Column

Our New Gamergate GOP

Republicans like Madison Cawthorn and Marjorie Taylor Greene are Trumpism’s terrifying new torchbearers

Photo illustration; Photo courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images

Madison Cawthorn’s first public statement as an incoming North Carolina congressman didn’t thank voters or lay out a road map for what he’ll accomplish in Washington, D.C. Instead, the youngest Republican ever elected to Congress tweeted, “Cry more, lib.”

Say hello to the new generation of the GOP, extremists who seem more at home in a Gamergate Reddit forum than the Capitol building. And no matter who wins the presidential election, the left has to be worried about the intensifying encroachment of political right-wingers whose radicalism has moved from the margins to the mainstream.

Cawthorn, for example, has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women, swooned over his visit to Hitler’s home in Germany — a trip he said was on his “bucket list” — and created a website where he attacked a reporter for working “for non-white males, like Cory Booker, who aims to ruin white males running for office.”

And Cawthorn wasn’t the only extremist who won last night: QAnon believer Marjorie Taylor Greene, won a House seat in Georgia. QAnon is a conspiracy cult that believes Democrats are part of a Satanic pedophile cult that eats babies.

The GOP’s policies have always been regressive and discriminatory, but this new class of Republicans — unlike their predecessors — doesn’t really care if anyone knows it. They’ve abandoned all pretense. Because if Donald Trump’s presidency has taught them anything, it’s that you can be outrageously racist and misogynist and a good chunk of Americans will cheer you on.

Even if Joe Biden wins, Trump’s unapologetic racism, sexism, and pathological lying is now the model for a rising tide of younger Republicans. And regardless of the outcome of the election, it’s clear from these state-level wins — and Biden’s lack of a clear and quick landslide — that many Americans aren’t just grinning and bearing Trump’s coarse bigotry, they like it. They are proactively voting for it and supporting it.

The Atlantic staff writer Adam Serwer’s 2018 reflection that “the cruelty is the point” — perhaps the most defining observation of the Trump era — is more salient than ever. Republicans aren’t just participating in cruel policies, or unseemly taunts — they’re delighting in them.

And that should terrify us all. We’ve watched as babies were separated from parents and armed right-wing militias extremists stormed statehouses. We’ve seen the president call majority Black countries “shit-holes” and refuse to condemn Nazis marching through our streets. As horrific as that all is, it’s also why the rise of politicians like Cawthorn and Greene make sense: They’re the new torchbearers for Trump’s trademark cruelty. No amount of pageantry — like when Cawthorn sends a press release at the same time as his mocking tweet that reads, “rather than tearing each other down, we need to lift each other up” — changes that.

Even if Biden wins the White House, the future of the GOP is clear, frightening, and — worst of all — backed by Republican voters.

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.

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