This editorial appeared in the Post-Star on May 27:
GLENS FALLS — It’s wearisome to have to call out the ignorant, hateful comments of people like Marjorie Taylor Greene over and over, but someone has to.
And those in positions of authority, like our congresswoman, Elise Stefanik, who could make the Greenes of the world as irrelevant as they deserve to be, refuse to do the right thing. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, after five days of silence, finally muttered that Greene’s comments were appalling then segued into an attack on Nancy Pelosi. Stefanik, who has repeatedly expressed her indignation over the behavior of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, also waited five days to criticize a colleague who compared wearing a mask during a pandemic to being forced to identify yourself as a Jew so you could be ostracized, terrorized and murdered. Finally, on [May 25], Stefanik sent out this tweet: “Equating mask wearing and vaccines to the Holocaust belittles the most significant human atrocities ever committed. We must all work together to educate our fellow Americans on the unthinkable horrors of the Holocaust.”
Notice she doesn’t mention Greene. Instead, she turns a particular instance of terrible behavior by a single congresswoman into a universal message — an opportunity for us all to do better. In the same way, she answered the “Black lives matter” cry for justice and humanity with the meaningless “All lives matter” response.
Greene first made her ridiculous, odious comparison in a radio show, then defended it [last] week: “Vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the Nazi’s forced Jewish people to wear a gold star,” she wrote, referring to a story about a supermarket’s policies. She also said about pandemic prevention, “Their attempts to shame, ostracize, and brand Americans who choose not to get vaccinated or wear a mask are reminiscent of the great tyrants of history who did the same to those who would not comply.” [May 25], after a teeny bit of blowback from Republican leadership, she wrote, “I never compared it to the Holocaust, only the discrimination against Jews in early Nazi years.”
It’s hard to decide whether Greene’s ignorance or her maliciousness is worse, but the traits are inseparable.
Stefanik’s bromide about everyone working together to learn about the Holocaust is an insufficient response. This specific person and her specific comments should be condemned. Republican leaders like Stefanik have real power to curb Greene, by expelling her from Congress or, at least, expelling her from the Republican Party conference in Congress.
But taking the No. 3 Republican leadership position in the House, as Stefanik recently did, has not brought with it the ability to stand up for what is right — that has been left to, for example, Liz Cheney, who quickly branded Greene’s comments as “evil lunacy.” Cheney is the person Stefanik supplanted as House GOP No. 3.
These comments aren’t just talk. The embrace of extreme language to demonize people you disagree with, the inaccurate characterization of political opponents as Nazis or socialists or fascists or terrorists or a “woke mob” undermines our ability to govern ourselves. Greene is part of something dangerous that is widespread in our country now — a movement that embraces fantastical theories and works to shred the social order by, for example, fighting against pandemic prevention.
Countering this danger is more important than winning any election. Unfortunately, Stefanik and other Republican leaders are willing to tolerate “evil lunacy” if it helps them pick up a few seats in Congress.
Maybe even that is giving them too much credit. Maybe McCarthy and Stefanik and many others aren’t being tactical but think it’s fine to shrug and move on when a congressional representative compares the national effort vs. a pandemic with the Nazi Party’s mass murder of Jews. It’s not fine, but the only way we will get more out of Elise Stefanik than a shrug on Twitter is for the voters in her district who elected her to let her know this is unacceptable.
Local editorials are written by the Post-Star editorial board, which includes Ben Rogers, president and director of local sales and marketing; Brian Corcoran, regional finance director and former publisher; Will Doolittle, projects editor; and Bob Condon, local news editor.