Kevin McCarthy, @GOPLeader, has 1.3 million Twitter followers. His second-in-command, Steve Scalise has two Twitter accounts, @SteveScaliseGOP (51.2K followers) and @SteveScalise (467.2K followers) for a total of 518.4K followers. And the #3 in the Republican House hierarchy, Elise Stefanik also has two accounts, @EliseStefanik (372.7K followers) and @RepStefanik (230.9K followers) for a total of 603.6K followers. Now what about the extremist loudmouths from the House GOP conference?
Sex trafficker and self-described "Florida Man" Matt Gaetz also has two accounts, one with 1.3 million followers, same as McCarthy's and one with a million followers-- so a total of 2.3 million. Sex scandal sells. Gym Jordan has 3 official Twitter accounts with a total of 2,255,332 followers. Lauren Boebert has 2 accounts (not counting the Lauren Boebert Fan Account with 856 followers) with a combined 837K followers. North Carolina Nazi Madison Cawthorn's 2 official accounts have 377.9K followers. Arizona far right insurrectionists Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar have, respectively 337.7K and 277.7K Twitter followers. And a couple of other proud insurrectionists, Mo Brooks (R-AL) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) have, again, respectively, 134.9K and 407.8K followers. Last but not least Marjorie Traitor Greene's two accounts have 725K followers.
(Just by way of comparison, @Speaker Pelosi has 7.1 million followers and @TeamPelosi has 812.7K followers. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has two official accounts. @AOC has 12.7 million followers and @RepAOC has 689K, more than all those Republican accounts combined.)
But what I'm trying to get at is who speaks for the GOP. The radical right fringe has more followers than the official leadership. Before dawn this morning, the New York Times published a piece, In Iowa, Gaetz and Greene Pick Up Where Trump Left Off by Astead Herndon. Their red meat, proto-fascism, racism and their blatant lies have a strong following among Republicans looking for something to fill their empty, pointless, paranoid lives. Their crowds are small but fervent and the tour has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars but it apparently makes Greene and Gaetz feel good about themselves. In Washington," wrote Herndon, "the two members of Congress are treated like little more than a media sideshow, a nuisance for Republican leaders. They do not have traditional legislative power, and antics like Greene’s promise to bring impeachment articles against Biden gain no traction in Congress... They are messengers of the type of white grievance politics that Trump deployed nationally. They say openly what others will only hint at, no matter its factual basis or the risk of backlash. And they speak with the fearful moral urgency that many Republican voters feel.
"As the two Republican lawmakers spoke at an 'America First' rally in Des Moines, held in an auditorium that often hosts people with presidential aspirations," he wrote, "up was down and misinformation was gospel. Ms. Greene denounced Covid-19 vaccines to applause. Both declared former President Donald J. Trump the rightful winner of the 2020 election."
To this crowd, anyone interested in bipartisanship is a RINO unworthy of voting for. "The fringe of the Republican Party is sick of being called the fringe," reported Herndon. "Led by people like Greene and Gaetz, two upstart members of Congress with little legislative power and few allies in their party’s caucus, these conservatives believe they have assets more valuable than Washington clout: a shared language with the party’s base, and a political intuition that echoes Trump’s. In the months since the former president left the White House, Republican donors and party leaders have flocked to more established figures like Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, stirring buzz for their presidential prospects. At the same time, right-wing Republicans like Greene and Gaetz are loudly making the case that the post-Trump version of the Republican Party won’t swing back toward the center but will double down on the former president’s most controversial qualities."
Their message goes beyond their rantings against COVID-mitigation, beyond Democratic Party treason, beyond the essential QAnon messaging they have embraced. They are preaching that it is pointless to capture the House with a bunch of establishment NRCC candidates and it's only worth winning with candidates who "will double down on the former president’s most controversial qualities... They told rally attendees that winning back the House in 2022 would be useless without more 'America First' Republicans and that beating President Biden would require a full embrace of Trump. They sought to up the rhetorical ante on issue after issue, creating new litmus tests for their conservative rivals in the process."
“Last time Republicans had full control, the first year under President Trump, Republicans didn’t fund and build the wall,” Ms. Greene said to the crowd of about 200 people. “Republicans didn’t defund sanctuary cities, they funded them. And this is the one that blows my mind: They did not defund Planned Parenthood.”
She added, “This time around, Republicans need to take back the House with people that are going to do as they say.”
Gaetz said that unlike many Republicans in Congress, he and Greene did not take corporate donations, arguing that many in the party were “too often shills for big business.” (Both of them, especially Greene, have demonstrated small-dollar fund-raising prowess.)
...If their bet is correct and the Republican base has left the Trump era wanting more of his bombastic style, it will have profound effects on the country’s political landscape. At minimum, Trump loyalists have shown themselves to be a stubborn force, threatening to pull additional congressional and presidential candidates into the waters of misinformation and racial intolerance.
Kathy Pietraszewski, a 69-year-old rally attendee from Des Moines, said she had formally left the Republican Party after the 2020 election because she believed leaders were insufficiently supportive of Mr. Trump’s attempts to overturn the results. Recently, she has focused on speaking out against Covid vaccines, which is part of the reason she likes Ms. Greene.
“I know what the globalist agenda is, and their one world order starts with a vaccine,” Ms. Pietraszewski said. “So my No. 1 issue is freedom... It’s hard for me to think about 2024, because I don’t know if we’ll make it there,” Pietraszewski said, expressing dire worries about the country’s future. “With the Black Lives Matter and Marxism and critical race theory, I don’t know.”
John Pavlovitz addressed this whole idea of Republican freedom today, as though he were trying to reason with the apparently insane Ms. Pietraszewski: When Your Personal Freedom is Killing People. "Freedom," he wrote, "is an unearned privilege-- and you have it. It came with your breath and your birth certificate. That freedom actually wasn’t free though-- it was quite costly and someone prepaid it on your behalf... Generations of Americans sacrificed family and future and body and breath, so that you could be pulled from the birth canal nestled in the warm embrace of the easy liberty you’ve come to believe you deserve."
Putting a tiny piece of cloth over your nose and mouth while you’re at the grocery store.
Getting a free vaccine that has been carefully researched by people qualified for this very work.
What a stupid, selfish waste of the freedom people paid so dearly for.
What a brazen middle finger to those who gave everything.
What a squandering of the gift that is this nation you claim to so love.
...That’s the thing about the “personal freedom” you seem to be missing: it was never supposed to be just about you. It wasn’t purely about independence, it was about interdependence: about loving our neighbor as ourselves, about being our brother’s and sister’s keeper, about caring for one another because we’re all in this together. That’s what the anthems declare and the statues proclaim and the songs ring out.
You’re being asked to wear a mask and get vaccinated, not just for you, but for other Americans:
so that vulnerable people aren’t exposed to a virus their bodies likely cannot overcome.
so that already exhausted healthcare workers will not be overwhelmed by a continual flood of sick people.
so that thousands of unprotected children don’t get sick and disrupt the school year and kill their teachers and bring home a deadly virus to their families.
so that we aren’t hit with another tidal wave of sickness and death that we will be unable to come back from.
But if you feel like that’s asking too much of you, go ahead and scream and complain and protest and threaten and beat your chest like you are defending liberty: that’s what someone sacrificed so you could do.
I’m just not sure your politics and your preferences are hills worth them dying on.
I think you may be wasting your personal freedom.