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The new approach to post-policy politics is more brazen than the old

The difference between the new post-policy politics and the old is the performative, ostentatious quality of the latest iteration.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene Holds Capitol Hill News Conference
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., pauses while speaking during a news conference outside the Capitol on Feb. 5, 2021.Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty Images

The New York Times ran a good report over the weekend, noting the "new wave" of congressional Republicans who are "more interested in brand-building than lawmaking."

A growing number of lawmakers have demonstrated less interest in the nitty-gritty passing of laws and more in using their powerful perches to build their own political brands and stoke outrage among their opponents. The trend has contributed to the deep dysfunction on Capitol Hill, where viral moments of Republicans trying to troll their colleagues across the aisle ... generate far more attention than legislative debate.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), for example, has been removed from her congressional committee assignments in response to her record of extremism. But unlike former Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who fought desperately to get back onto committees after he was punished for his record of racism, Greene celebrates her status.

After boasting that she's been "freed" from having to do actual legislative work, Greene added, "If I was on a committee, I'd be wasting my time."

This comes on the heels of Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), another far-right freshman, conceding that his principal focus is not governing. As Time magazine recently reported, the North Carolinian wrote in an email to a colleague, "I have built my staff around comms rather than legislation."

For those unfamiliar with Capitol Hill terminology, to focus on "comms" means to focus on communications -- media appearances, talking points, online presence, etc.

As regular readers know, this is a topic of great interest -- insert obligatory reference to my book here -- because the Republican Party's indifference toward governing, and evolution into a post-policy party, has changed American politics in fundamental ways.

That said, there appears to be a subtle shift in the GOP's posture. To be sure, Republicans prioritizing power and ideology over policymaking is not a new phenomenon, but if you'd asked Mike Pence or Paul Ryan a decade ago whether they cared about governing and the substance of public policy, they would've reflexively said yes. It wouldn't have been true, but leading GOP voices saw value in maintaining the pretense.

In 2021, for many prominent Republican voices, even the pretense is now gone. The difference between the new post-policy politics and the old is the performative, ostentatious quality of the latest iteration.

These GOP representatives want to be pundits who happen to occasionally vote on federal legislation, not actual federal policymakers.

The New York Times' report noted a recent exchange between Newsmax's Greg Kelly and Marjorie Taylor Greene, with the host asking, "Maybe the world has changed, and it's not just about crafting a new law, it's about — what? Gaining influence so — I don't know — in two years or a year or six months, something else can happen?"

The Georgia Republican responded, "People are pushing back because it's not the way things are normally done in Washington. But business as usual in Washington has led us here. So clearly, their way of doing things isn't what works."

Of course, in context, "their way of doing things" appears to refer to a system in which Americans elect federal lawmakers to represent them in Congress, and those officials try to write federal laws. It's a system Greene believes "people" are "pushing back" against.

She didn't elaborate on the kind of model she envisions as a replacement to "business as usual."