an America First caucus. But, that such a loaded racist term as “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” should make it into even a draft in the 21st century is revelatory. “Anglo-Saxon” was a term of art — along with “Nordic” and “Teutonic” — used by xenophobes in the late 19th and early part of the 20th centuries to push immigration restriction laws that favored immigrants from northern and western Europe over those from southern and eastern Europe (and elsewhere in the world). Madison Grant, one of the leading apostles of immigration restriction who was much admired by Adolf Hitler, wrote in “The Passing of the Great Race,” “The settlers in the thirteen Colonies were not only purely Nordic, but also purely Teutonic, a very large majority being Anglo-Saxon in the most limited meaning of that term. The New England settlers in particular came from those counties of England where the blood was almost purely Saxon, Anglian, and Dane.”

Because “Anglo-Saxon” is such a limiting term, xenophobes who pushed immigration restriction usually referred to people of “Nordic” or “Teutonic” origin in an effort to limit new immigrants to those from England, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries. Still, “Anglo-Saxon” remains a loaded term, conveying by its use a sense of place, time, and culture. Anglo-Saxon historically refers fo Germanic peoples who, from the 5th century CE to the time of the Norman Conquest, invaded, inhabited, and ruled territories that today are parts of England and Wales. According to St. Bede the Venerable, a 7th-century theologian and chronologist, the Anglo-Saxons descended from three different Germanic peoples — Angles (who gave their name to England), Saxons, and, Jutes, all of whom migrated to the British Isles to assist the native Britons defend their kingdom from marauding Picts and Scotti from what is now Scotland.

Historians ascribe the use of the label “Anglo-Saxons” as the origin of all things English to the Reformation in the 16th century. Following the break with Rome and the Catholic Church, English Protestants sought a term on which they could hang the origin of what is now known as the Church of England. The answer was found in the church that existed in the British Isles before the Norman Conquest of 1066, a church, the English argued, that was older and purer than the Catholic Church of the early modern era.

In its origins, “Anglo-Saxon” lacked racial overtones. But, over the course of the following centuries, its use and meaning changed. As the English conquered a world-wide empire, “Anglo-Saxon” became a term of reference to the “superior” English stock ruling over “inferior” native peoples. By the middle of the 19th century, “Anglo-Saxon” had been transformed into a racist justification for English imperialism.

In America, the alleged superiority of Anglo-Saxons became the justification for Manifest Destiny, the mid-19th century notion that White Americans — mostly still descended from the original settlers of the British colonies — were destined by Providence to rule an empire from sea to sea. The United States — so it was claimed — had an historic destiny to spread democracy and alleged Anglo-Saxon virtues across the continent while subjugating and removing Native Americans who stood in their path. 

“Anglo-Saxon” has stayed in the mainstream ever since, popularized in the two middle letters of the WASP acronym. The term was used by such terrorist organizations as the Ku Klux Klan, which defined its mission as the protection of Anglo-Saxon White supremacy. It was part of the creed of an “Anglo-Saxon Club” in Virginia in 1925: “I believe in the supremacy of the white race in the United States.” Fifty years earlier, the Louisville Courier-Journal referred to Reconstruction as a “scheme of upturning society and placing the bottom on top: an effort to legislate the African into an Anglo-Saxon.”

Most ethnic and national identifiers are just that — identifiers of members of a particular group. “Anglo-Saxon” in its origins refers to the early settlers of England, and in that sense has no pejorative meaning. Yet, over time, a term of identification morphed into a synonym and dog-whistle for White supremacy and the supposed superiority of a particular subgroup of Whites. Its use in the 21st century by Representative Greene and her fellow xenophobes in Congress is truly appalling and shocking. She may have backpedalled under withering criticism from even fellow Republicans, but once again we have some Republicans on the far right who are willing to say the quiet parts out loud.

Posted April 20, 2021

A Risky Bet

Picture by Hilary Stone Ginsberg

Republican lawmakers are making a risky bet. They are wagering that the party can continue to get votes from key constituencies while opposing Biden administration programs greatly benefitting those voters.

