How the Anti-Squad Trolled Its Way to Congress

Far-right politicians Lauren Boebert, Madison Cawthorn, and Marjorie Taylor Greene are here to perform — not legislate

Andrea González-Ramírez
GEN
Published in
7 min readJan 28, 2021

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A photo illustration collage of Lauren Boebert, Madison Cawthorn, and Marjorie Taylor Greene displayed on a phone.
Photo illustration, sources: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds, Emily Kask/AFP/Getty; Committee on Arrangements for 2020 RNC/Getty

On the night Madison Cawthorn became the youngest person elected to the 117th Congress, he tweeted three simple words: “Cry more, lib.” It was the perfect bookend for the North Carolina Republican, whose ability to make a name for himself had to do less with his campaign platform and more with his general ability to fuel the flames of grievance on the right, first through social media and then in the conservative major leagues of Fox News and beyond.

The meteoric rise of Cawthorn and his fellow congressional freshmen, Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, can be explained by the fact they are part of a cadre of social-media-savvy lawmakers who know how to brand themselves for maximum effect. They are plenty aware that their nebulous policy agenda is secondary to the effect their extremist beliefs and performative lib-owning can have on voters inside and outside their districts. “These three people trolled their way to prominence,” said Michael Cornfield, a political scientist and professor at George Washington University who studies politicians’ use of social media. “By saying outrageous things, they pleased the platforms’ algorithms.”

In the age of the attention economy, blasting through the doors of the political scene by being blatantly scandalous pays off. Notoriety on social media leads to notoriety on news media and among establishment figures. Suddenly, voters know your name. Greene, a QAnon supporter, achieved this by employing the same combative online language as disgraced former President Donald Trump, with plenty of conspiracy theories sprinkled in between, including but not limited to delusions that the Parkland school shooting was staged and claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. The 46-year-old has been extremely active online for years. Prior to her congressional run, she suggested in social media posts that Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, should be executed. “It’s a crime punishable by death is what treason is,” she said in a video posted on Facebook. “Nancy Pelosi is guilty of treason.” She once also posted an edited

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Andrea González-Ramírez
GEN
Writer for

Award-winning Puerto Rican journalist. Senior Writer at New York Magazine’s The Cut. Formerly GEN, Refinery29, and more. Read my work: https://www.thecut.com/