In August 2018, officials in Donald Trump’s White House learned something disturbing about one of their own: One of the then-president’s speechwriters appeared at a conference attended by well-known white nationalists. When The Washington Post inquired about this, the speechwriter was promptly fired.
Just one week later, a policy analyst at Trump’s Department of Homeland Security resigned when allegations surfaced that that he also had connections with white nationalists.
To be sure, Team Trump had all kinds of problems on matters of race and discrimination, but that left the Republican operation that much more eager to distance itself from members of its own team with white nationalist associations.
Nearly four years later, House GOP leaders appear to have adopted a far more lenient posture. HuffPost reported yesterday:
Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) won’t face punishment for participating in a white nationalist conference, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Wednesday. The far-right Republicans have already both been stripped of their seats on House committees for previous statements, and McCarthy said they would be able to regain committee roles in spite of their continued outrageous behavior.
To briefly recap, it was 12 days ago when two right-wing House Republicans — Arizona’s Paul Gosar and Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene — attended an extremist gathering in Orlando, called the America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC), which was organized by a prominent white nationalist named Nick Fuentes.
Greene headlined the event. For Gosar, it was his second AFPAC appearance in as many years: The Arizonan delivered the keynote address at last year’s AFPAC gathering.
Two days after the event, McCarthy said his members’ role at the extremist assembly was “appalling“ and “unacceptable.” It suggested the House Republican leadership might actually take some meaningful action.
Yesterday, the California congressman went in the opposite direction. McCarthy told reporters he’d spoken with Greene and he’s confident “she will not go again” to future AFPAC gatherings.
In other words, the minority leader who saw Greene’s conduct as “unacceptable” last week is now prepared to accept what she did — just so long as she doesn’t do the same thing twice.
As for Gosar, who’s already attended two AFPAC events, McCarthy added that he has not yet spoken to the lawmaker about his appearance.
As we recently discussed, House Democrats have already stripped Gosar and Greene of their committee assignments in response to earlier scandals. McCarthy vowed in November to reward Greene and Gosar with new committee assignments in the next Congress if there’s a GOP majority.
In light of their AFPAC appearances, it seemed at least possible that McCarthy would reconsider his position, reverse course, and announce that he would no longer support giving the pair committee assignments in the next Congress.
Instead, the House Republican leader did largely the opposite, telling reporters that they will have the “ability” to get back their committee assignments “based upon that time when it comes.”
In other words, Gosar’s and Greene’s positions on Capitol Hill may soon improve, despite their AFPAC appearances.
As we discussed last week, the party has others options. McCarthy & Co. could, for example, kick Greene and Gosar out of the GOP conference, making clear to the political world that the party will not tolerate such behavior. The party could also announce that it will not support the members’ re-election campaigns — akin to what the party has already done to Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, because of their efforts to help lead the investigation into the Jan. 6 attack. Republicans could also agree to censure the duo.
As of yesterday, it appears the party has instead decided to do nothing.
GOP leaders often try to argue that the party has evolved on matters of race, ethnicity, and diversity. Communities of color, Republicans argue, should see the party as a welcoming institution.
All too often, however, the party steps on its own message.