Marjorie Taylor Greene Knows Exactly What She's DoingHistorians in the News
tags: Congress, conservatism, far right, John Birch Society, Marjorie Taylor Greene
Marjorie Taylor Greene is the QAnon congresswoman, a far-right influencer and gun fanatic who dabbles in anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim bigotry. She endorsed violence against congressional leaders, claimed that the Parkland and Sandy Hook shootings were faked and once shared an anti-refugee video in which a Holocaust denier says that “Zionist supremacists have schemed to promote immigration and miscegenation.”
She showed a little contrition on Wednesday with a qualified apology to her Republican colleagues. For this, she received a standing ovation. On Thursday, after an afternoon of deliberation, the House of Representatives voted to strip Greene of her committee assignments. Or rather, Democrats voted to strip her of her committee assignments. All but 11 Republicans voted in her favor.
Although it is tempting to make this episode another parable exemplifying the “Trumpification” of the Republican Party, it’s better understood as yet another chapter in an ongoing story: the two-step between the far right and the Republican Party and the degree to which the former is never actually that far from the latter.
There’s a story conservatives tell about themselves and their movement. It goes like this: In the mid-1960s, William F. Buckley Jr., the founder of National Review, made a decisive break with the John Birch Society, an ultra-right-wing advocacy organization whose popular co-founder, Robert Welch, believed that the United States was threatened by a far-reaching “Communist conspiracy” whose agents included former President Dwight Eisenhower and Chief Justice Earl Warren.
Or so goes the story.
Welch and the John Birch Society were pushed to the margins. The extremist tag, as Lisa McGirr notes in “Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right,” did real damage to the organization’s ability to sustain itself: “The society was simply too strongly identified with minoritarian utterances and outdated conspiracies to remain an important vehicle for channeling the new majoritarian conservatism.” However, she continues, “The sentiments, grievances, and ideas the organization helped to define and mobilize lived on and were championed by organizations and political leaders who thrust forth a new populist conservatism.”
The hard right wasn’t at the front of the charge, but it wasn’t purged either. Instead, it served as part of the mass base of activists and voters who propelled conservative leaders to prominence and conservative politicians to victory. If there were boundaries between the mainstream and the extreme right, they were — as Daniel Schlozman and Sam Rosenfeld argue in “The Long New Right and the World It Made” — “porous,” with movement from one to the other and back again. Several key figures of the New Right and the Christian Right of the 1970s and ’80s were, Sara Diamond points out in “Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States,” “veterans of the 1964 Goldwater campaign” who were “steeped in the conservative movement’s dual strategy of forming wide-ranging political organizations and activism based on more specific issues.”
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