The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion There are no Marjorie Taylor Greenes in the Democratic Party

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) speaks at a news conference on May 12 in Washington. With her are Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), back left, and Russ Vought, president of Citizens for Renewing America. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
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Republicans like to deflect attention from their alarming turn toward the hard right by accusing Democrats of being the real extremists — the party of “the Green New Deal, court packing and defund[ing] the police,” in the words of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. This is a grossly deceptive framing insofar as none of these policy items has actually been endorsed by Democratic leaders.

In reality, most of the real left-wing extremists, such as antifa fighters, disdain the Democratic Party as too moderate and “corporatist.” By contrast, right-wing extremists — who think the 2020 election was stolen from former president Donald Trump, refuse to wear face masks or get covid-19 vaccine shots, and believe the crackpot QAnon conspiracy theories — are very much in the mainstream of the Republican Party.

There is no clearer indication of the gulf between the two parties than the confrontation last week between Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a star of the left who is known as AOC, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a star of the right who is known as MTG. Last Wednesday, two Post reporters observed Greene accosting Ocasio-Cortez as the latter was exiting the House chamber. Greene was badgering Ocasio-Cortez, loudly demanding, “Why do you support terrorists and antifa?” (Short answer: She doesn’t.) Greene came across as a creepy stalker; Ocasio-Cortez as a grownup who refused to engage.

This is only the latest example of Greene harassing Ocasio-Cortez. CNN uncovered a video from February 2019 showing Greene and some of her friends — including a man who would later enter the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection — taunting Ocasio-Cortez from outside her office door. “We’re going to go see, we’re going to visit, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Crazy eyes. Crazy eyes. Nutty. Cortez," Greene says to the camera, sounding pretty nutty herself.

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Greene wrote in Ocasio-Cortez’s guestbook, “You’re a traitor,” with a smiley face. Speaking through a mail slot, she berated Ocasio-Cortez for “bringing God’s judgment on our country” by supporting abortion rights. “If you want to be a big girl,” she added, “you need to get rid of your diaper and come out and be able to talk to the American citizens, instead us having to use a flap, a little flap.” One of her companions taunted Ocasio-Cortez’s staff with a line that sounds as if it could have come straight from a horror movie: "You can’t stay in there forever. Come out and play.”

These confrontations are all the more menacing because, during last year’s campaign, Greene appeared in a campaign ad holding a rifle with pictures of Ocasio-Cortez and other liberal lawmakers. Greene also expressed support on Facebook for executing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Her violent rhetoric led House Democrats to strip her of her committee assignments over the opposition of nearly all Republicans. Journalist Windsor Mann is right: “Marjorie Taylor Greene doesn’t belong in the House. She belongs in a home.”

And yet Greene isn’t really that much of an outlier in the House Republican caucus alongside the likes of Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Louie Gohmert (Tex.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.) and other cuckoo Freedom Caucus members. Many Republicans have promoted the “big lie” that President Biden’s election victory was fraudulent and that the storming of the Capitol was either benign or the work of leftist provocateurs. (They can’t seem to get their story straight.) Last week, Rep. Andrew S. Clyde (R-Ga.) suggested that the mob invasion was actually “a normal tourist visit” (do tourists normally carry nooses?) while Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) expressed outrage that the FBI was tracking down the terrorists.

Such extremist views, sadly, do not place these members beyond the pale of a Republican caucus that just voted to remove Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) from its leadership for refusing to go along with the “big lie.” (Rep. Madison Cawthorn (N.C.) celebrated the purge with a tweet revealing his mental age: “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye Liz Cheney.”) A majority of the House GOP caucus — including all of its current leaders — voted to overturn election results even after the mob assault.

It’s true that sometimes Democrats also say things they shouldn’t have. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) shouldn’t have engaged in antisemitic rhetoric (although she did apologize), and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) shouldn’t have urged anti-racism protesters to be “more confrontational” (although she made clear that she was urging peaceful protest). But no Democrat has incited an attack on the Capitol the way Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) did when he urged Trump supporters at the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6 to “do what it takes to fight for America.” And, needless to say, no Democrat has suggested that Jewish space lasers are causing wildfires, as Greene did.

So let’s avoid any false moral equivalency between the two parties. There is no comparison between the likes of AOC and MTG. One is a progressive who engages in civil, rational discourse. The other is a fanatic who has left civility and reason far behind.

Read more:

Greg Sargent: Marjorie Taylor Greene’s verbal assault on AOC reflects deranged anti-leftism

Fred Hiatt: Voter suppression is bad. But this tactic is even worse.

Christine Emba: Yes, you’re cheugy. But it’s fine!

Leana S. Wen: The CDC’s mask guidance is a mess. Biden needs to clean it up.

S.E. Smith: No, people aren’t giving up pandemic pets because they’re bored