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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Lauren Boebert and Majorie Taylor Greene Are Leaning In to Mudslinging and Total Villainy

We are not the fringe,” Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene said a few days ago. “We are the base of the party.”

She was defending her alliance of rightwing congressional racists—with a tacit emphasis on Lauren Boebert, who in recent weeks has gotten criticism for being just slightly more overtly racist and Islamaphobic than usual—from those who have labeled them an aberration within the GOP conference. And on this issue, Greene, like some real-life manifestation of the Worst Person You Know Just Made a Great Point meme, is right. She and Boebert spew racist talking points and stoke white terror like it’s their jobs, mostly because it is. The GOP “big tent” has a come-one-come-all policy for white racists, white supremacists, and white nationalists from every walk of life. Boebert and Greene are just faithfully representing a voting base that overwhelmingly thinks America’s most pressing problem is that white status-loss leaves white people vulnerable to being treated like Black people.

Just as it’s a mistake to regard Boebert and Greene as outliers in their party, it’s also wrong to overlook the ways in which they carry on a long tradition of white women doing the work of white supremacy. It used to be that white ladies fuelled, defended and maintained white power from the political margins—diligently but quietly, mostly out of the limelight as a consequence of limited political opportunity due to misogynist convention. But powerful white racist politicians like George Wallace, Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, and Ronald Reagan could not have ensured the durability of institutionalized white power without the countless white women who eagerly and continuously helped perpetuate racial discrimination and oppression through whatever grassroots means were available to them. Those “constant gardeners” of white power, as historian Elizabeth McRae has labeled them, “performed myriad duties to uphold white over black: censoring textbooks, denying marriage certificates, deciding on the racial identity of their neighbors, celebrating school choice, canvassing communities for votes, and lobbying elected officials.”

Now that holding political office is an option for women, it’s an optimal choice for women like Boebert and Greene. White women racist agitators walked so Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene could run.

And run they have, very often outpacing the racist belligerence of their fellow bigots in the GOP. The two freshman congresswomen, subscribers to the “there’s no bad press” philosophy of public life, are now among the most visible figures in the Republican political echo chamber, spouting explicit racism and Islamophobia so loudly and proudly that they often drown out even the white men they compete with for OANN guest spots.

They do this in part through plain old racist politicking, as when Greene announced plans for a caucus based on “Anglo-Saxon political traditions,” or faked a move to introduce legislation that would give a Congressional Gold Medal to Kyle Rittenhouse for killing two people at a Black Lives Matter protest, or similarly, the time that Boebert performatively filed a bill to designate BLM a domestic terror organization.

But mostly, they do this by attacking women of color, drawing a line between themselves as the arbiters of white American patriotism and casting Black and brown Democratic women as threats to the country and white survival itself. For the last few weeks, Boebert has increased her name recognition by relentlessly maligning Ilhan Omar, a Black and Muslim woman who also serves in the House—calling her a terrorist; repeating a fabricated story depicting her as a suicide bomber; labeling both Omar and Muslim congresswoman Rashida Tlaib “evil… black-hearted women”; and dubbing the progressive collective of Omar, Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “the Jihad Squad.”

“It’s disheartening to see someone who hates America serving in the United States of Representatives,” Boebert said during an appearance on Fox News this week, again taking aim at Omar. “I love America and at the end of the day, that is the fundamental difference here.”

Boebert is traveling a road first laid by Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has stalked—through both digital and analog methods—Omar and other non-white congresswomen. Early this year, a maskless Greene ambushed Cori Bush in the Capitol’s halls, ultimately inspiring the fatigued Black congresswoman to find an office further “away from hers for my team’s safety.” Before she was even elected to Congress, an uninvited Greene skulked through congressional offices with the goal of forcing Omar and Tlaib to retake their oaths on a Bible instead of the Koran and tweeted a photo of herself brandishing a gun toward photos of Omar, Tlaib, and AOC. She has repeatedly accused Omar of supporting terrorists, and promoted debunked conspiracy theories about her marriages. And of course, she has also taken part in Boebert’s anti-Black, Islamophobic smear campaign against Omar, cheering on Boebert’s attacks and labeling Omar an “Islamic terrorist sympathizer.”

These two white women know exactly what they are doing when they go after Omar and other non-white congresswomen they pointedly insult and verbally assault. Even as they terrorize and bully those women, they paint themselves as victims; chalk it up to the white-woman urge to weaponize race and gender in service of self.

Boebert—after making up an incredibly offensive and racist story in which a Capitol officer assumed the need to protect her precious white femininity from the mere presence of Omar’s Black Muslimness—issued a blatant non-apology to Omar and refused to make public amends, yet somehow still painted herself as the wronged party because Omar hung up on her as she delivered yet another insulting tirade. (She then had the nerve to say that Omar’s self-preservationist decision not to endure any more abuse was “really showing her character.”)

Greene, who’s been booted from committee for her nastiness, can’t even pretend to focus on lawmaking, she’s so busy harassing and haranguing the non-white women who serve with her—while constantly claiming that her suffering is unsurpassed. There was the self-owning video in which she lied about being verbally attacked by Cori Bush while unwittingly proving herself the instigator; the speech before her committee removals when she claimed that her unhinged racist and antisemitic conspiracy rantings happened because she had been “allowed to believe things that weren’t true”; the tweet in which she suggested that she faced discrimination for being, first and foremost, a white woman; and the statement she made last month about how she has been made to “constantly take the abuse by the Democrats.”

Maybe the grossest proof of their motivations is that Greene and Boebert have both leveraged their phony victimhood, in a package deal with their racism, to endlessly fundraise. Boebert tweeted just days ago that “the far left,” which presumably includes anyone who has called out her Islamophobia, has designated her “their biggest enemy,” and which ended with a request for donations. Greene’s social media fundraising appeals were really just tweets featuring photos of Omar and AOC.

This is what white women have done forever, which is to use their whiteness and womanhood to incite would-be protectors to commit violence (or just acts that they pretend amount to violence), while leaning into the protections afforded white womanhood. Omar shared a terrifying death threat she received after Boebert’s latest Islamophobic rants, but this is the kind of vitriol she deals with daily. Back in 2019, members of the Squad reported that threats against their lives were so commonplace they had requested not to receive notice of them unless they seemed credible.

While Boebert and Greene are egging on their racist followers and then pleading mistreatment—throwing stones to hide their hands, as the old saying goes—Omar is dealing with the prospect of real violence they have conjured through stochastic terror. It may seem like a game of clicks, likes, and attention-seeking for the likes of Boebert and Greene, but there’s real and tremendous danger for the non-white women they’re targeting. Same as ever.

As a rule, Black women with arrest records and rap sheets, GEDs earned just months before their first election campaigns, who walk around open-carrying and bragging about the Glocks they own, as Boebert has done, are not elected to Congress. Were a Muslim Black woman to start a campaign of harassment against her colleagues, like the one Marjorie Taylor Greene has waged from the moment she got into office, she would have been ejected from Congress long ago.

But Boebert and Greene can stand on the frontlines of the GOP’s fight for white supremacy, lob all the vitriol they please and become stars in the process, and then blame the folks they harm for sport and political profit for any fallout. It’s basically guaranteed that, seeing how the formula is working for them, Boebert and Greene will only continue to wreak more racist havoc. Even if it means that violence will almost assuredly result.

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