Rep. Nancy Mace is frequently in the news. On Thursday, it was the apparently sudden exit of her chief of staff and campaign manager. And for much of the week, the libertarian-ish South Carolina Republican has been feuding with the wilder and woolier members of her conference, especially the ubiquitous Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.)
The seemingly trivial spat is actually a glimpse into the future of the Republican Party. How the party should deal with self-promoting lawmakers like Greene and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) is a proxy for its bargain with former President Donald Trump. The GOP's small but vocal liberty wing split over Trump, with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) largely aligning himself rhetorically (if not always voting the MAGA line) and former Rep. Justin Amash (first R, then L-Mich.) ultimately leaving the party in protest.
Mace was initially inclined to stand with Rand on the side of Trump, but since Jan. 6 she has drifted, however fitfully, in the Amash direction — to the degree that the 45th president would like to see her unseated in a primary. This was the fate that befell her predecessor, former Rep. Mark Sanford, another quietly libertarian-leaning Republican, whose criticism of Trump ended a political career that had improbably survived scandal. (Trump's interference also caused the district to fall to the Democrats for two years, though redistricting will make this outcome less likely.)
While some Republicans of Mace's ilk hoped to capitalize on Trump's less hawkish foreign policy rhetoric, others had deep disdain for the low-brow populism he unleashed within the party. They'll be forced to take a stand if he runs in 2024. It's not clear that mud-wrestling with Trump's imitators is necessary, however. Trading insults with Greene gives her more oxygen while alienating Mace from conservatives who want their representatives to give liberals no quarter. Supporting primary challengers against Greene, Boebert, and pals has the potential to do more good than launching a flame war.
And however either type of fight plays out, it's worth watching. We can be fairly sure the Republican future isn't Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and the establishment, neoconservative throwbacks she leads. The debate is whether the GOP should steer toward Greene or Mace, and that debate is probably unavoidable.