OPINION: ‘Gazpacho Police’ the tip of the ice cube for Georgia politics

The Internet had a good laugh Wednesday when a video surfaced of Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene saying that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi used “gazpacho police” to spy on members of Congress.

By “gazpacho” we assume Greene meant “Gestapo” police in Nazi Germany. But can we rewind to her underlying claim that the House Speaker is using the Capitol Police like the secret Gestapo to monitor and intimidate Members of Congress and American citizens alike?

It’s tempting to ignore Greene, since she has been barred from serving on congressional committees and has no traditional levers of legislative influence in Washington.

But you can’t ignore the fact that Greene has amassed real power inside the House Republican conference and has raised more campaign cash than nearly any other member of Congress after just a year in office.

She also has a hold on a group of voters despite the fact that she ignores history, evidence, data, and facts. And it’s not just tolerated by some voters, it’s celebrated.

In the gazpacho interview with One America News Network, Greene called the D.C. jail, where the people accused with the most violent crimes on Jan. 6 are awaiting trial, the “D.C. gulag.” She has also championed those people as “political prisoners.”

She has also told OANN “the election was stolen,” (it wasn’t) and referred to the January 6th attack on the Capitol as “the riot and some of the so-called violence.”

But Greene’s popularity is just part of a strain of anti-history, anti-science, anti-fact approach to public life that should be concerning to anyone who cares about politics and government.

Lawmakers in Georgia have already taken up bills this session that flout years, decades, or even centuries, of scientific evidence.

The state House Agriculture Committee recently reviewed House Bill 1000, a bill from state Rep. Stan Gunter to make the rabies vaccine for dogs and cats optional in some cases. Gunter said he drafted the legislation after a constituent came to him worried that the rabies vaccine could kill her dog.

Dr. Keri Riddick, the president of the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association, told the panel that rabies vaccines are mandatory, not just because it protects cats and dogs from rabies, but to prevent people from getting rabies, since the neurological effects are nearly always fatal in humans once symptoms begin.

“We can prevent this,” she said. “We have an obligation to prevent people from getting rabies.”

The same committee heard a bill Thursday that would make raw milk available for human consumption more than a century after Louis Pasteur created the pasteurization process, which eliminates dangerous bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria from milk.

The lawmaker behind HB 1175 has said his goal is simply to place health safety standards on the raw milk that people are already drinking anyway. But detractors like the National Milk Producers Federation have said no amount of regulation will make it safe to drink raw milk and produced data that proved “a demonstrated public health risk.”

Lack of scientific reasoning or medical necessity was also a primary objection Wednesday at a state Senate committee hearing to review Senate Bill 456, which would require pregnant women to see a doctor in person before being able to obtain mifepristone, the abortion pill. As my colleague Maya Prabhu reported, a doctor would also have to perform an ultrasound test before prescribing it.

In introducing the bill to the committee, state Sen. Bruce Thompson tripped on the words “obstetrics” and “gynecology,” and he explained his position that the bill is important “to protect women at their most vulnerable.”

Along with requiring an in-person visit and ultrasound test, one part of the bill would also require doctors to “inform the patient that she may see the remains of her unborn child in the process of completing the abortion.”

Melissa Kottke, an Atlanta-based OB-GYN, said that language and much of the underlying bill has no basis in fact.

“This bill sets out requirements for which there is no current medical justification,” she said.

But Republicans weren’t the only ones adding non-scientific information to the record. At that same hearing, a witness who opposed the Republican measure referred frequently to “birthing people” in her testimony, a gender-neutral term that is also not found in any science text.

Policy debates are rarely free of emotion, but they should always be grounded in facts, especially when they’re verifiable. But even that’s been a challenge at the Capitol lately.

At a hearing on a Republican measure to allow Georgians to carry a concealed weapon without a license, state Sen. Jason Antavitarte, R-Dallas, called any assertion that gun crimes are increasing in states with similar laws in place “patently false.”

“Actually it’s well documented,” state Sen. Elena Parent responded.

“Well you have your facts, I have my facts, so that’s fair,” he reasoned.

Taking a beat, Parent responded, “Um, no.”

The good news, if there is any, is that some of the bills that may have lacked scientific input on the front end are still a work in progress. The author of the rabies bill said he was more than open to ideas his colleagues might have to make the legislation better and at least one volunteered for duty.

As for Marjorie Taylor Greene, I think we can now safely assume her promise seven months ago to educate herself on the horrors of the Holocaust and use that historical information responsibly was one more fact-free statement she’s made and moved on from.

Luckily for her, nobody told the gazpacho police.