Compassionate conservatism, if it ever existed, breathed its last when Marjorie Taylor Greene won the Republican primary race for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District U.S. House of Representatives seat on August 11. George W. Bush labeled himself as a compassionate conservative, concerned with the needs of the poor, of Black Americans, of immigrants, and it worked. But the Republican Party has inched further and further away from that platform ever since, and now, moderate Republicans may be longing for the days of the Tea Party Movement.
If you’re not aware, Marjorie Taylor Greene is the former owner of a CrossFit gym who now spends her days spewing a mixture of conspiracy theories and hate speech. She says that Muslims should not be allowed to hold political office in the United States. She claims that Black Americans “are held slaves to the Democrat Party.” She has called Jewish Holocaust survivor George Soros a Nazi. She thinks that Black Americans should feel pride when they see Confederate monuments. She denies the existence of systemic racism. (“Guess what? Slavery is over. Black people have equal rights.”) She says that unemployment can only be attributed to bad choices and laziness. She claims that “the most mistreated group of people in the United States today are white males.” (Ahem.) She has suggested that the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, which left fifty-nine dead, was a conspiracy to abolish the Second Amendment. She has called Parkland school shooting survivor David Hogg “Little Hitler.” And she is a supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory movement, which the FBI considers a domestic terror threat. (In 2016, the debunked Pizzagate conspiracy theory, similar to those pushed by QAnon, led to a shooting in a D.C. pizza parlor.) To that end, she has called the leader of QAnon a “patriot,” and said that anti-Trump members of Congress are part of a “global cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles.” She doesn’t believe that a plane actually crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, killing 189 people. Somehow, the least offensive thing she has ever said may be calling the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, a “bitch.”
If you don’t see what’s wrong with the above statements, I fear that nothing I do will change your mind. But I suspect that you see clearly why the rhetoric Greene uses is morally repulsive. And this November, she is all but guaranteed a landslide victory over Democratic candidate Kevin Van Ausdal in their ultra-conservative Georgia district. Marjorie Taylor Greene is coming to the United States Congress.
And, to be clear, she is not an anomaly to the Republican Party. She has already been endorsed by many prominent Republicans, including Andy Biggs, Jim Jordan, Jody Hice, Kevin McCarthy, Matt Gaetz, and Charlie Kirk, plus the House Freedom Caucus, RIGHT WOMEN PAC, National Association for Gun Rights PAC, and Gun Owners of America. In fact, the top Republican of them all, President Trump, called Greene a “future Republican star” in his endorsement for her. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s platform is the future of the Republican Party.
The shift is happening across the country, but especially the South. In a recent Republican primary in Tennessee, Bill Hagerty and Manny Sethi traded away the Tennessee tradition of politeness and charm in politics for Tennessee toxicity. Hagerty won that contest by disavowing his previous support of moderate Republicans. Representative Denver Riggleman lost his recent Republican primary in Virginia after officiating a gay wedding. A pair or rival Republicans in Georgia are accusing each other of being aligned with the last torchbearer of compassionate conservatism, Mitt Romney, as if there could be no worse insult. And Republican candidate for an Alabama U.S. Senate seat, Tommy Tuberville, whose campaign I have written about before, has spoken out against allowing Middle Eastern immigrants into our country.
Outside the South, Illinois Republican Adam Kinzinger denounced QAnon, and, in turn, was rebuked by President Trump. Another QAnon supporter defeated her Repulican primary opponent, incumbent Representative Scott Tipton, in Colorado, and has been endorsed by President Trump. House Republicans have viciously turned on Liz Cheney for placing concerns about COVID-19 and national security above partisan loyalty. And, of course, the current President of the United States, who has a long history of racism and sexism, has recently promoted a new birther conspiracy about Kamala Harris.
The days of compassionate conservatism are gone. The current Republican game is to subtract anyone who doesn’t fit a very narrow profile from their base. Read through that paragraph on Greene’s views again. If they don’t match yours, most Republicans don’t want your opinion, just your vote.
For all the negative stereotypes associated with the South, there is a positive one, and it’s well-earned: Southern hospitality. Ours is a culture of manners, of being our brother’s keeper every day, of caring for one another.
Our politics have to reflect that.