Precedent and precipice: the Marjorie Taylor Greene situation

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) wears a “censored” mask while speaking on the House floor. Greene’s address to the chamber was broadcast on national television.

Today on this day, February 3 2021, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), announced that a chamber-wide vote will be held to strip Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) of her committee assignments.

The announcement comes amid discourse surrounding previous statements made by Greene. The 46-year-old lawmaker has, in the past: suggested that the 2018 California wildfire was the result of a laser beam transmitted from space; harassed school shooting survivor David Hogg, with language that presupposes the tragedy was a hoax; and has even openly called for the execution of Democratic lawmakers.

All of these comments were made before Greene was ever elected or sworn into office, and, per reports via the New York Times, some of Greene’s fellow Republicans believe bygones should remain bygones.

But Greene, even while acting as a Representative, reportedly continues to be combative and conspiratorial in her behavior. She has recently clashed heads with Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), because, over what may be a number of reasons, Greene reportedly refused to wear a mask. In response, Greene accused Bush of belonging to a “terrorist mob.”

Forgiving Greene for her past transgressions, no matter how ridiculous, might be the righteous and even ultimately constructive thing to do. However, her episode with Bush (and her reported refusal to apologize for her past comments) indicates that she remains an unhinged and uncompromising obstacle in the legislative process. For the sake of our democracy, action must be taken against her.

But then, there is also a concern of precedent. Should the House vote successfully strip Greene of her powers, suggest the same unnamed Republicans in the Times article, a dangerous example would be set, giving future majorities carte blanche to politically neutralize non-partisan opponents.

However, though the Thursday vote against Greene may be unusual, it is not totally unheard of. Throughout the 231-year history of the Congress, only nine other lawmakers (one Senator and eight Representatives) have received such reprimand. Most recently this fate befell Representative Steve King (R-IA), due to his own comments wherein he allegedly expressed sympathy for white supremacy.

In theory, there is plenty to agree with on these Republican anxieties. We have just seen (out of their own camp, mind you), the kind of fervor with which subversives pursue already-available legal options to fulfill their goals.

But, in practice, such fears seem only to amount to slippery-slope hysteria, at least for now. While in my own writing I tend to flag for my readers’ attention the insidious presence of fascism in American politics, I do acknowledge, when considering the events of these past few months, the strength of our public institutions, and their bureaucratic immune systems against tyranny.

One need only to expand their context to see that the Greene debacle bears no ill omen, at least when regarding Democrats. Once incensed by ostensible Republican complicitness in the Capitol riots, any momentum to condemn key figures like Cruz (R-TX) or Hawley (R-MO), has fizzled out, and there is no knowing when or if it may pick up steam again. Such an unspirited, spread-thin drive for political retribution is not in the nature of a party that would seek to undermine democracy.

Ironically, of those nine lawmakers who had previously been stripped of their committee assignments, four of them were removed for refusing to vote within party lines, all of them Republican. It is this such behavior, as I have mentioned before, that is a more precursory call to the death of liberty.

All this is not to say that we should not be wary. Nearly 230,000 people voted for Greene, and nearly a fifth of recently-polled Republicans hold a favorable opinion of her. If Greene was at all elected because the values of her base are reflected in her rhetoric, then being met with political punishment such as this could very well serve to fan their flames, entrenching them deeper into the kind of fringe obstinance that an “us-versus-them” mentality affords.

It is in our best interest, however, to remain hopeful. For our health, we must believe that these challenges can be overcome. At the cliff’s edge, we must choose to look to the sky.

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