Members Only | January 23, 2023 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
The GOP ethic of elites getting to do whatever they want
George Santos is living his party’s values.
Too bad George Santos is not a drag-queen. Might be the only way Republicans would express outrage and demand his ouster,” quipped dissident Republican pundit Ana Ana Navarro-Cárdenas on twitter last month.
Ana Navarro-Cárdenas’s theory was put to the test last week when RuPaul of Brazil revealed that Santos was once a mediocre drag queen known as Kitara Ravache. Santos flatly denied having performed in drag, but the gig is up.
A newly surfaced video shows Santos, clad in a black dress, claiming to perform in various Rio drag clubs. When Rubert Murdoch’s New York Post drops the pretense that the person in that footage is anyone other than George Santos, the gig is up.
Research the GOP can get behind
You might think these revelations would be inconvenient for Santos, given that the Republicans have spent months demonizing the noble art of drag and falsely claiming that drag performance is the grooming phase of child abuse. You’d be wrong.
With a five-vote majority in the House, Speaker Kevin McCarthy is willing to take support wherever he can find it, even from someone who reportedly admitted to stealing checks from an elderly man. Santos has racked up so many victims that they’ve created a group chat just to commiserate. But a vote’s a vote. McCarthy even gave Santos two committee assignments.
Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene welcomed the young legislator in her love language, a bizarre conspiracy-laced Twitter rant. Greene is an anti-drag queen demagogue who recently called a state senator a “groomer” for correctly labeling her rhetoric as homophobic. Last year, Greene targeted one of her own constituents, baselessly insinuating to her million-plus social media followers that the 22-year-old drag performer was a sexual predator.
Santos was spotted chatting amiably with Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, who stands credibly accused of paying a 17-year-old for sex, but who slanders drag queens as sexualizers of children. Santos was also welcomed on the podcast of former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, who is facing fraud charges in New York for allegedly bilking a charity.
Greene and her allies will either pretend to believe Santos’ ridiculous denial and attack Democrats. Or they’ll come up with some strained excuse for why the streets of Rio are different from a Drag Queen Story Hour, and attack Democrats.
The core brand of the Republican Party is trolling, and attention is its only currency. The far-right likes that Santos is under federal, local and congressional investigation. He’s on the Science committee, but mostly he’s testing the limits of what a congressman can get away with. That’s research the GOP can get behind.
Leaning into the absurdity
It thrills the right that Santos allegedly let a homeless veteran’s dog die in order to skim funds from his fake charity. They love that he pretended to be Jewish and falsely claimed his mom was killed on 9/11. Liberals hate that sort of thing, so by embracing Santos, the Republicans are owning libs.
It’s ridiculous that Santos attended the Stop the Steal rally wearing a $500 designer scarf that he’d allegedly stolen from his roommate, that he was mixed up in a Ponzi scheme, that his campaign finances stink, that he has so many victims they’ve formed an informal support group.
And the GOP is leaning into the absurdity.
It makes the government seem like a joke, and that suits Republicans just fine. These antics make ordinary people disengage from the work of politics, even as they watch the cheap spectacle unfold on their phones.
It’s tempting to assume that the Republicans are compromising their ethics in pursuit of power, but that’s a mistake.
They are living their values, and their top value is that the elite can do whatever they want.
Just ask Donald Trump, who once “motor-boated” Rudy Giuliani.
The fundamental question is whether we want a society where everyone can express themselves and have fun, or whether that freedom’s an exclusive perk.
Lindsay Beyerstein covers legal affairs, health care and politics for the Editorial Board. An award-winning documentary filmmaker, she’s a judge for the Sidney Hillman Foundation. Find her @beyerstein.