And the plan, to the extent that anything rattling around in Greene or Cawthorn’s head could be called one, is also a tried-and-true one. The “MAGA” clown brigade wants to target insufficiently fascist-minded Republicans in hard-right districts, instead propping up like-minded conspiracy promoters and avid Dear Leader loyalists in places that will always vote Republican no matter who is thrown in front of voters. Greene is herself an example of that; there is absolutely nothing about her that would suggest she ought to be put in any position of power, her QAnon beliefs have been on the extreme end of batshit even compared to the normal batshittery promoted by Trump’s own professional conspiracy inventors like Steve Bannon or Rudy Giuliani, her anti-democracy, pro-violence statements should have already gotten her driven out of Congress on grounds of bare decorum, and she is absolutely assured to keep her seat because Republican voters like angry, uninformed, and possibly violent conspiracy cranks.
The risk of such plans is that you can end up promoting cranks so dodgy that they end up doing something that even hard-hard-right voters can’t quite stomach, resulting in a steep decline in Republican votes on election day as those voters stay home. Similarly, if your entire operation depends on promoting extremists with extremist views, the odds are high that a few of those newly chosen Republican candidates will end up having, ahem, past “hobbies” that get exposed to voters before election day and which may or may not constitute crimes.
The Republican MAGA brigade has been doing exactly zero vetting, basing support solely on candidate willingness to impeach Joe Biden, overturn the presidential election results, and/or appoint Donald Trump the God-King of the House. In fact, let’s just pause right there, for a moment, to contemplate the thought of Marjorie Taylor Greene or Madison Fake Russian Wife Cawthorn and their combined staff attempting to “vet” would-be crackpot allies so as to weed out any that were too sketchy.
Yeah. Yeah, I’m sure it’s a top-notch operation. And I’m sure it got even better when the staff sprung for a second Ouija board to go along with the first.
So that’s the story. But there’s a whole lot of other sketch in the Post‘s story even taking all that into account, and it’s … concerning? Off-putting? Odd? It’s hard to pin down.
For example: “Trump critics warn that a stronger MAGA wing in Congress threatens democracy,” says the Post. Really? Really, it’s “Trump critics” who are saying that elevating candidates who publicly express demands that elections be overturned based on known-fraudulent propaganda poses a threat to democracy? As opposed to, say, Every Expert Ever? When a political party is making a pledge to overturn elections a core measure of candidate loyalty, do we really need to cite “critics” to assert that elections might be in danger? Huh.
Or this: “Candidates seeking [Trump’s] approval meet with him at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., where he peppers them with questions that test their MAGA bona fides,” says the Post.
Okay, but we know what that looks like. We don’t need to guess; we saw it in every Cabinet meeting and on every campaign trail. Candidates meet Trump’s “approval” by kissing his ass wholeheartedly and more imaginatively than the last guy to come along, and they lose his “approval” if they say even the slightest thing critical of him, personally. He doesn’t give a rat’s ass about any other policy or issue. It’s just the ass-kissing. Painting those sessions as Trump “peppering” anyone with “tests” of their MAGA loyalty is very odd phrasing.
MAGA is, without question, devotion to Trump. Nothing else applies. There’s no other “test.” The party is divided into those willing even to end democratic government on Trump’s behalf and those that might have second thoughts while doing it. The Post story makes that clear, not needing to cite any experts for their assertion that MAGA looks to “purge the GOP of those not deemed loyal to the former president and his false claims that the 2020 election was rigged.”
Greene-supported candidate Rick Slabjaw—sorry, a generic conspiracy crank of certain complexion who goes by the name of “Joe Kent”—”wants to force Republicans into tough votes, starting with articles of impeachment against President Biden and a full congressional inquiry into the 2020 presidential election, which he says was stolen from Trump,” reports the Post. And, glory be, the other competitors are also ex-military or ex-athlete types, “telegenic and mostly White male millennials,” as the Greene-Cawthorn-Boebert-Jordan-Gaetz wing of the party pin their hopes on thickheaded Aryan faces with telegenic paranoias.
It’s the subtext of the story that makes it so off-putting. This is a very, very gentle way for the Post to be alerting the public of plans to further purge Republicanism of anyone unwilling to topple democracy on a bumbling, lying narcissist’s behalf. We are talking about the most openly fascist wing of the party, a group obsessed with retaliating against anyone who does not promote known-false hoaxes meant to undermine public faith in our elections. We’re talking about the wing of the party unwilling to condemn politically motivated violence, a wing that is continuously flirting with the edges of endorsing such acts themselves.
Here’s one of the “MAGA” Republicans currently aiming for Congress: Noah Malgeri.
Malgeri has the support of the white nationalism-allied fascist group “Republicans for National Renewal,” and the endorsement of neo-Nazi dabbling Rep. Paul Gosar, and has been palling around in Lauren Boebert circles. He’s a conspiracy-adjacent, fascism-promoting self-described “nationalist.” There’s not anything subtle about it.
Can you even talk about House Republican efforts to further radicalize their own party without that subtext? The “candidates” we’re talking about are ones who so ally themselves with (1) Trump and (2) nationalist “renewal” that they are publicly demanding we throw away whatever parts of democracy conflict with it.
Five years from now, could this whole article be rewritten under the title How Fascism Happened? Because a group of House Republicans who are fervent conspiracy mongers, who continually tease at the edges of promoting violence, who vow to remove the current president and rewrite history to proclaim that Actually, Dear Leader was victorious all along—that feels like a lot to take in, and considerably more dire than “House MAGA squad seeks to expand” lets on.
We’re in the odd place where anyone who knows anything about history or government is shouting at us that this, exactly this, is how democracies fall, but the papers are still trying very, very hard to write the story within the bounds of a normal political tiff. “Trump critics” worry that a party’s devotion to malevolent propaganda, a rejection of facts, an insistence on anti-intellectualism that paints even dying in a pandemic as preferable to going along with scheming scientists, and a singleminded devotion to a showboating lifelong buffoon are all core fascist tenets that Republicanism has rewritten itself to accommodate.
Maybe that’s because anyone unwilling to accept the new premise that a narcissist who has blamed “fraud” or “cheating” for every loss in his sorry-ass life was “cheated” out of reelection has been declared a “Trump critic.”
Republican extremists have been very successful in defining that boundary and getting political reporters to adhere to it. If you are willing to denounce objective facts and declare that reality is now whatever Donald Trump last said it was, you are “MAGA.” Everyone else, every other person in America regardless of party, partisanship, or profession, is now only a Trump critic.