President Joe Biden has proposed two massive spending programs. The first, the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, gave tangible benefits to working-class whites, a core voting bloc for the Republican Party, yet every House and Senate Republican voted against it. The same pattern likely will be the fate of the second Biden proposal, the huge infrastructure proposal, which offers significant assistance to rural communities, another key Republican constituency.

The Republican gamble is mystifying: Some of the proposed benefits of both packages — $1,400 stimulus checks and, in the infrastructure plan, rural broadband — are visible and large benefits. A check in a bank account or speedy and reliable internet service are forms of assistance voters likely will remember when they go to the polls, and, if they do not remember, campaign ads will certainly remind them. Republican legislators seem to believe that raising culture war issues will resonate with conservative audiences who will overlook the tangible benefits Biden and his fellow Democrats have provided. 

Republicans like Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Missouri Senator Josh Hawley claim the GOP is now the party of the working man and woman. Yet, they, like every other Republican lawmaker, voted against the stimulus payments much needed by working Americans severely impacted by the economic shutdown during the pandemic. They, like every other Republican lawmaker, voted against the huge expansion of the child tax credit, a benefit for everyone with children, except the rich. Similarly, the stimulus package drastically will alleviate child poverty, yet no Republican voted for it. 

The reach of the infrastructure package is equally expansive. Everyone will benefit from improved roads and bridges and modernized mass transit. Up to a third of rural voters lack internet access and many more have spotty coverage at best, so Biden’s proposal to spend $100 billion to guarantee 100-percent broadband access should be popular. The lack of internet access has become more acute during the pandemic as children have been forced to learn remotely and institutions and businesses have placed their operations online. Republican members of Congress are going to have a difficult time explaining why they voted against such an obvious benefit to their constituents. 

Some Republicans defend their eventual “no” vote by claiming to like some portions of the infrastructure measure — broadband access and money spent improving roads and bridges — while opposing other parts — like green energy components. Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst tells Iowans that “infrastructure is just a buzz word for every progressive wish list item under the sun… [and the Biden plan] takes a very sharp left turn at the expense of American jobs and taxpayers.”

That line of arguing will only go so far. A more likely Republican tactic will be to engage, once again, in the politics of diversion, trying to turn attention away from the real benefits of administration policy to conservative culture war issues like police reform, immigration, transgender rights, and the nebulous — but all the more effective because of that — claims of leftwing “cancel culture.” Another grand Republican diversionary tactic is the current attempt to double down on the Big Lie, the notion that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. The Big Lie justifies — for Republicans — the current attempts in Republican-controlled states to restrict access to the vote. It is an issue Republicans will try to keep before their supporters for as long as possible. And, counterattacks by businesses and others to oppose voting restrictions bolster misplaced Republican claims of leftists engaging in, yes, here it is again, “cancel culture.”

The Republican bet that cultural issues trump the benefits of Democratic policies may work in the short run. Cultural issues — especially when they intersect with race in the case, for example, of voting rights — often provide electoral fodder for the GOP. But, how far can Republicans ride this horse? At what point do enough of their voters wonder why they get assistance from Democrats and only red-meat blather from Republicans?

I know the following is going to sound naive, but are any Republicans in politics because they want to improve the lives of their constituents? I know American politics has rarely been a pretty endeavor, and I am fully aware that pandering to voters is often the norm. But, I thought most people enter politics because they want to accomplish something and genuinely want to help people. Obviously, every politician wants to win the next election, but is winning — at the expense of governing — the only goal in politics?

The example of freshman Georgia Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene — the QAnon adherent and believer in the conspiracy theory that Jewish space lasers cause forest fires — suggests that for many lawmakers the answer is yes. Greene’s rightwing claptrap and outlandish conspiracy theories led to her expulsion from congressional committees. Greene celebrated her exile by claiming she is “freed” from the drudgery of legislation. “If I was on a committee, I’d be wasting my time,” she said. 

