As it is on the brink of retaking power in Congress, the conservative coalition needs to start asking tough questions about what it stands for and how it operates. It also needs to consider the easy ones, like what is and what is not acceptable and in which direction it wants to train its fire.
The introspection is necessary because of people like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who represents Georgia’s 14th Congressional District and is so undisciplined in the political sense that when she launches barbs at progressives, she inevitably hits a few nominal ideological allies standing in between where she is on the fringe and where they the liberals are.
Ronald Reagan used to say something about a person who was with him 80 percent of the time not being his 20 percent enemy. It was a wise description, not just of political reality but of the way successful conservative politicians operate. Unlike the Democrats, who are a collection of interest groups that support one another in their efforts to divide the pie, the Gipper led a Republican Party that understood the need to assemble enough votes to win. That meant, as it often did in those days, the GOP needed to court members of the other party as they strolled down the pathway to victory.
In the decades since, the parties like the electorate have grown more polarized. This may be an argument for a strong backbone, but it isn’t an excuse for a big mouth. Greene, who can’t seem to say good morning without causing controversy, seems to believe this is a good way to advance conservative views. Believe me, it’s not.
It’s not just that she goes out of her way to be provocative. That’s sometimes necessary, as Newt Gingrich showed while waking the GOP House Conference up from a 40-year sleep. But provocation without purpose is unhelpful, especially for the other Republicans who are often called upon to respond to what she’s said or done.
The latest outrage was her vote Thursday when she – as one of only seven other members of the House did – voted against suspending normal U.S. trade relations with Russia and Belarus following their unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. To her, it seems, America has more important issues to deal with – as she said later in a video posted online:
“If we truly care about suffering and death on our television screens, we cannot fund more of it by sending money and weaponry to Ukraine to fight a war they cannot possibly win,” she said. “The only effect, more arms and more money from America will be to prolong the war and magnify human suffering.”
She may think what she wants, but they conflict with the facts. The brave freedom fighters in Ukraine are holding on better than anyone expected. The Russian Army is performing like something sent by the Tsar rather than as a military force composed of super machines and supermen the world feared during the Soviet era. If she cannot see that Ukraine’s fight is America’s fight, at least so far as when President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Congress the invasion was “a brutal offensive against our values” and “against our right to live freely in our own country… just like the same dreams you have, you Americans, just like anyone else in the United States,” then she has missed the whole point about what it means to stand for freedom and self-government.
There have been other incidents as well, too many in fact to contain them all in a single column that is still of readable length. The Democrats were wrong when they voted to strip her of her committee assignments over things she said before being elected to Congress, but that doesn’t make her a hero. Instead, it gave her more time to make mischief, leading her to become a congressional carbuncle, better known for the irritation she has caused than for anything she might have accomplished. Rather than being the brave and often lonely warrior standing for values like freedom against the machinations of the “deep state” she likes to portray herself as being, she has become an embarrassment as well as an impediment to the conservative cause.
There is a profound difference, as former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) explains in his newly released memoir “Leader,” between being a person of stature and a person of status. Greene no doubt thinks she is the former when she is most obviously the latter. She has what a journalist friend of mine likes to describe as being an adult form of ADD: she can’t stand it when people don’t pay attention to her.
If she’s serious about extending liberty and protecting freedom, she needs to start being serious about the business of legislating, of offering concrete ideas in the form of legislation that will reduce the burden and reach of the federal government, enhance personal freedom, make the nation stronger and allow us as a nation to proceed forward into the 21st century with our national head held high. If all she wants is attention, she should resign from Congress to start a podcast, get in the radio business or persuade someone to back her in launching a television show. That way, she’ll get the kind of influence she wants – and has – while someone who is interested in doing the job a Member of Congress is supposed to, can have her seat.