There are bad dreams, there are full-on nightmares, and then there’s what unfolded on Friday night in a ballroom in The Villages, a retirement community in Florida: a rally hosted by right-wing provocateurs Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). The two joined forces to launch what they’re calling a series of America First rallies, because why make America great again when you can just make it 2016 again? And while The Villages is not in Gaetz’s district, or in Greene’s state, these two hope to win over former President Donald Trump loyalists in their ongoing battle for control of the Republican Party.
“I just got to check something: I just want to make sure I’m in the right place,” Greene yelled at the mostly unmasked voters. “Tell me who is your president?”
“Donald Trump!” the crowd yelled back.
“That’s my president, too,” Greene responded, to the delight of those in attendance.
Last year, 60% of voters living in The Villages voted for Trump, making the location a prime spot for Greene and Gaetz’s Make America 2016 Again kickoff rally. Among the cringe-worthy pair’s targets was Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who has been firmly anti-Trump while the majority of her party grovels in front of the twice-impeached former president and reality-television host. House Republicans are set to vote on removing Cheney, who is the number-three Republican in the House, from her leadership role as early as Wednesday in response to her voting to impeach Trump and denouncing the party’s decision to perpetuate the “Big Lie” — that the 2020 election was “stolen” from Trump. (Hint: It wasn’t.)
“If Liz Cheney could even find Wyoming on a map and went there, she would find a lot of very angry cowboys are not happy,” Gaetz said during the rally. “She’s sort of for every war: War in Syria — for it. War against Trump and his supporters — for it. War against the Republican conference; war against her own voters.”
The audacity of conflating a civil war in Syria that, to date, has resulted in the deaths of at least 380,000 civilians to the decision to hold a president responsible for inciting a violent coup aside, Gaetz and Greene appearing onstage together is arguably one of the more disturbing recent GOP moments. Greene, who subscribes to “save the children” QAnon conspiracy theories, apparently finds no fault in rubbing shoulders with a man currently under federal investigation for trafficking underage girls across state lines. Nor does Greene seem to mind the corroborated reports that Gaetz showed other people in Congress naked pictures and videos of women he claims to have slept with.
“Marjorie Taylor Greene and I work in Washington, but we are not of Washington, and I must honestly tell you the leaders of both parties in Washington, D.C., don’t work for America first,” Gaetz said during the rally.
And while Gaetz and Greene standing side-by-side on stage, pontificating on the importance of moving the Republican Party to a Trump-first agenda, is truly the stuff of nightmares, the only thing scarier than Gaetz-Greene rallies is the idea that they will be successful in bringing more people to their side: The Villages is just their first stop. If the GOP remains full of Trump-like politicians: happy to disregard science, and willing to uphold white supremacy.