Greene joins a growing list of legislators — mostly Republican — who believe their main job is not to pass laws that benefit their constituents but to build a brand and appear on rightwing media. Greene is the political equivalent of the Kardashians — people famous for being famous. Not for her is the pesky business of understanding the minutiae of legislation. Why engage in the nitty-gritty of bill writing when you can appear on TV saying outrageous things that make you more and more famous (or, at least, notorious)?

Unfortunately, almost every legislator in the House and Senate Republican caucuses seems to think his or her job is simply to obstruct Democratic programs. Like Greene, none of them appear interested in governing. Almost every Republican lawmaker would rather raise the specter of illegal voters — of which there are hardly any — and transgender athletes instead of seriously engaging Democrats in the business of legislating. 

That is the Republican bet. If it works, all of President Biden’s attempts at bipartisanship are doomed to failure.

Posted April 13, 2021

Why 17 Republican Senators Should Vote to Convict

Conventional wisdom holds that former president Donald Trump — though evidently guilty — will be acquitted in a constitutionally appropriate Senate trial that begins Tuesday.

I am not so sure.

It is true all but five Republican senators out of 50 supported Trump in a test vote on the constitutionality of holding a trial of a public official no longer in office. But, in another vote, on the structure of the trial, only 17 Republicans voted against organizing the Senate for the trial. Probably neither vote is a reliable guide to the final tally.

To be sure, the Republican Party — including Republican members of Congress — steadfastly has ignored Trump’s many indiscretions, misdeeds, and illegal actions during his presidency. Republicans looked the other way as evidence of his collusion with Russia during the 2016 election mounted. They closed their eyes to his attempt to extort Ukraine for his own political gain. They remained silent during his many racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic tweets and public comments. 

Democrats will not succeed in finding the requisite 17 Republican votes — assuming all 50 Democrats vote to convict — by invoking the GOP’s “better angels.” No appeal to the rule of law and constitutional safeguards will sway enough Republicans. The likelihood of 17 Republicans acting on a political issue through the prism of morality is very slim. That train — the one linking Republicans with moral behavior — left the station a long time ago. It was only a one-car train.

No, any possibility that 17 Republicans will agree that Trump is guilty rests not on what is right but on what is politic. And, on that basis, I can envision enough Republican senators voting to convict because of some important trends buffeting the Republican Party in recent weeks.

The trial reveals the civil war within the Republican Party between the Trump wing and the more moderate, business-oriented faction. The latter group — led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — tolerated Trump and his so-called populist appeals because both wings approved of the tax cuts enacted early in the Trump administration and the appointment of right-wing judges to the federal judiciary. Any revulsion among more moderate Republicans over Trump’s actions paled before the success he had in bringing new voters to the Republican Party and raising money for the party’s coffers. But, since Trump left the White House, many Republicans are finding reason to question his ability to bring his loyal followers to the polls and his knack for raising money.

Trump’s political success rested on his ability to spread disinformation among his supporters. In recent weeks, his command of social media and the air waves has been compromised, limiting his reach among Trumpistas. Two social media giants, Twitter and Facebook, have banned Trump, denying the former president his most effective tools for communicating directly with his followers. Other platforms have followed suit. 

Lawsuits and legal threats from small technology companies are curtailing the flow of misinformation in right-wing media. FOX Business canceled its top-rated show, “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” last week after Dobbs, one of the most vociferous conduits of lies about electoral fraud, was named in a $2.7 billion lawsuit brought by Smartmatic. Another pro-Trump channel, Newsmax, cut off a guest who ranted about electoral fraud. Dominion Voting Systems, another company accused by Trump and his acolytes of rigging votes, has sued two of Trump’s lawyers, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, effectively silencing them.

Money certainly talks, and with Trump deprived of access to social media and right-wing television outlets limiting their recitation of rigged voting, Trump and his sycophants are finding it increasingly difficult to shape the narrative in ways favorable to Trump. And, in the realm of political fundraising, major Republican donors now are unwilling to donate to anyone who voted to challenge the counting of electoral votes on January 6, 2021. Nothing concentrates the mind of a politician more than an inability to rake in big money!

