Last week the House of Representatives voted largely along party lines to bar Marjorie Taylor Greene, congresswoman from Georgia’s 14th District, from serving on the House Education and Budget Committees. This was the right thing to do; even 11 Republicans agreed.
Even if you ignore the bizarre conspiracy theories that Greene has embraced — the idea that California’s wildfires were started by laser beams from space controlled by Jews, for example — you should agree that it’s asking a lot of Democrats to participate in the close cooperation that committee work requires with a woman who has publicly supported the execution of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Actually, you can learn a lot about how well Greene works with others by watching the video of her harassment of David Hogg, a survivor of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
Greene is a pro-gun zealot who disagrees with Hogg on gun policy. But her harangue has little to do with policy. While asserting several false claims, Greene is argumentative, captious, condescending, disagreeable and aggrieved.
Hogg, with the maturity of a teenager who has been under fire, says nothing. After he leaves, Greene calls him a "coward." Just plain rude. No wonder Democrats don’t want to work with her.
Greene defended herself in the House last week with an unconvincing eight-minute apologia. She said that she had explored QAnon and was somehow "allowed to believe things that weren’t true." She even conceded that the attacks of 9/11 were real rather than staged events. She didn’t mention supporting the execution of Nancy Pelosi.
But the problem isn’t just that Greene was temporarily hoodwinked by QAnon.
Last week, New York Times writer Thomas Edsall synthesized the work of a dozen psychologists, political scientists and academics on why Americans are so prone to believe conspiracy theories that are outlandish, self-contradictory or easily disprovable.
The upshot is that susceptibility to conspiracy theories has less to do with political concerns and more to do with pre-existing "extreme, antisocial psychological orientations and behavioral patterns."
One researcher argues that "people are attracted to conspiracy theories when important psychological needs are not being met." In this writer’s formulation, these needs include the need for "certainty," the need "to feel safe and secure" when "powerless and scared" and "the need to feel unique compared to others."
In other words, well-adjusted, stable, secure people don’t seek out conspiracy theories that eventually beguile them. Rather, conspiracy theories seek out people that already have psychological needs that make them vulnerable.
If this is true, then Marjorie Taylor Greene cannot be redeemed by her belated disavowal of strange ideas that more balanced personalities would reject immediately. She isn’t unbalanced because she believes in conspiracy theories; she believes in conspiracy theories because she’s unbalanced.
But this also raises the question of her fitness to serve in the House at all. In fact, some have suggested her expulsion.
But this line of thinking reminds me of Carl Parker, an old-time politician from my state who reportedly said that if you took all the fools out of the Texas legislature, it would no longer be a representative body.
Greene’s House colleagues may object to working with her on committees, but her constituents have a right to a representative of their choosing, and in November she won her district with 74% of the vote.
Besides, if you kick out Greene, what do you do with Louie Gohmert?
Gohmert has represented Texas’ 1st Congressional District since 2005. He rejects climate change. He rejected mask-wearing until he caught COVID himself, and then he blamed the mask. Like many Republicans, he continues to reject the legitimacy of the 2020 election. Last week he was fined $5,000 for refusing to go through a House metal detector.
In December Gohmert joined a lawsuit demanding that the courts affirm Vice President Mike Pence’s right to determine the results of the 2020 election. When federal judges rejected the suit, Gohmert asserted that patriots have only one choice: "You gotta go to the streets and be as violent as Antifa and B.L.M."
So who’s a greater threat to our republic, Greene or Gohmert? It’s hard to say.
John M. Crisp wrote this piece for Tribune News Service.