The Day – Turning outrage into power: how much the GOP is changing from the far right

WASHINGTON (AP) – Minority parliamentary leader Kevin McCarthy appears to have adopted a strategy to deal with a handful of Republican lawmakers who have sparked outrage with violent, racist and sometimes Islamophobic comments.

If you can’t keep an eye on them, promote them.

The path to power for Republicans in Congress is now anchored in the ability to generate outrage. The alarming language and the growing fundraisers it produces is another example of how former President Donald Trump has left his mark on politics, changing the way Republicans access politics. influence and authority.

Success in Congress, once measured by bills passed and voters reached, is now measured in many ways by the ability to attract attention, albeit negative, as the GOP seeks to win back the majority in the House next year by sacking Trump’s strongest supporters.

It helped elevate a group of far-right lawmakers – including Reps Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, and Paul Gosar of Arizona – whose inflammatory comments would once have made them outcasts.

Rather than being punished for personal attacks that violate long-standing congressional standards, they were celebrated by the Conservatives, which inundated Boebert and Greene with campaign money.

“We are not on the sidelines. We are the base of the party, ”said Greene, who has previously endorsed assassination calls for prominent Democrats, said last week in a podcast hosted by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.

The Republican leaders’ hands-off approach allows them to spread hate speech, conspiracy theories and disinformation that can have real consequences, while testing the resolve of Democrats, who have already removed Gosar and Greene from their positions. committees.

It’s also a different approach than the one McCarthy took in 2019 when he stripped the then-rep. Steve King of Iowa from his committee assignments for lamenting that white supremacy and white nationalism have become offensive terms.

Boebert offers the last example.

In two videos that surfaced recently, she compared Representative Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota who is one of three Muslims in Congress, to a terrorist hiding a bomb in a backpack. Boebert also repeatedly referred to Omar as belonging to a “jihad squad”, as well as “the black heart” and “evil.” “

His comments sparked widespread condemnation and led to calls for Boebert to become the third GOP lawmaker this year to be removed from congressional committees. But instead of apologizing publicly to Omar, a provocative Boebert insisted that Omar be the one to publicly apologize “to the American people” for his “anti-American” rhetoric, as well as for his “anti-Semitic” comments. Past, which Democrats convicted at the time.

In the uproar that followed, Omar received death threats, including a voicemail message left by a man who called her a “traitor” and suggested that she would soon be taken “from the face of the earth ( expletive) “.

“We cannot pretend that this hate speech by leading politicians has no real consequences,” Omar said on Tuesday while calling on the Republican Party to “really do something to combat anti-hate. -Muslim in its ranks “.

Boebert, meanwhile, boosted her image through an appearance on Fox News where she blamed Democrats who “want to cancel me” for the controversy. She has made $ 2.7 million so far this year, making her one of the best Republican fundraisers, according to campaign fundraising reports.

McCarthy, who is on his way to becoming president if Republicans regain a majority in the 2022 midterm election, played down the controversy on Friday. He credited Boebert with attempting to apologize privately during a phone call with Omar, while overcoming Boebert’s refusal to do so publicly.

“In America, that’s what we do,” he said. “And then we move on.”

But McCarthy also indicated that there would be little consequence for personal attacks. Last month, he said those punished by Democrats could qualify for promotion if he becomes a speaker, raising the possibility that Gosar and Greene “have better committee assignments” than before.

It also poses a thorny issue for Democrats. In a caucus meeting on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned Boebert’s behavior, but warned that restraint was necessary.

“It’s difficult because these people are doing it for publicity,” Pelosi said, according to a person in the room, who insisted on anonymity to discuss the private proceedings. “There is a judgment that needs to be made on how we help their fundraising and publicity of how obnoxious and disgusting they can be.”

In many cases, the incitement of outrage can outweigh the consequences.

Greene came to Congress this year with a well-documented history of inflammatory comments. A former follower of QAnon conspiracy theories, she once thought that a wealthy Jewish family may have used space lasers to start wildfires in California.

She also harassed survivors of the school shootings, accused Pelosi of committing crimes punishable by death, and appeared in a 2019 video on Capitol Hill in which she argued that Omar and another Muslim representative did not were not “truly official” members of Congress because they had not taken the oath of office on the Bible.

Since her election, she has used her relentless attacks and viral moments online to raise a fundraising windfall of $ 6.3 million – more than three times the cost of the average Congressional campaign – while turning out to be be raffled off at Republican fundraisers across the country.

“If you say something crazy, if you say something extreme, you’re going to raise money,” said Rep. Nancy Mace, RS.C., who is one of the few Republicans to publicly criticize the rhetoric. of his colleagues. . Mace, who publicly argued with Greene last week, said the Georgian lawmaker was a “top-notch con artist” who took advantage of “vulnerable conservatives”.

Gosar, who was censored last month after posting an animated video of himself killing Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City, is nowhere near as prolific of a fundraiser. But he has become a famous figure among white nationalists and has made appearances at right-wing fringe events, including a rally in Florida last February hosted by Nick Fuentes, an internet figure who promoted white supremacist beliefs.

Yet some Republicans say that just because the three have achieved notoriety does not mean that they have built up any real influence or capacity to resist.

“There’s always a talented communicator coming in,” said Rep. Tom Cole, a 10-term Republican from Oklahoma, who used the GOP class of 1994, when Republicans took control of the House for the sake of it. first time in decades, as an example. “We are a long way from knowing how long they will stay. Many of the brightest stars in the 1994 class have been gone in eight years.

Further, he added, “The reality is the first six years, the only thing you’re going to do is what they leave you.”

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