Last week, U.S. representative Marjorie Taylor Greene had her committee roles removed due to a series of controversies around statements she has made supporting various conspiracy theories.
Greene has claimed that 9/11 was an inside job. Greene has claimed that the Parkland, Newtown, and Las Vegas shootings are hoaxes, and the survivors are actors paid by billionaire George Soros. Greene has claimed that Hillary Clinton took part in a Satanic ritual that involved murdering a child and drinking her blood. But perhaps the most infamous claim came from a 2018 Facebook post, in which Greene asserted that the Rothschilds (a wealthy Jewish family that features in many antisemitic conspiracy theories) started California’s wildfires using a space laser.
These claims are obviously absurd. Many are shocked, even horrified, that a U.S. representative could believe such ridiculous and heinous things. But I think we should have seen this coming.
American voters have always wanted to feel represented; always wanted to feel like their government officials understand their struggles and are working to fix them. I believe it is for this reason that in recent years we have seen so many unexpected candidates elected to office, as voters have rejected the political establishment in favor of grassroots candidates.
This trend towards populism has led to the elections of people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Cori Bush, progressive activists who genuinely put in the work to make this country better for the people who elected them. But it has also led to the election of far-right candidates like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Madison Cawthorn, and, ultimately, president Donald Trump.
Trump rose to power by fabricating a culture war and demonizing immigrants, Muslims, the press, civil rights activists, and any number of other groups. Over the last four years, these attacks only increased in their targets and their vitriol; but Republicans, afraid of losing reelection, have largely avoided criticizing the president, and merely allowed his base to get angrier and more unhinged. In my view, the Republican establishment’s reluctance to criticize Trump and the most caustic members of Trump’s base enabled the rise of far-right extremist groups like the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers, as well as conspiracy theories like QAnon, resulting in a contingent of fanatics that were willing to go as far as storming the Capitol when they believed the “deep state” had stolen the election in favor of president Joe Biden.
Marjorie Taylor Greene is now trying to repair her reputation, even as many call for her to be kicked out of Congress altogether. But even if Greene is eventually removed from the House of Representatives, there will only be more people like her in the American political landscape in years to come.
And the Republican Party will have to decide whether they want to denounce the extremists in their base, or cater to them.