It strains credulity to believe that any person who feels the United States is “strengthened by a common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions” is unaware of the white supremacist sentiment attached to such a statement.
Sitting Republican members of Congress should understand all this better than anyone, but now Marjorie Greene and Paul Gosar would like to pretend they had no intention of sounding racist with their announcement of the “America First Caucus.”
On Friday, Punchbowl News first reported on a document that seemed to speak to their policy posture but was quickly criticized “for invoking language of nativism and white supremacy.” “The America First Caucus (AFC) exists to promote Congressional policies that are to the long-term benefit of the American nation,” the document — titled “America First Policy Platform” — read, adding that members of the AFC would “follow in Donald Trump’s footstep, and potentially step on some toes and sacrifice sacred cows for the good of the American nation… America is a nation with a border, and a culture, strengthened by a common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions. History has shown that societal trust and political unity are threatened when foreign citizens are imported en-masse into a country, particularly without institutional support for assimilation and an expansive welfare state to bail them out should they fail to contribute positively to the country.” The AFC would weed out “birth tourism” and “chain migration,” the document continued, and it would also oppose all foreign aid, stating that “American tax dollars should not go toward teaching gender studies in Pakistan”.
At the time, Nick Dyer, a spokesperson for Greene, told CNN that the caucus would launch “very soon.” The very next day, however, Dyer said the freshman congresswoman best known for her love of QAnon conspiracy theories is not “launching anything.”
“The Congresswoman wants to make clear that she is not launching anything. This was an early planning proposal and nothing was agreed to or approved,” Dyer wrote.
Dyer then conveniently added that Greene did not approve the language that riled so many up. Greene took to Twitter herself to say the draft of the proposal came “from an outside group that I hadn’t read.” And naturally, she also blamed the media for spreading “false narratives.”
As for Paul Gosar, he claimed in a statement: “Let me be perfectly clear. I did not author this paper. In fact, I first became aware of it by reading about it in the news yesterday, like everyone else.”
What changed in a single day? Swift condemnation from GOP leadership in the House. While his tweet did not single out Greene or Gosar by name, GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted on Friday: “The Republican Party is the party of Lincoln & the party of more opportunity for all Americans — not nativist dog whistles.”
Joining him was GOP conference chair Liz Cheney, who wrote on Twitter: “Republicans believe in equal opportunity, freedom, and justice for all. We teach our children the values of tolerance, decency and moral courage. Racism, nativism, and anti-Semitism are evil. History teaches we all have an obligation to confront & reject such malicious hate.”
I guess the enduring support of embattled Congressman Matt Gaetz was not enough to get Greene and Gosar to go forth with the caucus, so it’s since been scrapped.
Regardless of their words, Greene and Gosar denouncing their own group is a testament to the ongoing reality that for all the attention bigots often cry out for with their words, they tend to stand down when met with the slightest bit of resistance. And no matter what they claim, even if Greene and Gosar didn’t write the document themselves, their behavior suggests it’s perfectly in line with their values.
In February, Gosar denounced “white racism” at CPAC, noting, “That’s not appropriate.” He did so because he was criticized for speaking at an event organized by someone with white nationalist views. In 2019, he caught flack for following several Twitter accounts that espoused racism. Only a month ago did Gosar’s own family members brand him a white supremacist.
Then there is Greene, who has been condemned for sharing racist videos and engaging in racist rhetoric since before she became a member of Congress. In February 2019, she famously said of Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib (who was born in Detroit) and Ilhan Omar (who was born in Somalia, came to the US as a child and is an American citizen), after learning that they didn’t take an oath of office using the bible, that “they really should go back to the Middle East.”
Greene and Gosar have earned the repudiation, but I can’t help but wonder if the nativists gathered around a burning cross for a hearty laugh at the hypocrisy. McCarthy may claim that the Republican Party doesn’t engage in “nativist dog whistles,” for instance, but the political campaigns of Ronald Reagan, George H W Bush, and George W Bush each beg to differ. Of course, then there is former President Trump, who didn’t so much engage in dog-whistles like “welfare queen” or the infamous Willie Horton ad. No, Trump forgoes dog-whistles and flat out shouts out white supremacists groups while calling them “very fine people on both sides.”
Greene and Gosar are despicable to me, but as far as GOP politics go, their error wasn’t so much being outwardly racist so much as it was not being in the position of ultimate power before doing so. Trump built an administration filled with advisers like Stephen Miller. He presided over policies that were condemned for being racist and xenophobic the world over. Yet none of these people condemning Greene and Gosar have said anything about any of that.
The American First caucus might be dead for now, but not if Marjorie Taylor Greene’s popularity continues to rise. Will the condemnation come as strongly — or at all — if she and Gosar gain enough power to pique other GOP members’ self-interest? The story of Donald J Trump suggests not.