The recent election of New York Republican representative George Santos has been nothing short of utterly chaotic. It seems there is little the congressman has not lied about in regards to his life, to the point where even his name is in question.
Other highlights include lying about both his high school and college education, running a fake animal charity which scammed a disabled veteran and his mother’s death stemming from 9/11.
Recently, Santos was outed as a former drag queen over a three year period in Brazil. The news was broken by Marisa Kabas, an independent journalist who spoke with Brazilian drag queen Eula Rorard who claims to have performed alongside Santos under the stage name of Kitara Ravache.
Santos, who Rorard knew by the name of Anthony Devolder (the other name associated with the representative) is reported to have performed extensively. Footage was found of journalist Joâo Fragah interviewing Santos in 2005, who talked about performing in multiple venues.
Santos has responded to the controversy by denying the claims, saying “I was not a drag queen. I was young and I had fun at a festival. Sue me for having a life.”
Critics have noted his support for a political party which has targeted drag performers with accusations of child grooming is hypocritical. How can he hold these views as a gay man who did the very thing he now decries? His support of Florida’s controversial “Parental Rights in Education” bill, colloquially called “Don’t Say Gay” for forbidding discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms of kindergartners to third graders is along a similar vein.
It’s very easy to want to point out the hypocrisy here. The party of gay homophobes seems a righteous target. Doesn’t he know he’s working with those that think he is the problem?
However, I would like to offer a radically different approach to reacting to this, because the problem with pointing out hypocrisy is that it assumes the politicians in question care about consistency.
Take the issue of protecting children, which Republicans have seemingly taken up as their defining cause. Last year 24 Republicans in Tennessee sponsored legislation which would not include a minimum age requirement for marriage, which was set at the age of 17 with parental consent previously effectively legalizing marriage for young children in the state.
Indeed the United States currently permits child marriage in 43 states.
If one looks at any laundry list of Republican positions, they will find a person going back on themselves. The party of “balancing the budget” tripled deficit spending under Reagan, taking the national debt from $995 billion to $2.9 trillion. A more contemporary example is proposed legislation to defund the IRS, which if passed will add $114 billion the deficit.
Similarly, the party of “family values” tears families apart at the border. The party of freedom and personal choice has been effortlessly crusading against bodily autonomy for the pregnant in efforts to restrict abortion. Three states have also proposed legislation to restrict gender transition care to those as old as 26.
One could also talk about how discussions of “cancel culture” are hypocritical for proponents of a free marketplace of ideas. Alternatively, those who decry communist governments as overly propagandistic and censorious while themselves trying to censor history that shows the dark underbelly of America’s foundation. One could fill page after page with the accusations of hypocrisy.
The point, however, is not that to the politicians, and to many of their supporters, this simply does not matter.
It does not matter how far short Republicans fall of the standards they set. Why would it? At the end of the day, as long as the votes are there to stop Democratic policies and go after the people they dislike, it doesn’t particularly matter who is casting them.
It’s why a party that would have called Santos a groomer for doing drag sees no issue in naming him to two House committees.
In a comment to CNN, chairman of the Small Business Committee Rep. Roger Williams lays it out plainly: “I don’t condone what he said, what he’s done. I don’t think anybody does. But that’s not my role. He was elected.”
It does not matter what Santos does or has done, nor does it matter what any other Republican has done. The nature of the struggle they have taken up prevents wasting time and effort on such a trivial ethical debate as internal consistency. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Look at the way Republican politicians and political activists talk about their Democratic opposition: Marjorie Taylor Greene has called the election of Joe Biden “a Marxist takeover”. Representative John Kennedy said a proposed stimulus bill to respond to COVID was “left of Lenin”.
The pushback against Critical Race Theory is framed as a battle against the indoctrination of children to hate their country and crush freedom. The problem at hand is not hypocrisy, it is a political tendency with militant intentions to maintain power by any means necessary.
So how are we to react when we encounter the hypocrisy of figures such as George Santos? The current strategy of laughing and calling out hypocrisy is frankly a misuse of our energies. It may be fun to do, and it may make us feel better about ourselves but it does not stop the ongoing project.
To stop the rise of far right extremism, we need to convey the severity of the proposed goals and the direction such ideology takes us as a society rather than calling out the hypocrisy in the ranks of its supporters. A focus on hypocrisy fails to center the crux of the issue, which is that the goals being pursued, of weakening democracy, attacking LGBTQ+ Americans, and attacking our public institutions are fundamentally bad goals with disastrous effects.