Curious Case of Rep. Mace
Terry H. Schwadron
Dec. 4, 2021
Can we please consider the case and fortunes of Rep. Nancy Mace, R-SC, and more generally this constant bowing among Republicans to a radical fringe?
Admittedly, I have not previously followed Mace’s political ups and downs, she popped up spectacularly twice this week, drawing gold-star notice from people paying attention.
First on Sunday, she illustrated a perfect, speedy political flip-flop before the cameras of two competing networks ostensibly with two different viewership to take opposite, politically convenient stands about pursuing covid vaccinations — without explanation. Lost in the focus on Mace herself was the tacit acknowledgment that in America now, there are different belief systems for reality, depending of the affirming nature of the news being presented on alternative channels. That simple acknowledgment is not only accepted but hailed by proponents and opponents alike; to someone who spent a professional career in news, it spells a devastatingly awful conclusion.
Then on Monday, she decided to pour kerosene on Republican internecine warfare by attacking fellow Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo, for making anti-Muslim remarks that are splitting open divides even among Republicans about just how rude to get without being congressionally offensive, and suffer backlash herself. That these comments all around are “news” reflects a dark moment for news as well.
The covid double-talk from Mace “might seem inconsequential, the kind of thing that makes people cynical about politicians,” noted Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman. “But it’s a perfect example of how even Republican officials who are considered the sensible ones — as Mace is — play a game that maintains their legitimacy while allowing dangerous lunacy to flourish in their party.”
Unlike yet more right-leaning Republicans, Mace at least acknowledges that covid exists and that new variants, like Omicron, are still emerging.
Flip and Flop
Specifically, Mace went on Fox to denounce mandatory vaccine programs, claiming, falsely, that “natural immunity gives you 27 times more protection. In an interview with CNN later in the day, presumably calculating a different political cast to its audience, Mace touted herself as a “proponent of vaccination.”
Actually, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a study last month finding that unvaccinated people who had a prior covid infection were 5.5 times more likely to test positive for the virus than vaccinated individuals who never had covid. A prior CDC study discovered that less than two-thirds of adults with a covid infection developed any antibodies against the virus, compared to 100 percent of individuals who developed antibodies after vaccination.
One might conclude either that she talks through her hat or that she is very concerned about winning re-election and fashioning her positions with an eye towards keeping voters of different persuasions in her column.
It’s not Mace’s first flip-flop. A Trump supporter, she now has run into the far right buzzsaw for voting to hold Trump ally Steve Bannon in contempt for his refusal to comply with a Jan. 6 select committee subpoena. After Jan. 6, she first condemned Trump, then voted against impeachment in connection with his involvement in the insurrection.
Then, to some surprise, Mace weighed in on her Republican colleagues over insults to Democrat Omar, keeping alive Republican infighting about the limits on personal attack. A tweet from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene called Mace “trash in the GOP conference” for criticizing remarks by Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo. Greene said Mace was a “gal pal” with the “Jihad Squad.” Mace then responded by using emojis to call her fellow first-term Republican congresswoman “batshit crazy.”
All this had stemmed from Boebert inventing a rude story that made Omar into a stereotyped Islamic terrorist, before being forced into an apology sequence that got botched. As icing on this cake, when Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, in his continuing flailing campaign to become Speaker, called Republicans together to tell them to knock off the infighting, Greene simply walked out.
You have to remind yourself that this is Congress, not junior high school.
Splits Within Divides
The spat is a reminder that while Republicans in Congress present themselves as an anti-Joe Biden bloc, there are splits within their ranks over how far to go with it all.
Nancy Mace grew up in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, daughter of a retired general and schoolteacher. She attended The Citadel, a military academy, and wrote a book about being its first woman graduate, ran her own marketing company and is a single mom of two. She is known for promoting environmental conservation and financial conservatism.
Still, she seems to be positioning herself among those who are against Democratic programs, but not in need of making up new realities. By contrast, Greene, Boebert, and this week, Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Tex., were doing so, with Jackson, the former White House doctor, insisting that Omicron is not real, and just a figment of Democratic minds bent on re-introducing covid mutations to win electoral concessions like more mail voting. Boebert acknowledged making up the Ilhan Omar incident that brought woe to her, and Greene’s creative mind has brought us Jewish-lasers-from-space theories, among others.
Greene and Boebert, meanwhile, are insisting that they represent the Republican base now, not some more “moderate” Republicans, including Mace, who doesn’t seem too moderate by herself. Sometimes it seems a test of just how loud their outlandish, overly personal attacks are.
It’s nutty opposition vs. just obstinate opposition.
Obviously since electoral politics first emerged, politicians have manipulated reality to serve their own purposes. This week, the cases involving Rep. Mace seem to have been too compressed, too speedy to hide in the corner.
Thoughtful, straight-ahead thinkers — and news that matters — may be on the endangered species list.