As the last few weeks have unfolded since the election, it has become increasingly clear that the Republican party has little to offer except to embrace the lunatic fringe of QAnon and conspiracy theorists and to simply say "no" to providing the help the American people desperately need.
Thus, they are the party of Q&No.
While most Republicans in Congress refuse to support the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package advanced by President Biden, claiming it's too expensive, they failed to stand up to the first QAnon devotee to be elected to Congress, the gun-toting, Trump-supported Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) tiptoed around calls from Democrats and even some GOP moderates to punish Greene for advocating the assassination of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), among other deranged and dangerous ideas.
Refusing to strip Greene of her committee assignments (Education & Labor and Budget) and leaving it up to the Democrats to do that dirty work, McCarthy also defended Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) against calls by the far-right members of his caucus to remove her from her post as House Republican Conference chair.
From a political standpoint that may have been a masterful move as McCarthy managed to pacify both sides at once. He avoided a revolt by the Greene-supporting far-right crazies who appear to have taken over the GOP, and satisfied the moderates by sticking with Cheney, who had voted to impeach former President Donald Trump, against calls that she be ousted from her leadership position. It's a tightrope that McCarthy will have to traverse if Republicans have any hope of regaining control of the House in 2022.
The Greene Factor
However, that balancing act did nothing to quell the seemingly growing influence of far-right members and turned Greene into a sort of folk hero for those members, some of whom gave her a standing ovation when she addressed the GOP caucus and provided an explanation, of sorts, for her actions.
In fact, some observers are now calling her "the face" of the Republican party.
When called on the carpet by Democrats before the full House, before she was stripped of her committee assignments, Greene tried to backtrack with the excuse that "everybody makes mistakes." She said her actions in "liking" posts that advocated killing Democratic leaders, including Pelosi, and her endorsement of QAnon did not actually represent her values. She claimed to regret believing false QAnon claims, such as that a secret cabal of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotted against Trump while he was in office.
Greene has posted numerous social media posts and videos rooted in Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and racism. Some claimed the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon and the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., were hoaxes. In 2018, she made a Facebook post suggesting that a devastating wildfire in California was started by “a laser” beamed from space and controlled by a prominent Jewish banking family with Democratic connections.
Many of these posts appeared before she was elected, and she used that as an excuse of sorts.
But Pelosi would have none of that.
"I remain profoundly concerned about House Republicans' leadership acceptance of extreme conspiracy theorists," Pelosi said at news conference this week. "Particularly disturbing is their eagerness to reward a QAnon adherent, a 9/11 truther, a harasser of child survivors of school shootings."
"You would think that the Republican leadership in the Congress would have some sense of responsibility to this institution," Pelosi said, referring to McCarthy's decision not to punish Greene.
McCarthy told a TV interviewer that "There's no place for QAnon in the Republican party," saying he spoke with Greene about her comments and that she had "denounced it." And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said her "looney lies and conspiracy theories are a cancer for the Republican Party." (See Lincoln Project video.)
However, the GOP's lack of action against Greene has been turned into campaign fodder by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which produced a $500,000 TV and digital advertising campaign tying eight House Republicans, including McCarthy, to the QAnon Congresswoman.
The Party of NO
Meanwhile, as Greene fundraises off of the controversy and boosts her Twitter following in true Trump fashion, Republicans are proving once again that they are the party of NO. They refuse to support the Biden-proposed Covid relief package, which would provide $1400 one-time payments to most Americans, extend and expand unemployment insurance, provide funding for vaccination implementation as well as for state and local governments, and increase the federal minimum wage to $15, among other provisions.
Instead, a group of 10 GOP senators proposed a stripped down package of about $618 billion, roughly a third of the president's $1.9 trillion plan, arguing that was simply too much money and would further increase the federal deficit.
To that, Democrats are scoffing. They pointed out that the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy and big business cost $2.3 trillion, $400 billion more than Biden's package designed to help struggling American families and combat the pandemic. Where was the concern about the deficit then, they asked.
"All of a sudden, many of them have rediscovered fiscal restraint and the concern for the deficits," Biden said.
That is not a surprise, and it no doubt is a precursor for what's ahead. What does the GOP actually stand for? That question is troubling many of the party's traditionalists.
For example, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NB), who's said he may vote this month to convict Trump on the impeachment, in pushing back against possible censurship by the Nebraska Republican State Central Committee, warns that his party must choose between “conservatism and madness.”
In a video responding to those officials, Sasse warned that purging Trump skeptics from the GOP is “not only civic cancer for the nation [but] just terrible for our party.” Sen. Sasse is demonstrating courage and responsibility. Unfortunately, he appears to be in the minority of his party.
This week, the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump will be held by the Senate. Republican leaders say the outcome is a foregone conclusion, that Trump will be acquitted and that it's all a waste of time.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) Sunday on Face the Nation said 45 Republicans will vote to acquit Trump and the nation should just "move on." "The longer it takes, the worse off for the country, I believe," he said.
Asked if Trump is still the titular leader of the party, Graham said the former president has some "work" to do to rehabilitate his image following the disastrous Jan. 6 attack on the capitol. But, yes, he indicated, the GOP still belongs to Trump.
So, with Donald Trump having hijacked the party away from its core values, there is nothing left for the GOP but a desperate attempt to remain relevant and restore itself to power, even if that means embracing the lunatic fringe like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene as it says "no" to the needs of everyday Americans who are suffering from the pandemic.