George Santos Is the Grifter That the GOP Deserves
A party that embraces bullshit gets the ultimate bullshitter.
On Tuesday morning, congressman-elect George Santos showed up at the United States Capitol for his first day on the job as an incoming member of the House of Representatives. Unsurprisingly, day one was a mixed bag for the Long Island conservative. He got lost, he took a dorky picture, and no one really wanted to hang out with him, yet despite it all, he still managed to get some insignificant busy work done. Taken in total, it was a fairly inconspicuous — perhaps even mundane — start for a man whose meteoric rise in Republican politics seems fueled entirely by a lifetime of atomic weapons-grade misrepresentations, grifts, and general scumminess. Here’s a brief, by-no-means comprehensive list of the things Santos has evidently lied about:
Where he went to college.
Where he worked.
What religion he is.
How he got so much money.
How he spent a lot of that money.
Whether he had employees killed in a terrorist attack.
Whether he had a mother killed in a terrorist attack.
You get the picture.
Santos is notable, I suppose, for the overwhelming volume and sheer brazenness of his lies. What he’s not, however, is all that substantively different from his Republican colleagues for whom spinning bullshit into profit is simply part of the job. To the extent that Santos is guilty of anything (other than, y’know, his actual crimes) it’s being inelegant about that which his new coworkers are much more adept. His lies were the sort that can be (and ultimately were) easily disproved, centered largely on inflating his personal brand, rather than yielding any sort of tangible benefit beyond a desperate hope that “maybe people will like me now?”
Pathetic as Santos’ fabrications may be, they’re hardly unique within the GOP of 2023. Republicans have made abundantly clear that lying is not only to be tolerated but rewarded, so long as the liar in question can dazzle voters with enough panache and self-assuredness to dampen the inertia of their propulsive deceit. Lawmakers like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Donald Trump and Paul Gosar have based their careers both in and out of politics on lies that are demonstratively more harmful and dangerous than fudging where you got your degree or what your first job out of college actually was. But because their lies are so outlandish, or are delivered with enough oomph to electrify arenas full of unthinking followers, they’ve been able to skate by while Santos falls through the ice.
Santos’ weakness, then, is that he’s caught between a lifetime of mundane falsehoods — any one of which by itself would likely have been barely enough to raise an eyebrow in the Washington DC of today — while being unable to actually sell them convincingly. The GOP base spent years being primed to accept and even celebrate obvious bullshit, so long as they like the bullshit artist enough to smooth over any dissonance that might stem from their embrace of unambiguous fiction.
The fact that Santos is floundering politically has nothing to do with the GOP’s having suddenly grown some sort of moral backbone; after all, Republicans are still accepting him into the House and allowing him to take his seat. This is a party that hungers for liars to forgive and forget. If the invented George Santos, that conservative ne plus ultra which existed on paper, were around, he’d probably be able to snatch a measure of victory from the closing jaws of defeat and go on to enjoy a long and lucrative career in conservative politics.
The real George Santos is just some schmo with skyscraper ambitions and gutter-level skills. He’s someone who hoped the quantity of his bullshit would make up for its lack of quality. He’s a typical Republican, only a little more so. As it stands, it’s hard to see him lasting beyond one term, but in today’s GOP, who can say for sure?