Thousands of Republicans have ditched the party since the January 6 insurrection. Trump’s approval rating has plummeted amid his wild accusations following the election, and in a new poll, 56 percent of Americans say Trump should be convicted and barred from holding office again. Republican politicians can read these tea leaves, and they also know that, with Trump in the White House, the party lost the House, the Senate, and the presidency after capturing all three in 2016. If Republicans could not win with Trump as president, how can they expect electoral success now, given all these adverse trends? It will only get worse for the GOP if the party allows Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia to be its public face. Her support of wackadoodle QAnon conspiracy theories and mouthing of anti-Semitic and racist rhetoric will drive more money and more votes from the Republican Party.  

Some Republican senators are ignoring the obvious and blaming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the January 6 insurrection or claiming the rioters were really “Antifa” supporters masquerading as Trumpistas. But, Mitch McConnell and his more centrist allies know better. They also know that the only way to staunch the bleeding — the thousands deserting the party and the drying up of political funds — is to cauterize the wound. It only takes 17 Republicans to do the right thing (more, if not all Democrats vote to convict).

Who cares if they base their decision on political grounds?

Posted February 9, 2021

QAnon and the New McCarthyism

mccarthyism (the kevin variant) n. 1. the behavior of a craven, amoral politician eager to advance his or her political career at the expense of the security and safety of the nation. 

2. The antithesis of patriotism.

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“I think it would be helpful if you could hear exactly what she told all of us — denouncing Q-on, I don’t know if I say it right, I don’t even know what it is,” House Minority Leader  Kevin McCarthy (Q-Calif.) said after he defended the bigoted, conspiracy theorist freshman Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (Q-Ga.) for her heinous remarks and actions. His defense is a classic example of the new McCarthyism.

Nice try, Representative McCarthy, but pulling the old Trumpian dodge — “I know nothing about QAnon” — will not get you off the hook. Here is the problem with that formulation, Mr. Minority Leader: The rest of us know enough about QAnon and its loony conspiracies to condemn it. And, here is another problem, Mr. Craven Politician: You are on tape, on FOX News last August, condemning QAnon. “Let me be very clear: There is no place for QAnon in the Republican Party. I do not support it,” you said then. I know you do not have a reputation as the sharpest knife in the drawer, but surely, Mr. McCarthy, your memory is better than that. But, selective amnesia is a part of the new McCarthyism.

Of course, the gyrations of the Republican House leader on Greene reflect the state of today’s Republican Party. There may have been no place for QAnon in the Republican Party six months ago, but, today, McCarthy and the bulk of the Republican House caucus are more than willing to carve out a spot for her, with some members giving her a standing ovation at a contentious meeting Wednesday night. Think about that: Republicans in the House gave a standing ovation to a colleague who wants Speaker Nancy Pelosi assassinated. The reasons are simple: Greene mirrors the views of millions of voters to whom the party appeals, and she is close to former president Donald Trump. Greene may hold idiotic notions, but she is savvy enough to know when to invoke Trump’s name, which she did last weekend as the furor over her intensified. “I had a great call with my all time favorite POTUS, President Trump! I’m so grateful for his support,” the QAnon lawmaker tweeted. 

It is hard to see this McCarthyist cowardice as a winning strategy. Republican loyalty to Trump led to the party losing the White House, the House, and the Senate after controlling all three in 2017. Sure, a public vote to remove Greene from her committee assignments might result in a primary challenge against a member from someone even further out in la-la land, but what is the value in staving off a primary challenge only to lose in the general election?

Actually, many Senate Republicans understand the danger of hooking the party to QAnon. “Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and the country,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The second-ranking Republican in the Senate, John Thune of South Dakota, asked whether Republicans “want to be the party of limited government… or do they want to be the party of conspiracy theories and QAnon? (The Senator might want to withdraw the question as he might not want to hear the answer.) Utah Senator Mitt Romney said, “Our big tent is not large enough to both accommodate conservatives and kooks.” 

