As Republican politics has become radicalized in recent years, all kinds of ideas and personalities have gradually made the transition from the crackpot periphery to the GOP mainstream.
The idea of ending birthright citizenship used to be an idea limited to the right-wing “fringe,” but it’s since been embraced by many prominent Republican officials. The same is true of vilifying George Soros and busing exploited migrants from state to state as part of a partisan scheme.
In the not-too-distant past, Alabama’s Jeff Sessions was considered "a fringe figure" in GOP politics, until he became the U.S. attorney general. During his congressional career, Indiana’s Mike Pence had one of his conference’s most far-right reputations, with a voting record well to the right of House members such as Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert, and he became vice president. Stephen Miller "spent years on the political fringe" before he started shaping a White House agenda.
But as the line between the GOP fringe and the party’s mainstream effectively disappears, it’s safe to say Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene offers a truly bizarre example of the phenomenon. The Associated Press reported:
Once shunned as a political pariah for her extremist rhetoric, the Georgia congresswoman who spent her first term in the House stripped of institutional power by Democrats is being celebrated by Republicans and welcomed into the GOP fold. If Republicans win the House majority in the November election, Greene is poised to become an influential player shaping the GOP agenda, an agitator with clout.
To bolster the point, the AP report noted that when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy unveiled his party’s “Commitment to America” blueprint, it was the right-wing Georgian who was seated directly behind the would-be House speaker. Days later, Greene hit the campaign trail, serving as an opening act for Donald Trump, peddling racist conspiracy theories, and assuring attendees that Democrats have "already started the killings" of Republicans.
This isn't a situation in which Greene's prominence rose because she moderated her message. On the contrary, she remained every bit as radical, and the party simply decided not to care.
Part of the problem is watching the GOP normalize some of its most extremist members. As recently as last year, many Republicans on Capitol Hill were embarrassed by Greene’s presence — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell characterized her madness as "a cancer" on the country and the party — and after evidence emerged that Greene had expressed support for violence targeting U.S. elected officials, McCarthy was prepared to strip her of a committee assignment.
But all along, the question wasn’t whether the right-wing Georgian was an extremist. The question was what her party’s leaders intended to do about it.
Nearly a year ago, after Democrats had removed Greene from her committee assignments, McCarthy vowed to reward Greene with new committee assignments in the next Congress if voters elected a Republican majority.
It was against this backdrop that the Associated Press’ report added, “In the interview [with the AP], Greene said she is certain she will be reinstated on her congressional committees if Republicans win the majority, eyeing the House Oversight panel, and is talking to leadership about other opportunities in the new Congress.”
At Trump’s Arizona rally over the weekend, Greene also briefly spoke to reporters and was asked about whether GOP leaders have told her she’d be assigned to the Oversight committee. “[I]t’s something we’ve discussed,” she replied. “I’ve also discussed it with James Comer who is the Republican lead on the committee right now. It’s been mentioned quite a few times. Very excited about it.”
Roughly two years ago, some Republican insiders were annoyed with McCarthy for not doing more to prevent Greene from getting elected in the first place. Now, as the midterm elections near, McCarthy and GOP leaders are giving Greene a prominent role in the party, and might even reward her with exactly what she wants.