Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene are the New Republican Party

They'd fit right in at my high school reunion

Welcome back to Going Downs, a newsletter about the intersection of celebrity and politics. 

Hi Everyone! It’s Claire’s husband Brenden back for another mid-week edition of Going Downs. Today, I want to talk about the Republicans I grew up with. 

I know. I know. I thought we were done with that for a while once there was no longer a dang orange Cheeto in the White House. But, we were wrong.

Throughout the Trump administration, there was a prevailing attitude on the left side of the aisle that Donald Trump was a unique cancer in American politics. His removal, it was thought by well-meaning #Resistance liberals, would save the Republic. While I am happy to see the orange dust removed from hallowed government halls, I would submit that this attitude is naive and wrong.

Before I went to college and met some “respectable” corporate Republicans who view politics as their personal piggy bank, I had never met a right-winger like Mitt Romney or John McCain. When Sarah Palin was nominated as the Vice-Presidential candidate in 2008, I was fascinated. For the first time, I saw the Republicans I knew reflected in government. 

I grew up in a small town (Stewartstown, PA), where Republicans regularly get between two-thirds and three-quarters of the vote. Back then, The Tea Party had such a firm grip over local politics that a long-tenured music teacher almost lost his job for spending money allocated for a Steinway piano on a Steinway piano instead of a cheaper model. When I attempted to mount a defense of the teacher in a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, I received dozens of angry replies ordering not to write again until I move out of my parents’ basement and start paying taxes.

At that time, I lived in my childhood bedroom and not the basement, but that’s neither here nor there. 

While so-called respectable Republicans talk about patriotism and decency or whatever, I have found a few constants among the GOP members I’ve met in my life. These constants were also reflected in Sarah Palin’s candidacy: they confuse cultural grievances with politics, they hate seeing people get something they arbitrarily feel they don’t deserve, they are xenophobic, and they hate paying taxes. 

These Republican defenders of virtue love to talk about balancing the budget, creating economic opportunity, and protecting the American myth. I think all three of these things are bullshit, but regardless of whether they are real priorities, they are not the priorities of the rank and file Republican voter as I have known them. 

Two freshmen Congresswomen: Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO), have been targeted as just such outliers. I see much more of my hometown’s Republican Party in these lawmakers’ actions and beliefs than in any other politicians. 

Lauren Boebert may embody the Republican base more than any politician in American history. While Sarah Palin was a four-wheeling hockey mom, Lauren owned a sports bar. And not just that, it is a Hooters rip-off where you can open-carry called Shooters

Boebert has made headlines recently for attempting to aid and abet the attempted insurrection at the Capitol and for her past connections to alt-right militias. Still, we should also take time to appreciate her style of social media posting that is nearly identical to what my high school classmates post on Facebook to this day. 

The Congresswoman’s similarities to the conservatives I grew up with doesn’t stop online. Offline, her modest criminal rap sheet reminds me of my high school reunion. As per The Nation, she was cited in 2010 for having two pit bulls who attacked a neighbor's dog. She was arrested in 2015 for helping underage drinkers avoid arrest. She was convicted following an incident in which she flipped her pickup truck in a ditch, and her husband pleaded guilty to indecent exposure at a bowling alley. 

Yes, Boebert may have done some light treason, but she has also been entertaining. That being said, Marjorie Taylor Greene has been giving her a run for her money. If Boebert is your cousin who got a DUI after doing last-call body shots at Buffalo Wild Wings, Greene is your conspiracy theorist aunt who badgers the Wal-Mart cashier about 5G.

Pretty much every day, a new post or video from the Congresswoman’s past comes back to haunt her. Just today, news broke that recently, Greene expressed a desire to execute prominent Democrats. It also came to light that she harassed school shooting survivor and gun control advocate, David Hogg, a couple of years ago. 

I wish I could write off conspiracy theories like Q Anon and mass shooting trutherism as fringe beliefs, but I have been accosted both online and in-person by people who want me to believe these things. I have high school classmates who believe in Q. On a camping trip last year, I was evangelized by a true blue Q believer for half an hour about “death camps in Florida.” By contrast, I’ve never been cornered by a stranger about the deficit or deregulation, issues that “really matter” to Republicans.

As more evidence of Greene’s belief in conspiracy theories mounts, the GOP has attempted to shave off her rough edges rather than expel her from politics. Greene has walked back some of her crazier Q Anon claims in recent weeks, but wouldn’t it be better if she didn’t believe them in the first place. Why did Republicans allow her to run, and why are they trying to preserve her position now? They know that conspiracy theorists make up a good chunk of their base. 

Liberals have made some noise about attempting to expel Boebert and Greene from Congress. This effort almost certainly will fail, but again, this is only a useful framing if we pretend that they are distinct from the Republican base. While other lawmakers aren’t as cleanly cribbing from your hometown Facebook friends, there is little daylight between these two and Nazi sympathizer Madison Cawthron (R-NC), Tea Party veteran Ted Cruz (R-TX), or Constitution thumping dullard Louie Gohmert (R-TX).

Sarah Palin marked a sea change in the Republican Party. The people who had constituted their base since Nixon enacted the Southern Strategy, who put Ronald Reagan in power, who backed George W. Bush’s wars, now had a physical seat at the table. The Republican Party is not different than it was in 1980, but in the age of social media, some of their elected officials get to say the quiet part loud. 

If you were to get rid of Lauren Boebert or Marjorie Taylor Greene, there would be another open carry bar manager, conspiracy theorist with an Etsy store, or men’s rights guy with a bunch of DUIs to take their place. 

This is who the Republican Party is. At its heart, the GOP is the embodiment of the stupidest, most selfish, and most bigoted Facebook posts that stumble across your feed. If you want to pretend otherwise, that’s up to you. But, this is what American democracy looks like.

Going Downs is a free weekday newsletter, supported by readers like you, written by @clairecdowns and @brendengallager. There are monthly and annual subscription options available, or you can just keep enjoying this freaky free premium content at no additional burden to your wallet whatsoever. Venmo is also always a perfectly acceptable option.