Many Senate Republicans know Greene spells disaster for the Republican Party. Already, the Democratic Party is running an advertising campaign making Greene the face of the GOP. But, Senate Republican condemnation of Greene rings hollow given the party’s past tolerance of Trump’s lies and embrace of conspiracy theories. Remember, Trump came to political prominence pushing “birtherism.” Along the way, he claimed Senator Ted Cruz’s father helped assassinate John Kennedy; Barack Obama founded the Islamic State; TV anchor Joe Scarborough, when a congressman, murdered one of his staffers, and many more “looney lies.” Trump’s penchant for conspiracy theories culminated in the big lie of a stolen election in 2020 that led to the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The dynamic in the House is different. Republicans in the lower chamber refused to take any action against Greene, settling, instead, for a tortured McCarthyist statement from their leader in which McCarthy said Greene’s “past comments now have much greater meaning. Marjorie recognized this in our conversation. I hold her to her word, as well as her actions going forward” before pivoting to attacking the Democrats for wanting to more effectively rebuke the Georgia representative. House Republicans assume a racist, anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist who has not apologized for any of her assaults on decency will behave decorously in the future. Good luck with that!

Republicans also took up the future of Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the third-ranking House Republican. Cheney, a consistent conservative, ran afoul of the Trumpistas in the party for voting to impeach Trump for instigating the Capitol riot. Cheney survived by a vote of 145 to 61, but only, one suspects, because the vote was secret. On the open vote Thursday on removing Greene from House committees, only 11 Republicans voted in the affirmative. The vast majority of Republicans were unmoved by the emotional appeal of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer who displayed a picture of Greene posing with an assault rifle juxtaposed with photos of three progressive Democratic congresswomen of color above a caption, “The Squad’s Worst Nightmare.” “When you take this vote, imagine your faces on this poster,” Hoyer said to his Republican colleagues. “Imagine it’s a Democrat with an AR-15. Imagine what your response would be.”

The cowardice of the new McCarthyism is unfathomable. Just two years ago, McCarthy stripped Iowa Representative Steve King of his committee appointments because of his history of white supremacist remarks. Odious as King’s racism was, it seems tame compared to the egregious behavior of Marjorie Taylor Greene. But, according to the new McCarthyism, it is acceptable for members of the United States House of Representatives to threaten other members on the other side of the aisle with assault rifles.

Fortunately, at least for now, the Democrats have a majority in the House.

Posted February 5, 2021

The Republican Party is a Terrorist Organization

The Republican Party is a terrorist organization, unwilling, apparently, to convict a known terrorist for inciting insurrection, unwilling, evidently, to purge terrorists within its ranks, and, unwilling, ostensibly, to condemn the lies that aid and abet terrorism. It pains me to conclude that one of our nation’s two major political parties is a terrorist organization, but facts are facts. 

The Senate vote Tuesday on the constitutionality of proceeding with the trial of former president Donald Trump signals that the proceedings likely will end with Trump’s acquittal on the charge of inciting the January 6 riot at the Capitol. The evidence against Trump is overwhelming, and more emerges almost daily. His constant lies about electoral fraud and his tweets urging his followers to come to Washington to contest the certification of electors along with his speech just prior to the mob storming the Capitol prove his culpability. But, 45 of the 50 Republican Senators agreed with Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, that there is no constitutional basis for trying a former president.

Most constitutional scholars disagree, and precedents exist for the impeachment and trial of officials who no longer hold office. Democrats believe a trial is justified, arguing that Trump must be held accountable for his role in the riot. Conviction also can be followed by a vote to bar Trump from ever holding office again. 

By raising a bogus constitutional issue, Republicans have given themselves a public relations out for voting to acquit. They can get credit among hard-core Trumpistas for not voting against their cult hero, while saying to more moderate Republicans that they merely acted on constitutional grounds without assessing Trump’s guilt. As a political dodge, the argument on constitutionality may work; from a moral perspective, any vote to acquit puts the Republican Party on the side of terrorists. Historical accountability will be severe for the GOP.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has played his usual duplicitous role in the run up to the Senate trial. After the January 6 riot, McConnell announced that Trump had “provoked” the mob, suggesting he favored impeachment. But, in the week after the House impeached Trump on January 13, while he was still majority leader, McConnell refused to reconvene the Senate, guaranteeing that the trial would occur after Trump left office and paving the way for Paul’s cynical constitutional gambit.

