Rep. Nancy Mace has always courted media attention. But now she’s taking it to the next level, seeking to remake herself fully in the mold of Reps. Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, and Marjorie Taylor Greene. In fact, on Tuesday evening she pulled a stunt that made those three look almost subtle.
Mace had been one of the eight Republican votes to remove Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House, a prominent role she clearly relished. McCarthy’s ouster necessitated a candidate forum as Republicans try to decide on his replacement. Mace wasn’t going to be overshadowed by some piddling little candidate forum: She showed up in a top with a giant red “A” on it.
“I’m wearing the scarlet letter after the week that I just had last week, being a woman up here and being demonized for my vote and for my voice,” Mace said, giddy self-regard coming off of her in waves. “I’m here to let the rest of the world know, the country know, I’m on the side of the people, I’m not on the side of the establishment, and I’m going to do the right thing every single time no matter the consequences, ‘cause I don’t answer to anybody in D.C., I don’t answer to anyone in Washington, I only answer to the people.”
In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter,” Hester Prynne is forced to wear a scarlet “A” for “adultery.” In Mace’s case, of course, the “A” is for “attention.” You have to suspect that over the weekend she rewatched the Emma Stone movie “Easy A”—and missed the point of that as thoroughly as she did of “The Scarlet Letter.”
Until now, Mace’s bids for attention have largely been for moments where she criticized her party as too extreme, such as calling on Republicans to find a “middle ground” on abortion or saying she held Donald Trump accountable for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol (although she did not actually hold him accountable when it came time to vote on impeachment). Back in January, as McCarthy sought the speakership, she described Gaetz as a “political D-lister” and a “fraud” trying to fundraise off of his opposition to McCarthy. That has changed.
Mace’s “whee, look at me” attire on Tuesday followed an appearance with Gaetz on former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast last week, and a Fox News appearance in which she violated House ethics rules by fundraising on live TV while at the Capitol. She then made a Sunday appearance on “Face the Nation” in which she touted her support for Rep. Jim Jordan as the next speaker, waving off his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and allegations that he ignored sexual abuse of Ohio State University wrestlers when he was a coach there. One of Mace’s earlier efforts to appear as the moderate corrective to her party’s extremism on abortion included talking about her experience as a rape survivor, but when it comes to Jordan having enabled sexual abuse of college athletes he was coaching, Mace’s response was, “I don’t know anything, and I don’t know anything about it.”
Mace has always been a standout even among House Republicans in her attention-seeking. Now, as the Supreme Court considers whether Mace’s district was made more safely Republican in an illegal racial gerrymander, she’s gone into overdrive. She’s trying way too hard to create a new political persona for herself in the space of a week. Mace survived a 2022 primary challenge, but she could be in for another in 2024, and potentially in a more challenging district. If she’s pulling out the scarlet letter in October 2023, what will she have escalated to by the time the 2024 election rolls around?