“Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene” was always a phrase that was going to be trouble for House Republicans. It’s why GOP leaders went to the unusual trouble of subtly trying to prevent the QAnon supporter and conspiracy theorist from winning the GOP nomination in an extremely safe Republican seat. Georgia’s 14th District is the kind of district they would never have otherwise bothered to pay attention to.
But Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is reality, and Republicans need to ask themselves how much more of it they can take before they do something more severe. Because it’s clearly not working.
Greene’s latest exploit involves comparing the House’s coronavirus-related mask requirement to how the Nazis treated German Jews around the time of the Holocaust.
In a recent TV appearance, she said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) continuing to require masks because many House Republicans haven’t said they are vaccinated relegates members to being “second-class citizens” akin to German Jews.
“You know, we can look back in a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star, and they were definitely treated like second-class citizens — so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany,” Green said. “And this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.”
MTG says Speaker Pelosi wanting Members of Congress to get vaccinated and if not to wear masks is “exactly the type of abuse” as murdering Jews in gas chambers during the Holocaust and David Brody nods along. No follow up. pic.twitter.com/inXfD8UBiG— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) May 22, 2021
Greene initially argued, despite her actual words, that she hadn’t made such direct a comparison to the Holocaust. But on Tuesday morning, she doubled down — gold star and all. (The Nazi Star of David badge for Jews was actually yellow.)
“Vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the Nazi’s [sic] forced Jewish people to wear a gold star,” Greene said.
Vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the Nazi’s forced Jewish people to wear a gold star.— Marjorie Taylor Greene 🇺🇸 (@mtgreenee) May 25, 2021
Vaccine passports & mask mandates create discrimination against unvaxxed people who trust their immune systems to a virus that is 99% survivable.https://t.co/6X6VNolcA7
(There are myriad problems with the comparisons, even apart from the fact of the whole death-camp thing. First, the “logo” Greene described was for vaccinated employees of a Tennessee supermarket chain, rather than for supposedly second-class citizens. Second, displaying one’s vaccination status is very much a choice rather than something you are forced to do to. Third, getting vaccinated is also a choice, unlike one’s heritage, and institutions such as schools have long required certain types of vaccinations. But let’s set all that aside.)
This finally spurred a more-direct response from GOP leaders. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) responded directly to Greene’s tweet, saying, “Marjorie is wrong, and her intentional decision to compare the horrors of the Holocaust with wearing masks is appalling.” A spokesperson for Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said Scalise “does not agree with these comments and condemns these comparisons to the Holocaust.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called it “an outrageous and reprehensible comment.”
The pushback from the highest ranks of GOP leadership was more significant than in previous such imbroglios.
Back in January, there was a push to strip Greene of her committee assignments after CNN unearthed not just more conspiracy theories in Greene’s recent past, but also promotions of violence against Democrats and other perceived political opponents.
Greene suggested that the social media postings were from her employees rather than herself and that they didn’t matter because they happened before she was in Congress — as if she had changed significantly in the last couple of years. And that was apparently good enough for Republicans, who declined to strip her of her committee assignments. The full House later did so. McCarthy at the time downplayed the whole thing, going so far as to pretend he didn’t really know what QAnon was (despite having previously denounced it).
Fast forward a couple months, and Greene served notice she was anything but chastened. Reports indicated she was pursuing an “America First Caucus,” for which a draft platform indicated was focused on promoting “Anglo-Saxon political traditions.” (Greene again implausibly distanced herself from it, despite a spokesperson having initially confirmed the caucus’s launch was imminent.) This time, McCarthy was a little firmer, issuing a tweet denouncing “nativist dog whistles.” But the tweet wasn’t directly aimed at Greene and her ilk.
If Tuesday’s response is any indication, leaders like McCarthy understand that this kind of gentler, more hands-off approach to Greene is insufficient. Something new needed to be tried.
But as far back as January, it was pretty clear in which direction Greene was headed. Many GOP members of Congress have tolerated the exploits of the more extreme elements of their party — including Donald Trump — in the name of cohesion. They’ve dealt with problematic members like former congressman Steve King (R-Iowa), whom the GOP ultimately stripped of his committees for questioning why terms like “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” were offensive.
But Greene clearly either truly believes the bizarre things she says or views them as her ticket to political relevance — or both — and her provocations have been much more frequent just four months into her congressional tenure. The still-emerging, wild videos of her harassing the likes of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) before her service in Congress only reinforces how far she’s willing to go. And unlike Trump, she’s only one of more than 200 members, so the party doesn’t really need her; it’s just a hassle to try to get rid of her.
She also briefly hit back pretty hard Tuesday, quote-tweeting a user who labeled McCarthy a “moron” and “feckless,” using a censored word that is not suitable for a family newspaper. She quickly deleted the tweet.
What the latest episode also betrays is just how utterly desperate all of this is. Whatever one thinks of “vaccine passports” or mask mandates, there is no universe in which either are comparable to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. Even if you think there is some kind of tiny parallel and that you’ve been misunderstood as implying a broader one, maybe just take the “L” and move on to other things.
Doubling down after it all shows this is a game that Greene intends to continue playing. She seems intent upon creating headaches for her party’s leaders, and if her initial response to McCarthy is any indication, she feels no real loyalty to him or duty to keep the peace.
Leaders like McCarthy need to ask themselves with every passing day how much worse it’s going to get before she forces them to truly do something about it. You can dismiss any of the above as isolated events involving an attention-seeking freshman. But taken as a whole, given the frequency just four months into her tenure, it’s almost impossible to picture this being manageable for the foreseeable future. (It’s almost as if certain people wrote about how the situation was untenable from the start.)
About the best thing Greene has going for her is that Congress won’t be back in session until mid-June, meaning any fervor for further sanctions will probably have died down by then. But if her very recent past is predicate, it’s only a matter of time before there’s something else. And that something also will in all likelihood, at some point, be worse.