When it comes right down to it, newly elected Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) is the perfect metaphor for today’s Republican Party. He’s the living embodiment of the GOP’s perpetual dishonesty, the physical manifestation of it. Santos puts the “con” ― three of them, actually ― in “contemporary conservative congressman.”
Santos is to the GOP what Thanos is to the MCU, only in this case, a finger snaps and Republican integrity vanishes into dust.
Listen: Maybe five years ago or so, George Santos lying his way into Congress would have been shocking news regardless of which party he ran for. This is a man who appears to have lied about his ancestry and family history, his religious affiliation, his education, his work history, his finances, his grandparents fleeing the Holocaust and his mother dying in the 9/11 attacks. And those represent just some of his false and misleading statements.
Yes, we should all find this shocking ― but then I remember Herschel Walker.
Not long ago, Walker was a handful of MAGA votes away from representing Georgia in the Senate, despite the fact that he lied and/or was misleading about working with law enforcement and the FBI, being in the military, donating corporate profits to charity and founding a charity for veterans. He also falsely claimed he graduated from the University of Georgia ― and then falsely claimed he didn’t falsely claim it.
Let’s say Walker had been elected to the Senate. What exactly would have been the difference between him and Santos? (To be fair, Walker didn’t lie about relatives fleeing or dying in Hurricane Katrina or anything like that.)
In fact, Santos and Walker might even have lying about charities in common, as Santos has recently been accused by a disabled Navy veteran of pocketing funds he supposedly raised for life-saving surgery for the veteran’s service dog. (Santos denies the allegation.)
Before Walker and Donald Trump and MAGA and “stop the steal” and Jan. 6 and Marjorie Taylor Greene and QAnon and Lauren Boebert and conservatives’ fearmongering war against critical race theory (and subsequent gentrification of the word “woke”) and so on and so forth — before all this, Santos’ ascent to Congress would have been extraordinary. Still shameful, but extraordinary. Now it just appears to be the new ordinary.
Speaking of Trump, it should surprise absolutely no one that on Jan. 6, 2021 ― just before a mob of disgruntled Republican voters, all of whom had been lied to, attacked the U.S. Capitol in an effort to overturn a legitimate election ― Santos spoke at Trump’s infamous rally in Washington, D.C. Not only did Santos echo Trump’s big “stop the steal” lie, but he claimed, without evidence, that his own previous bid for Congress in 2020 was stolen from him by way of (imaginary) voter fraud.
“If you’re from New York, you know what they did to me ― they did to me what they did to Donald J. Trump,” Santos exclaimed. “They stole my election!” (According to his ex-roommate, the only thing stolen was the scarf Santos was wearing at the time.)
“For 14 days I was congressman-elect of the 3rd Congressional District of New York,” he continued. “The first-ever biggest upset for a Republican in New York City, and what did they do? When they were too busy printing 280,000 ballots ― in my district, and shipping them to Pennsylvania ― they sneaked in a few from my opponent.” (That would be now-former Rep. Tom Suozzi, a Democrat.)
So, here, Santos took Trump’s election-stealing voter fraud fantasy and embedded within it his own election-stealing voter fraud fantasy. (It’s like “Inception,” but with GOP propaganda.)
Considering Republican lawmakers helped a sitting president foster a political environment where anything goes and anything can be said no matter how dishonest, dangerous and ridiculous, it would be hard to take seriously any of them who start feigning shock and awe because now an alleged con artist has joined their ranks. (This is why I’m not terribly impressed with the growing number of Republican officials who are calling on Santos to resign.)
Remember, 147 Republican legislators voted to overturn a valid election based on Trump’s big con, which Santos endorsed and even added to. Now, Santos is the “big lie.” And it’s not that Trump and Santos are two peas in a pod ― it’s that so many prominent Republicans are becoming pod people who conform to delusion and lower what the standard should be for elected officials. And that’s how someone like Santos ― who is currently the subject of federal, state and international investigations, all based on suspicion of fraud ― can fall through the cracks and plummet right into a congressional seat.
Look, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m being too hard on the GOP, and ignoring the possibility that the next Anna Delvey variant to fake it (to voters) until they make it (to Congress) might be a Democrat. Maybe it really was just a vetting issue that allowed Santos to slip through, and not the political culture of normalized lying that I believe the Republican Party has spent the better part of the past decade doubling, tripling and quadrupling down on. All I can say for sure is that it shouldn’t be this easy to lie and get by for people who are in charge of legislation.
But Santos sure makes it look easy ― as does his party. And that just doesn’t feel like coincidence, does it?