The famed unity of the GOP is beginning to fray—and quite publicly. Last weekend, a new member of the GOP House caucus, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), called out fellow GOP Congresswoman Lauren Boebert (R-CO) for her blatantly anti-Muslim statements. Boebert had made headlines after videos leaked of her telling racist jokes and inventing false stories about Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, in which she implied Omar was a terrorist and referred to her as part of the “Jihad Squad.” The statement by Mace, given to CNN during an interview, was notable because, even while Mace hedged her criticism by sprinkling in “both sides” points (for example, by calling on Democrats to rein in far-left voices like Rep. Maxine Waters), she “100 percent” condemned Boebert’s statements—something House GOP Leadership has never had the courage to do.
This could have ended quietly, but radical GOP House member and QAnon conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene leapt to Boebert’s defense while doubling down on the anti-Muslim rhetoric:
Rep. Mace responded with her own succinct and humorous take on the tweet:
Grammar and hopes for any return to Congressional decorum aside, the attack reveals a growing rift in the GOP caucus, one propelled by the prospect of Trump’s return to politics supercharged by his MAGA base. If the feud grows into an all-out internecine fight, Democrats might actually be able to capitalize on GOP disunity. They could successfully paint the entire party, for example, as beholden to radical extremists, in much the way the GOP uses the “Squad” to tie Democrats to leftist and socialist policies.
The spat also underscores the pickle in which House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy finds himself. He needs both GOP factions—the radicals and the traditional conservatives—to support him for Speaker if Republicans win a majority in the House in 2022. A revolt by either could doom his chances to ascend to the leadership position, especially if any new Republican majority is not a commanding one. McCarthy is keenly aware of the fortunes of former House Speaker John Boehner, whose ambitions to remain in his position collapsed in 2015 when many in the far-right Tea Party faction refused to back him.
This is in part why McCarthy has remained tellingly quiet on the matter of Boebert’s bigoted, anti-Muslim language while stating publicly that he would reinstate Reps. Greene and Gosar to committees should he be re-elected Speaker. He knows that Trump is watching his every move and is careful to appease, or at least not alienate, the MAGA faction. Rather than gain him points with the far-right, however, McCarthy’s weakness apparently has emboldened them. Their attacks are now increasingly directed at traditional GOP conservatives, the so-called RINOs whom Greene now blasts regularly. These less-radical representatives are now growing frustrated by McCarthy’s coddling of the most dangerous elements in the party. After 13 House GOP members cast votes for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, for example, the far-right resorted to threats and intimidation, with many calling for them to lose committee positions to penalize them for their betrayal.
It was in this atmosphere that McCarthy tried to diffuse the Twitter feud, which felt particularly childish and insensitive in light of the school shooting in Oxford, Michigan Tuesday night in which three students died. He asked both Greene and Mace to separate meetings with a simple request: “Stop it.” But that didn’t seem to work. Emerging from the meeting, Rep. Greene told CNN that she and former president Trump would back a primary challenge to Rep. Mace. This echoed a threat by her fellow Trumpian Congressmember Madison Cawthorne, who drew ridicule when he tweeted he would primary those who voted for the infrastructure bill, apparently not understanding how primaries work.
For her part, Rep. Mace went on Fox News radio and said of Rep. Greene to host Guy Benson:
“She’s a grifter, she lies to grift and it’s not okay, she is pulling the wool over so many eyes, so many vulnerable people. Lying to them like she’s fighting for them…. She hasn’t done a damn thing since she got into office.”
The best the House Minority Leader could manage was to coax a generic tweet from Rep. Mace saying she’d gotten off a good call with him, in which they’d “spent time talking about solving our problems not only in the conference, but for our country.” Commentators derided this immediately, however, with one pointing out that Rep. Greene had posted the identical tweet four days earlier, showing that McCarthy might be able to get his caucus to parrot GOP propaganda and talking points, but he can’t really control them.
One final note: Greene’s attack on Mace was not just a flexing of political clout, it was also highly personal. The allegation that Rep. Mace is “pro-abort” referred to Mace’s public position against banning abortion in cases of rape or incest. This arises out of Mace’s personal history: Mace was raped in high school, which she described as a “devastating and life-changing event.” Mace called the “pro-abort” taunt by Greene “Beyond disgusting.” Reps. Greene, Boebert and other close allies of the former president in Congress apparently do not view anything or any topic as off-limits, and this may lead to dramatic schisms in 2022.
It also bears noting that nothing even remotely like this has happened within the Democratic caucus, even while the media breathlessly reports them as being in “disarray” over policy matters like paid family leave. If the major outlets were at all inclined to widely report on the GOP’s in-fighting, there is certainly no shortage of sound bites. To reporters after her meeting with McCarthy, Mace quipped, “All I can say to Marjorie Taylor Greene is, ‘Bless her fucking heart.’”
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