Editorial: Parties must deal with new political playbook

Bloomberg Opinion

It’s clear that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene doesn’t care too much what her congressional colleagues think of her: The day after she was stripped of her committee assignments in response to her long trail of vile QAnon-related rhetoric, she was boasting in person and on Twitter about how the sanction just means she will have more free time.

Just as dangerous, however, is that she doesn’t seem to care too much what her party thinks of her.

Once upon a time, losing a committee assignment would have been the end of a congressional career. None of this applies anymore. Instead, Greene is channeling her favorite Obi-Wan Kenobi persona: “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

In the 48 hours leading up to her floor vote, Greene racked up $325,000 in contributions. Indeed, she has been (and presumably still is) actively fundraising off the firestorm she created. It’s straight out of the Donald Trump playbook.

In 2016, Trump upended the Republican Party nominating process, using the power of his celebrity to go around gatekeepers at the national and state levels. By 2020, his control of the party was so absolute that none dared cross him — not members of party committees, not elected officials.

This new reality is great for individual politicians. But how does it work for the parties, the traditional vehicles that politicians rode to higher office? Obviously, it’s too soon to make major predictions for 2022. But there’s evidence from last year that Republicans might have cause to worry about voters associating Greene with the party.

The constant references to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the other “socialists” seemingly damaged the Democratic Party last fall, possibly leading to significant losses in the House and hurting the party’s chances in the Senate.

Democrats are counting on turning the tables in 2022. They plan to remind voters of every Republican who voted to keep Greene on her committees.

The challenge for the parties — one they ignore at their peril — is how to avoid paying the penalty for creative (and occasionally reckless) political free agents whose only loyalty is to personal ambition.

Bloomberg Opinion

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