I suppose it is conceivable for a senator to vote against the constitutionality of a trial and then turn around and vote to convict Trump. A public official may have constitutional qualms about an issue, but once the question of constitutionality is resolved by the appropriate authority, that official must do his duty according to the law. Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman, who is not running for reelection in 2022, but still voted with the majority of Republicans against going to trial, says, “But I’ve not made me mind up, I’m a juror.” But, it is going to be a heavy lift for Democrats to persuade at least 17 Republicans to vote for convicting Trump.

Republicans condoning terrorism goes beyond the Senate vote. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who said Trump “bears responsibility” for the attack on the Capitol, traveled to Florida Thursday to grovel before Trump in an attempt to mend relations. It may be one thing for Republicans in the Senate to vote to acquit on the spurious argument that a trial of a former president is divisive, but it is quite another to actually cozy up to Trump-the-terrorist. Apparently, congressional Republicans believe placating Trump is the key to winning elections. “We cannot take the House and the Senate back without his help. That’s just a fact,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina. Of course, with Trump in the White House, Republicans lost the House in 2018, and with Trump at the head of the ticket, Republicans lost the presidency and the Senate in 2020. That is a whole lot of help, Senator!

McCarthy seems amenable to rewarding terrorists. He placed Representative Majorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who identifies with the QAnon cult and refers to deadly school shootings as “false-flag” operations by gun-control advocates, on the House Education and Labor Committee. Greene should be condemned, not rewarded, by the House GOP leadership for liking a comment on her Facebook page saying “a bullet to the head would be quicker” in removing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Greene also liked comments about executing FBI agents, who she believes are part of the “deep state” working against Trump. Urging the assassination of the speaker and the execution of agents of the federal government are terrorist acts. Greene should be removed from all House posts, and Republicans should purge her from the party. Action should be taken against other terrorists within Republican ranks, such as Alabama Representative Mo Brooks, who said, at the rally before the storming of the Capitol, that January 6 was the day “American patriots start… kicking ass.” Similarly, some form of punishment is warranted for those members of Congress who encouraged and may have aided the mob.

Republicans have been complicit spreading lies that fuel terrorist acts. House and Senate Republicans did Trump’s bidding by lying about electoral fraud. Eight Republican senators and two-thirds of the Republican House caucus voted to overturn the election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania after the riot that endangered them. All but 10 Republicans voted against impeaching Trump, despite evidence that his actions put their lives at risk on January 6. 

Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney harshly condemned his colleagues for failing to disown the lies about electoral fraud. “I say, first of all, have you gone out publicly and said that there was not widespread voter fraud that Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States?” the former presidential candidate asked. “If you said that, then I’m happy to listen to you talk about other things that might inflame anger and divisiveness.” But, Romney asserts, do not claim a trial or condemnation of terrorists within the Republican Party is divisive, while continuing to spread lies.

Republicans must hold Trump accountable for his role in the terrorist attack on the our nation’s Capitol, condemn the terrorists in their ranks, and repudiate their own lies about the election. Failure to do so brands the Republican Party as a terrorist organization.

Posted January 29, 2021

The Face of America

In choosing Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden demonstrated character traits missing in President Donald Trump: A generosity of spirit and an ability to put aside petty grievances in the interest of a greater good. Just as former President Barack Obama overlooked Biden calling him “clean” and “articulate” in choosing the Delaware senator as his vice presidential choice, Biden ignored Harris’s skewering of him on race during the presidential nominating debates last year. Biden’s selection contrasts neatly with Trump’s pettiness.

