I mentioned Marjorie Taylor Greene in passing this week, just long enough to say people like her can be trusted completely to piss on the graves of murdered children. The representative from Georgia has since accumulated quite a news cycle, thanks to some great sleuthing by CNN and others. I’m compelled to return, though I’d prefer not to, because she’s quickly taking on the form of an emblem, one capturing all in one person the essence of the Republican Party and its twin politics of sadism and masochism.
As you may know by now, Greene is the loudest and most prominent advocate for the QAnon conspiracy theory in the United States Congress. That’s the idea that the Democrats, and pretty much anyone Donald Trump considered to be an enemy, are in cahoots with a global cabal of satanist cannibalistic pedophiles. Turns out, however, that QAnon lie was just for starters. A look at her long digital footprint before she took office last year reveals there was no smear, falsehood or lie she did not like, adopt, promote or advance. Like her mentor, the one-term twice-impeached former and fascist president, there’s nothing Greene won’t say to take power and keep it.
Sadism is the ability some people have of seeing suffering—of recognizing it—but adding to it by denying it.
After CNN and others dug up old videos of Greene stalking and harassing a teenager who survived the Parkland massacre as well as endorsing on social media “a bullet to the head” as a solution to Nancy Pelosi, the focus of the Washington press corps has turned to whether the House Republican leaders will punish Greene the way they punished former Congressman Steve King for his white-power comments. Apparently not. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy promised a talking-to. Steve Scalise, the whip, denounced her remarks. Liz Cheney, the conference chair, did too. But unlike King, who was stripped of his committee appointments, Greene has so far gotten off scot-free. The takeaway? Though Trump is gone, his grip on the Republicans remains iron.
This takeaway, however, presumes something true about the Republicans that’s false. What presumption? That the Republicans would participate in the governing of the country if they didn’t fear the wrath of the former president, his minions in the Congress, and his loose network of white-power vigilantes prepared to take the law into their own hands. That totally misunderstands the point of being a Republican.
The point of being a Republican is not accomplishing things for the greater good of the country. The point is creating conditions in which accomplishing things for the greater good is impossible. If the point were constructive, rather than destructive, they would have accomplished more than they did when they controlled the government for two years. Virtually all they did was pass tax cuts benefiting the very obscenely rich. They lost control after 2018, but that didn’t matter. They had the Senate to mass-produce federal judges. Their current job is the same one they had in 2010, before Trump, which is the same one they will have if they retake the House: sabotage.
The Republicans can’t come out and say sabotage is their reason for being. So they became adept at wrapping it in respectable mantles with which to convince the press corps that no, they don’t intend to starve poor people to death; they just have a difference of opinion over the responsible use of government funding. Doing all that work surely took the fun out of hurting people. The difference Trump made in the Republican Party is that. He took the party’s inherent sadism and went public.
Now hurting people is fun! Not only that, it’s rewarding! Greene built a following out of saying the most hurtful things she could, for instance, telling David Hogg, who witnessed the murder of his classmates, that his real motive in seeking gun reform is canceling her Second Amendment rights, that his suffering is a fraud intended to replace her, that his presence in the world endangers her. Sadism is the ability some have of seeing suffering—of recognizing it—but adding to it by denying it. Greene isn’t facing punishment because why should she? She’s doing what she’s supposed to do.
Being out in the open with their sadism like this means the Democrats are freed from the obligation of listening to Republican demands. (Chuck Schumer said this week the Democrats will not be suckered the way they were suckered during the Obama years.) That means the Republicans lose twice. They don’t get anything they want, presuming they want something constructive, and they can’t sabotage the Democrats anymore. That’s going to hurt their constituents in various ways, but don’t take that as reason for hoping the GOP will reform itself. The more pain constituents feel, the more pain they will demand from others. They will hurt themselves if that means hurting you.