This week, Marjorie Taylor Greene finally faced some consequences for her support of the January 6 insurrection. Free Speech for People, an election and campaign finance reform organization, brought a lawsuit on behalf of state voters. They argued that Greene’s comments and her actions violate the 14th Amendment, which holds that anyone “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” is barred from running for federal or state office. Greene is implicated in the planning of the event that became the riot, and has also defended the insurrection in the recent past, saying it was in line with the Declaration of Independence’s call to “overthrow tyrants.”
On Monday, US District Judge Amy Totenberg allowed the lawsuit against Greene to go forward. The decision may hamper Greene’s effort by ella to win the Republican primary on May 24. If she is actually barred from running for election, it would be the first real punishment meted out to powerful government officials who used their position by ella to try to overturn a democratic election.
It’s good that Greene is finally facing some consequences more than a year after the insurrection. And while Congress’ response to the insurrection has been fairly ineffectual, innovative approaches like the lawsuit brought by Free Speech for People have been achieving a little more success.
One of Josh Hawley’s major donors abandoned him. Progressives appealed to businesses, and corporations like Allstate, American Express, and Nike promised to cease direct contributions to lawmakers who voted against confirming the results of the 2020 election. Most of them have kept those pledges, though a few — like Cigna and Eli Lilly — have gone back on their word.
And then there are the 14th Amendment lawsuits. Voters and lawyers in North Carolina attempted to disqualify Representative Madison Cawthorn on the basis of his support of him for the Capitol attack. However, a Trump-appointed judge, Richard E. Myers II, ruled that the amnesty for Confederates meant that the disqualification of insurrectionists no longer applied. Plaintiffs were not even able to question Cawthorn under oath about his role in the insurrection.
The initial success of the Greene lawsuit, however suggests that the 14th Amendment might be effective against some other Republican insurrectionists. Mo Brooks is an obvious candidate for a challenge. Josh Hawley (who is up for election in 2024) might be as well.
The best way to hold insurrectionists accountable, though, is probably the ballot box. If every Republican who voted to overthrow the election were defeated in general election contests, or even better in primaries, Republicans would be unlikely to embrace anti-democratic tactics and anti-democratic violence in the future. Defeating Trump in the Republican primary would be especially beneficial in this regard.
Unfortunately, support for insurrection doesn’t seem likely to be a barrier to success in Republican circles. Mo Brooks has been trumpeting his involvement in the insurrection in his campaign ads. Donald Trump is widely considered the GOP frontrunner for the 2024 nomination. Other candidates, like JD Vance in the Ohio Senate race, have been fawning in their quest for his endorsement of him. For the GOP, violent authoritarian insurrection appears to be a feature, not a bug.
Shortly after the January 6 attack on the Capitol, the House introduced a resolution to formally censor Brooks. Democrats also called for the 139 Senators who tried to overturn the election to be censored or expelled.
The initial steps towards Congressional censorship, however, went nowhere. Republican intransigence prevented any forward movement against Senators in the evenly-divided, filibuster-paralyzed Senate. Trump was impeached in the House for his role, but the Senate could not muster the two-thirds majority necessary to remove him.
A Select Committee to investigate the January 6 attack was formed in the House. But its work has been slow; more than a year after the attacks, he has taken testimony from many key figures, but still has not held live hearings or issued findings.
Meanwhile, Republican opposition to any investigation has hardened — so much so that the few Republicans willing to participate in the Select Committee were themselves censored by the GOP caucus. Majorie Taylor Greene has been removed from committee assignments. But that is because of her comments supporting violence against Democrats, rather than for her support for the insurrection specifically.
Congress, donors, courts, voters — all could in theory take a strong stand against insurrection and hold anti-democratic legislators to account. All have, so far, proved mostly unwilling or unable to do so. The ruling against Greene is a rare sign that there might be some consequences for those who have tried to overthrow our government. It’s far too early to celebrate. But every flicker of hope is welcome.