Greene is the Republican answer to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: She’s a three-named neophyte (in the future, all politicians will have three names). She’s a gun-toting Palin pretender who revels in attention and would rather post selfie videos than actual text. (Words are hard.) And like AOC, this rowdy rabble rouser focuses on fan service over persuasion, and promises to wreak havoc for fellow party members who are struggling to win competitive elections.
This week, Greene plunged into the national conversation the way all attention-starved moderns do: via her Twitter feed. While in Washington for a new-member orientation, Greene tweeted that she told her freshman class that “masks are oppressive.” It nearly broke the internet.
In this regard, Greene personifies the problems I've documented for years. In my 2016 book Too Dumb to Fail, I detailed the trends that have lead us to her: the laundry list includes reality TV, cable news, and Twitter; as well as the waning power of political parties to vet, support, and punish members.
Once all the gatekeepers were shunted aside, it was only a matter of time before the inmates started running the asylum. Sure, the old guard still maintains some influence. But eventually, chaos prevails. Right now, even Fox News is facing condemnation for imposing more stringent news standards.
Politicians like Greene and the emergence of these disturbing trends are the inevitable result of a decadent political culture that is both dumbed down and performative. If you doubt this is (in part) performance art, consider the way Greene chose to make her point: she enlisted the mask controversy as an excuse to post a video of herself doing burpees, squats, and push-ups. Ever notice how it’s always people who are proud of their bodies who post these workout videos to Twitter? It’s like the guy in the stands at a major league baseball game who takes off his shirt. Sure, it might actually be hot outside, but that guy’s main goal is to flaunt his six-pack.
Voyeurism aside, Greene is also interested in throwing (figurative) bombs in a dumbed-down culture war. “In DC, NOTHING is open bc of Democrat tyrannical control,” Greene tweeted along with her video. “So here’s my hotel room workout.” The thing about D.C. gyms being closed wasn’t exactly true, but backlash is a feature, not a bug, of an aspiring reality star.
True to form, she milked the situation for all it was worth and posted another video, this time of her running in the hotel and complaining that she can’t carry a gun in D.C. “Dem cities are [shit]holes.” (D.C. was apparently so dangerous that she claimed that she needed a police escort to get from the Trump hotel to her Lyft.)
Ironically, Greene (like Trump) is proof that social conservatives have already lost the culture war. Consider Greene’s choice of the slogan “my body, my choice” as an argument for not wearing a mask. She is championing a self-centered ethos that was once decried by social conservatives who ostensibly cared about the vulnerable. Greene, however, cares more about her own comfort and convenience than she does about sacrificing for others. She may think she is weaponizing the left’s language and marshalling it against them, but she is really co-opting a a progressive worldview and mainstreaming it on the right. Sadly, that’s not the only thing she’s mainstreaming.
It’s important to note that Greene is a real-life QAnon supporter—not just a poser. This isn’t someone who used a hashtag she didn’t realize was connected to the kooky conspiracy theory. She seems to completely embrace the weird, fundamental premise of the movement. “Q is a patriot,” Greene said in one video. “There’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out, and I think we have the president to do it.” In this regard, I suppose we are lucky the worst she is doing is tweeting workout videos about masks.
Greene’s win highlights how the election results were a mixed bag for Democrats and also foreshadows how Trumpism won’t be leaving American politics (much less the Republican Party) with Trump come January. Buckle up. The fun has only just begun.