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Friday, January 28, 2022

Maxine Waters and Marjorie Taylor Greene offer a lesson on where Kevin McCarthy draws the line

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These are the same people, CNN’s Stephen Collinson points out, who have dismissed Donald Trump’s call to his supporters on Jan. 6 to “fight like hell” and to march to the U.S. Capitol—after which thousands of his supporters attacked the Capitol. At the same rally where Trump spoke, Rep. Mo Brooks said “today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” Despite the violence, loss of life, and vandalism that followed, McCarthy did not back censuring Brooks, let alone impeaching Trump.

In fact, Greene herself was stripped of committee assignments in part because she responded positively to social media posts calling for the assassination of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former President Barack Obama, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But calling for protest if a killer is acquitted because he was a police officer and his victim was Black—that’s a bridge too far!

While McCarthy has stepped up to lead the attack on Waters, Greene has had problems of her own. Greene came under fire after a document laying out the formation of an “America First Caucus” in the House was reported on Friday, with lines about “common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions” and immigration leading to “the long-term existential future of America as a unique country with a unique culture and a unique identity being put at unnecessary risk.” She and Rep. Paul Gosar were behind the planning of the new caucus, while a handful of other House Republicans had indicated interest.

That was a bridge too far for even the most extremist Republicans to publicly go at this point, it turned out. McCarthy didn’t have the nerve to call Greene and Gosar out by name, but he did denounce “nativist dog whistles.” And Greene ultimately blamed the whole thing on staff—but her disavowals rang a little hollow since they included lines like: “I have plans to drive President Trump’s America First agenda with my Congressional colleagues but we won’t let the media or anyone else push the narrative. America First policies will save this country for all of us, our children, and ultimately the world.”

America First America First America First Trump America First … but that Anglo-Saxon stuff? All staff.

And what Greene really, really wants to talk about is, of course, Maxine Waters, who she uses as an in to attacking Black Lives Matter protesters more generally. Waters, according to Greene, wasn’t calling for civil rights protest, she was giving “orders to her BLM terrorist troops.” This, again, coming from someone who described Jan. 6 as a “1776 moment.”

The use of attacks on Black Democrats and on racial justice activists to advance a racist agenda shines through so clearly. Greene is using Waters to try to distract from her own moment of ill-advisedly overt racism, but she’s not alone in using Waters to further the broader Republican agenda of appealing to white voters through racial division. As leader of the House Republicans, McCarthy is right there with her, calling for the kind of action against Waters he has opposed for his own members—Greene prominently among them—as they’ve called for political violence, harassed the survivors of mass shootings, and made racist appeals to promote Republican partisan interests. At a certain point, you have to conclude that this is really who they are.


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