"Trash": Republican freshmen are brawling with each other on Twitter

AP Photo/Mic Smith

This public ugliness is what happens when the head of the caucus has no authority to discipline his members because he’s just a mid-level functionary in a personality cult.

Follow the last link for the background you’ll need to understand what’s happening between Marjorie Taylor Greene and Nancy Mace today. Greene’s MAGA ally, Lauren Boebert, made a joke comparing Ilhan Omar to a suicide bomber; Boebert phoned Omar afterward to apologize and it went predictably badly. Mace, a freshman from South Carolina, was asked about Boebert’s joke on CNN a few nights ago and called it “disgusting,” urging the two parties to be more cordial to each other and work together. That’s on-brand for Mace, who came to Congress this year promising to be a voice for reason against the crazies in the caucus, then went silent for about eight months once she realized that that might earn her a primary challenge from the right, and lately has pivoted back to challenging the MAGA wing more aggressively for reasons I don’t understand.

Greene scolded Boebert on Twitter for attempting to reach out to Omar, insisting that terror apologists are unworthy of that respect. Whether that was strategic on Greene’s part, aimed at establishing her as the most uncompromising populist in the caucus, or just Greene being Greene is unclear. But she doubled down this morning by attacking Mace for what she said on CNN, which is unsurprising given the history between them. More on that in a second.

Mace isn’t “pro-abort.” She’s pro-life but apparently supports exceptions for rape and incest after her own experience of being sexual assaulted. She swung back hard at Greene:

This tweet was interesting too:

That’s the same thing Greene tweeted a few days ago — verbatim — after she said publicly that McCarthy doesn’t have the votes from the MAGA wing to be Speaker and then got a phone call from McCarthy about it. I can’t tell if Mace is trolling McCarthy for being at Greene’s beck and call or Greene for meekly falling in line after McCarthy phoned her. But she’s trolling either way.

Other members of Congress noticed the brawling between the two freshmen and began to chime in:

Every faction is now represented here — Democrats in Swalwell, Never Trumpers in Kinzinger, MAGA diehards in Greene, and the mushy Republican middle caught between MAGA and swing voters in Mace.

Why were Greene and Mace so eager to scrap? It goes back to the beginning of this year, when Mace was still positioning herself as someone who’d confront the conspiracy theorists in her party. She was one of a few dozen Republicans in the House who didn’t object to certifying Biden’s victory. Then she reportedly got into it with Greene for being a crank in a text chain among freshman Republicans. After that, as she realized the right was lining up behind Trump post-insurrection instead of abandoning him, Mace backed down. She voted against impeachment and even voted against stripping Greene of her committee assignments when Democrats moved to do so.

But she couldn’t resist occasional jabs at her, like this one in May after Greene apologized for comparing vaccine mandates to the gold stars Jews were forced to wear under the Nazis.

After that, Mace kept her head down and stayed on the right side of the MAGAs. But late last month she surprised everyone by voting with Democrats (and eight other Republicans) to hold Steve Bannon in contempt for defying a January 6 committee subpoena. Her logic for that vote was sound and not anti-Trump in nature: If we don’t enforce our subpoenas, said Mace, then witnesses will feel free to defy every congressional committee. To MAGA, though, there’s no “principled” defense for a show of disloyalty. And so, inevitably, Trump put out a statement a few weeks ago calling for someone to primary Mace from the right in her South Carolina district.

Now here she is throwing down with Trump’s most loyal sycophant in Congress. What’s gotten into her?

There are two possible explanations, one strategic and the other more visceral. She clearly disdains Greene and may have decided that she’s not going to pull her punches now that Trump has targeted her for a primary. Pulling your punches is what you do when you’re trying to avoid that; she wasn’t able to avoid it so she might as well go down fighting. The strategic explanation is that Mace represents a district that’s famously purple. It’s the one that Mark Sanford used to represent before he was successfully primaried by a Trump loyalist; that loyalist then went on to *lose* the general election to Democrat Joe Cunningham in 2018. Cunningham then lost — very narrowly — to Mace in 2020. A hardcore MAGA type isn’t the strongest hand the GOP can play in that district, in other words. Maybe Mace is counting on Republican voters to have learned their lesson from the Sanford episode and to stick by her in the primary in hopes of maximizing their chances to hold the seat. Or maybe she thinks brawling with Greene will earn her some cred with centrists in the district, who’ll end up deciding the general election in her favor.

As for Democrats, I don’t think they’re going to take action against Boebert. Their fig leaf for not doing so will be that she expressed remorse but in reality James Carville’s right. They know they’ll gain nothing by doing so. A member who’d feel shame upon being censured is worth censuring as a deterrent. The shameless won’t be deterred.