Wednesday, the two tickets exhibited very different images of America. Biden and Harris, making their first public appearance as running mates, look like America, as it is and as it will become. Harris, a woman and the biracial child of Indian and Jamaican immigrants who is in an interracial marriage, is the face of a diverse nation. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” means, of course, Make America White Again, and the president displayed his racist and backward views in two tweets. In one, he congratulated “future Republican Star Marjorie Taylor Greene on a big Congressional primary win in Georgia.” Greene is a devotee of the QAnon conspiracy theory that believes Trump is waging war on “deep state” saboteurs who worship Satan and traffic children for sex. She is infamous for racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic comments. Since her district is heavily Republican, Greene virtually is assured of a seat in the new Congress next January. Prepare for the QAnon caucus within the Republican conference.

Trump’s other offensive tweet repeated his theme of “them” versus “us”: “The ‘suburban housewife’ will be voting for me. They want [sic] safety & are thrilled that I ended the long running program where low income housing would invade their neighborhood. Biden would reinstall it, in a bigger form, with Corey [sic] Booker in charge!” Not only is Trump’s subtext obvious, but his image of “suburban housewife” is mired in a suburbia that probably never existed but certainly does not now. (And, what does Trump know about Biden’s potential Cabinet picks that no one else does?)

Harris was always an obvious choice for Biden. She is smart, capable, and qualified to become president on day one. Biden vowed to choose a woman, and his final list of potential nominees was filled with superbly able women. An African American woman was also indicated since Black women are the Democratic Party’s most loyal constituency and Black voters lifted Biden to victory in the primaries. A Californian, Harris is also the first Democratic nominee from west of the Rocky Mountains, and her selection recognizes the importance of the West in American and Democratic politics.

Biden knows he is a transitional candidate — an older white male who heads a coalition that depends on women, people of color, and the young. Biden is among the last of the leaders of the Democratic Party who came of age in the immediate years after World War II and inherited the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal. Biden’s Democratic Party is rooted in the blue-collar Whites among whom he grew up, and his presidential appeal always has centered on the argument that he can win those voters back to the party. Harris represents the ethnic, racial, and gender diversity of the Democratic Party of the future. While not as young as other possible choices, Harris’s evident youthful vigor will play well on the campaign trail. She hails from the San Francisco Bay Area, a multiracial and multiethnic globalized hub of the emerging information economy.

Harris does not come from the most progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Many on the left would have been happier with Senator Elizabeth Warren as Biden’s running mate. (Warren would make an excellent Secretary of the Treasury, but, unfortunately, the governor of Massachusetts is a Republican, complicating Democratic hopes of gaining a majority in the Senate if Warren were to take the post.) Harris has a complicated record in law enforcement. As California’s attorney general, she declined to investigate shootings by police officers and did not support reforms to hold police accountable for violent actions. Her waffling on Medicare-for-All during her abortive presidential campaign indicated a politician unsure of herself and lacking in truly progressive ideals. 

Still, progressives do not seem overly disappointed with Harris’s selection. Acceptance of Harris by the Democratic leftwing stems partly from a recognition of the obvious forward-looking nature of her choice and also from a realization that Harris does have some claims to progressivism. She has one of the most liberal voting records of any sitting senator and has worked with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on climate legislation. “She’s not Warren… in terms of her background, but I don’t think it makes sense for us to criticize the reality,” says Larry Cohen, chair of Our Revolution, a group with ties to Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Cohen describes Harris as “extremely competent.”

It will be an ugly next few months. Already, Trump has trotted out a Harris-is-a-nasty-woman accusation with all its racist and sexist overtones. Trump also touchingly came to Biden’s defense when he accused Harris not only of being nasty to Trump appointees but to Biden during the Democratic debates. The president and his supporters also engaged in a completely erroneous claim that Harris is not eligible to run for high office because her parents were immigrants. Trump and his surrogates are just getting started, and the attacks on Biden and Harris will only intensify. When it comes to nasty, Trump is a master.

Nothing is ever assured in politics, but the Biden-Harris ticket is in a strong position. Of course, Team Trump is doing all it can to suppress the vote and potentially steal the election. The Democratic nominees not only have to convince enough Americans to vote for them, but Biden and Harris also have to insure that their supporters get to vote and that those votes are counted. 

In the end, competence, combined with Biden’s steadiness of purpose, sure looks good after the mayhem and chaos of the Trump presidency.

Posted August 14, 2020