Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has no idea what she’s talking about.

The theatrical congresswoman from Georgia, who has a habit of making a spectacle of herself, has decided to prosecute the lunatic case that the indoor mask mandate that still pertains on the floor of the House of Representatives is indistinct from the restrictions the Nazi regime imposed on its undesirable citizens—Jews, in particular.

“You know, we can look back at a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star, and they were definitely treated like second-class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany,” she wrote. “And this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.”

This proud display of historical illiteracy wrapped up in an incomprehensibly dense moral equivalency surely appeals to a segment within the Republican Party’s voting base that revels in its own persecution complex. But it also of some political utility for Democrats and their allies in media, who are desperate to change the subject from the anti-Semitism in which some of the party’s members have indulged and which preceded a wave of anti-Semitic attacks in the United States.

To wit, a thought from Politico’s Congress editor, Elana Schor: “The two parties hold their members to different standards when it comes to antisemitism,” Schor wrote. Democrats, she added, stand up to their members who violate the proscription against Jew-hatred. How, you might ask? Well, Joe Biden once told donors on a conference call a year ago that, while criticism of Israel’s policies isn’t anti-Semitic, “too often, that criticism from the left morphs into antisemitism.” And this week, well after the 11-day conflict in Gaza concluded and amid a ceaseless barrage of attacks on Israel as an “apartheid state” from the so-called Progressive Squad, one member—Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota—said “the quiet part out loud” and called on “‘progressives’ to start condemning anti-Semitism.” Their “silence,” he adds, “has been deafening.”

Compare that with how Republicans have mollycoddled Rep. Greene, Schor maintained. “Greene’s comments last week drew rebukes from a few House Republicans, all of whom voted to impeach former President Donald Trump,” she wrote. “No current member of House GOP leadership has addressed Greene’s remarks.” Schor went on to speculate that Republicans may have convinced themselves that “anti-Jewish bias is less of an issue for their party,” but that’s no excuse to remain silent.

To the extent Schor’s argument had any validity, it endured for just about 14 hours after its publication. On Tuesday morning, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy condemned Greene in unequivocal terms. “Marjorie is wrong, and her intentional decision to compare the horrors of the Holocaust with wearing masks is appalling,” he wrote. With that, the dam broke. Republican whip Steve Scalise’s office followed suit, followed by GOP conference chair Elise Stefanik. “Once again an outrageous and reprehensible comment,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Critics will say (and already have said) that it’s all too little, too late. After all, only 11 Republicans joined with Democrats to strip Greene of her committee posts in February. Republicans did “the easy part,” and now they must vote to censure this reckless congresswoman or even eject her from the legislature. They should do what they did to Rep. Steve King—remove her from committee assignments, condemn her by name in a resolution, and support a primary challenger who will hopefully remove her from her post before the next Congress convenes.

Maybe so, but that is all an implicit admission that Elana Schor’s ponderous spin job is hopelessly blinkered. The premise she exploited to make a point only exists because Democrats cowered in the face of its members’ nakedly anti-Semitic diatribes.

None of the Democrats Schor praised for their high-minded vigilance mentioned any of the offenders within their ranks by name, in part, because doing so has already been proven to be a risky game. In 2019, when they were confronted with a third episode in which Rep. Ilhan Omar had made an anti-Semitic remark—this time, refusing to apologize for it—Democrats geared up to punish her. They prepared a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and were set to vote in its favor when the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus intervened.

Democrats caved. Instead of a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, they produced a watered-down document generically condemning “hateful expressions of intolerance”—a criticism so vague and insipid it might as well have condoned the actions that precipitated the debate over this resolution in the first place. They could not be seen condemning one of their own by name, so they simply didn’t.

It takes a special brazenness to praise Democrats for struggling through the consequences of their own actions. This party is confronted with at least a couple of anti-Semitic controversies per year only because they refused to impose any consequences on their members who so regularly put them in that unenviable position. They know exactly what they’re doing, too. As we were lectured for years on end amid the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, generic expressions of antipathy toward hate in all its forms all but condones the specific expressions of bigotry and discrimination that movement was formed to combat.

We can recognize political cowardice for what it is. Republicans are quite familiar with the discomfiting choice between moral righteousness and offending a political base of support. And reporters like Schor don’t seem to have any difficulty recognizing such gutless timidity when it is evident on the right. The cravenness we’re witnessing from the other side of the aisle is no better.

The press’s effort to change the terms of the debate reveals the precarious position in which the Squad has put the Democratic Party. But so long as there are reporters willing to polish this apple, Democrats won’t find a way out of their predicament and the not-so-generic “hate” will continue to spew.

Rashida Tlaib
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