Opinion: Southern Republicans in Congress duke it out - with each other

Two distinct arms of the Republican Party in the South were on display in the U.S. House this week — not fighting Democrats or President Biden — but instead locked in a bitter and highly personal verbal smackdown with each other.

In one corner was U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, the brash freshman from Georgia who has shifted more and more of her energy in recent months to ridding the GOP of people she deems insufficiently supportive of Donald Trump.

In the other corner was another Republican freshman, U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., who knocked off a Democratic incumbent to win a swing district around Charleston, the only coastal area in South Carolina to vote against Trump in 2020.

“Internal party spats are normal but it’s difficult to remember one as public and abject,” said Josh Huder, a Congressional expert at Georgetown University.

Capitol Hill veterans watched with mouths agape as Greene and Mace took repeated swings at each other after Mace criticized Greene ally U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo. for her attacks on U.S. Rep Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.

The battle mainly played out on Twitter, the favored arena for members of Congress to take personal jabs at each other.

Greene called Mace ‘trash.’ Mace suggested Greene was a religious bigot. Greene said Mace was a liar. Mace reminded Greene of her 9/11 truther claims. Greene said Mace was two-faced. Mace called Greene a grifter, and then used a series of emojis to blast the Georgia Republican as ‘bat [expletive] crazy.’

At one point, Greene posted on Twitter that she had just spoken to Donald Trump about Mace, sounding like someone who had called Dad at work to rat out her sister.

Mace later pulled out a favorite Southern put-down for Greene.

“Bless her heart,” Mace told reporters — though she actually added in an extra two-syllable word about Greene in front of heart, and proudly put that on Twitter, too.

“The lines separating “true conservatives” from the rest have become increasingly personal,” Huder observed dryly.

Greene’s effort to purge the Republican Party of more moderate members picked up steam earlier this month when she labeled as ‘traitors’ the 13 House Republicans who voted for a bipartisan infrastructure bill.

That led to an avalanche of phone calls, with some GOP lawmakers reporting an increased number of personal threats.

Greene doesn’t apologize for any of this drama. Her first year on Capitol Hill shows she’s not here to legislate, but rather to change the Republican Party.

“And when the party learns to represent Conservative Americans, we will never lose again,” Greene declared.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and the Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com