Because she showed no signs of interest in legislating anyway, the House of Representatives’ forthcoming vote to strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments is largely symbolic — which is fine; symbols should matter to self-governing peoples. Still, Greene is not wanting for platforms for her demagoguery, so the move will probably not much punish her. What it will do is punish her constituents, who will lose leverage in the forums where routine, transactional politics occurs. That is a good thing. They, not just she, should be accountable for her behavior. Holding voters responsible is essential to the project of constitutional self-government.
American politics has room for blaming everyone for everything, except the voters who make it possible. Mike Pence was able to sanitize any absurdity, or attempt to, simply by attaching the prefix “the American people believe” to it. Never mind whether the American people did believe the claim in question. What is significant is the assumption that the American people believing something was a reason to praise the absurdity rather than blame those who bought it.
Pence did not invent that tactic. Using the purported support of the public as a get-out-of-jail free card has a long lineage in American politics. Calling out Greene’s constituents in addition to Greene herself might help to break the spell.
Greene, a conspiracist, bigot and zealot of the most despicable and dangerous sort, should be held to account. But so should the people of her district, who had a perfectly reasonable choice in the primary, picked her, and were so overwhelmingly partisan that she ran unopposed in the general election. They handed her the megaphone she now possesses. They blessed her zealotry with their votes and gave it the thin but still deceptive veneer of her office.
Republicanism assumes the people are capable of self-government. That capacity includes being responsible for one’s choices. The voters of Georgia’s 14th Congressional district, who chose Greene knowing exactly who they were choosing, can be accountable along with her. Constitutionalism depends on the ultimate responsibility, not just the ultimate authority, of the people.
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