For four years, party leaders declared or enabled the racist, social and cultural demagogy of former President Donald Trump. Their cowardice fueled the Capitol insurrection and an unprecedented attack on American democracy.
It took five days for the Republican House leadership to respond to a claim by Greene, a Georgia congressman, that obliging people to wear masks during a pandemic was akin to persecuting millions of Jews who were forced to The Nazis carried fabric stars and later brought them to extermination camps.
And when they responded, the statements made by the leaders – the same ones that Wyoming MP Liz Cheney had forced out of her leadership job for opposing Trump’s authoritarian extremism – were shaped by political opportunism.
Kevin McCarthy, leader of the Republican minority in the House of Representatives who worked to restore Trump’s reputation after his attempted coup, issued a statement entitled “Marjorie was wrong” and its comparison was “appalling.”
“Let me be clear, the House Republican Conference condemns this language,” said the California Republican.
But the only reason it wasn’t clear was because it took McCarthy so long to say it and probably wasn’t ready to blame a Trump-backed lawmaker. Greene is also a new star in the conservative media and is loved by the ex-president’s supporters who will need the GOP in the midterm elections.
Like his fellow leaders, McCarthy turned his testimony into a partisan attack and accused the Democrats of ignoring and inciting anti-Semitism. He later armed the fight against this scourge by introducing a bill targeting liberal democrats like New York MP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, accusing their criticism of Israel of inciting violence against American Jews.
The conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas has sparked considerable criticism from the Democrats of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And it also sparked an alarming surge in hatred and attacks against some American Jews from California to New York to Florida. In the past, criticism of Israel by prominent Democrats has sometimes crossed the line into anti-Semitism. For example, Democratic MP Ilhan Omar from Minnesota was forced by party leaders to apologize for using anti-Semitic tropics over Israel’s US supporters.
Dishonoring the dead
Greene’s willingness to speak of the Holocaust in such a casual way is the latest example of a trend of ahistorical analogy that often seeks to compare modern events with the most painful chapters in history.
The administrators of the Auschwitz memorial in Poland thought so too.
“The instrumentalization of the tragedy of Jews who suffered, humiliated, marked with a yellow star, isolated in ghettos and murdered during the Holocaust, in a debate about various systems aimed at protecting public health is a sad symptom of moral and intellectual decline, “The Twitter account for the Auschwitz memorial was released on Tuesday.
Badly informed comparisons with Hitler’s murderous regime are not a phenomenon only Republicans know about. During the Trump administration, activists on the left sometimes compared statements or actions by the former president with those of Hitler. While his presidency ended in an uproar of lawlessness and anti-democratic violence, nothing he did came close to the hideous inhumanity of the Nazis.
While WWII veterans were alive and Holocaust survivors gave personal testimony of the evils of the past, offensive comments like Greene’s were harder to justify in public. But now that the generation has largely faded, the lessons from their experience of inhumanity are in danger of being forgotten or belittled.
The late Elie Wiesel, a human rights activist and survivor of the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps, spoke of the obligation of future generations when he said “whoever listens to a witness becomes a witness”.
Casual and frivolous references to the Holocaust dishonor this duty.
Greene follows the Trump game book
In many ways, Greene’s behavior – after being stripped of her committee duties on previous anti-Semitic remarks by a Democrat-run house and condoning violence against Democratic leaders – is the image of Trump.
She seems to be picking the most fiery comment designed to arouse outrage and attention, and that brings a media storm to a standstill – which she (and Trump) then turn upside down to suggest she’s the one being persecuted.
“The media and Democrats and anyone who gets involved are allowing them to hide the truth, which is the digestive (sic) anti-Semitism within the Democratic Party,” Greene said in a tweet thread on Tuesday.
As is so often the case in such controversies, what was really a fresh attack full of anger in her statement contained an apology that was not an apology.
“I’m sorry some of my words make people uncomfortable, but that’s what the American left is about,” Greene wrote. Georgia’s lawmaker’s reputation has made her a conservative media celebrity – and one of the party’s most prolific fundraisers since arriving in Washington in January.
Pro-Trump media propagandists are likely to emerge in the next phase of the recent Greene saga, claiming that “mainstream” journalists are deliberately misinterpreting what they say and providing fresh disinformation on biased news networks that have helped convince millions of Republicans That Trump’s lies about a stolen election are true.
One such whitewash came when Trump said there were “very good people on both sides” of a clash between white supremacists and anti-racism groups in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017. And the award for Republicans who apologize for Trump-style extremism , was arrested naked when the ex-president told the Proud Boys – whose members allegedly stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 – to “stand by and stand by” during a presidential debate. Trump fans denied the group’s ex-president ever offered legitimacy, despite making the comment on live television.
In the past few weeks, some Republican Congressmen have tried to deny the facts millions of Americans have seen on their television about his guilt for the Capitol insurrection and the violence of Trump’s mob. Their rejection has led the party to oppose the idea of a bipartisan, independent investigation into the invasion of Capitol Hill and to further cement a narrative the GOP has directed against truth and democracy.
Transforming into a party that once stood to uphold such pillars of a free society still baffles Illinois MP Adam Kinzinger, one of the few Republican lawmakers willing to stand up to Trump and Greene.
“What we can do as a party is take a stand and say, ‘You are not part of our conference.’ I think we should do that, “said Kinzinger during an interview with Politico Playbook on Monday.
“If there was some kind of organic movement within the conference to oust Liz Cheney, we could certainly have the same kind of movement to oust someone who is trying to compare wearing a mask to the Nazis.”
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