If the definition of insanity is doing the exact same thing over and over and expecting a different result, then it seems safe to say that congressional Democrats are absolutely out of their minds. Because, after having spent four years falling for every attention-grabbing stunt Donald Trump could think of, only for the former president to solidify his death grip on the Republican Party, the Democrats seem more than willing to do the whole thing all over again — this time with Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
According to a just-released Morning Consult poll, Greene — a first-time congresswoman whose entire political ethos seems to be a mix of absurd conspiracy theories, violent nationalism, and barely veiled bigotry — is now one of the most high-profile Republicans in the country. What's more, not only does Greene enjoy the same level of national awareness as her party's leaders, but after the House voted to strip her of her committee assignments in early February, she's only become more popular in general.
Prior to losing her committee seats, only 19% of Republicans had a "favorable" impression of Greene. That number leapt an astonishing 11 points to 30% approval in the days immediately following the House vote. Among all voters, her approval also crept up, albeit not quite so dramatically, from 13% to 18%.
Put another way, Greene has lost the hard power that comes with being granted a committee vote, but gained the immeasurably more effective soft power that comes with being one of the most recognized, and increasingly popular, figures within her party as a whole. She may no longer have the ability to move bills the way she briefly did during her first few weeks in office, but like Trump himself, she has embraced her self-imposed martyrdom, thereby capturing more attention than she ever could have before.
Clearly, she's loving the newfound spotlight.
This was, of course, inevitable from the moment it became clear that Democrats either weren't going to or couldn't expel Greene from Congress altogether. Instead, by only sort-of punishing her, they ended up snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by giving her a higher profile — as well as a compelling narrative (that of the iconoclastic freedom fighter) with which she can leverage her newfound national fame into headlines (and possibly more importantly, serious money).
If this all sounds suspiciously Trumpian to you, you'd be absolutely correct. How many times did the former president turn some congressional rebuke into a way to further galvanize his base?
This, then, is the catch-22 with politicians-cum-demagogues like Trump and Greene. Their actions demand condemnation and reprisals — the kind Washington is simply not capable of mustering these days. At the same time, the only truly effective way to neutralize their power is by depriving them of the attention and exposure they need. "Don't," as the saying goes, "feed the trolls."
Which leaves us with same sort of congressional insanity that once again has pushed a dangerous fringe figure to the front of the political pack. And until someone like Greene is forced to actually face real consequences for her actions — and not the sort she can twist into a political victory for her base — then the Democrats will likely keep doing the same thing over and over again, hoping that this time, it'll end up differently.