Marjorie Traitor Greene On The Insurrectionists: “I AM One Of Those People. That’s Exactly Who I Am"
She Started As A Social Media Troll; Now She Embodies The American Conservative Movement
Last week Jake Sherman spent a couple of days on the campaign trail with Kevin McCarthy, who increasingly looks like he’ll be the next Speaker. McCarthy, in fact, feels very confidant that he’ll be taking the gavel from Pelosi, who recently called him a moron. Sherman wrote that McCarthy admits that iff the GOP doesn’t win the majority this time, he’ll probably never be speaker; it’s now or never and, McCarthy told him if he doesn’t win now it’s “not God’s plan for me to be speaker.”
Being speaker is an incredibly difficult job– especially for Republicans. John Boehner lasted just four years, while Paul Ryan made it three years and some change. McCarthy seems to understand this, noting that “Republicans… make it more difficult than do Democrats.” That’s absolutely true, but there’s only been one Democratic speaker in nearly 30 years, making the comparison a little difficult. Republicans are on their fourth. Nancy Pelosi intimidates Democrats, even scares them. Very few Republicans feared Boehner or Ryan.
“When you study speakers who take it from the minority to the majority, they’re not long lasting speakers… What happens in it, you become a household name. And you just take all these arrows. So you’re the guy running up the hill with the flag, it’s always the person behind you that wants to pick it up after you’ve been shot. They never had to go through the war, they just get to hold onto the flag.”
The larger question for Congress, the White House and the country is how many Republican lawmakers does McCarthy need to effectively govern. A single-seat margin would make life very difficult for the California Republican. McCarthy made the argument to us that a smaller majority could inspire unity– as it did for Denny Hastert and Tom DeLay in the early 2000s. Pelosi has operated throughout this Congress with a small majority as well.
But McCarthy told us that he would like at least a 10-seat cushion— netting at least15 seats— to account for “real life problems” such as unexpected deaths in the House.
No doubt McCarthy read today’s NY Times report by Robert Draper, The Problem of Marjorie Taylor Greene, which could be referenced as mostly his own impending problem. McCarthy hopes his majority will focus on cutting taxes forth rich; Traitor Greene has other priorities. Draper began his report with a quote: “There’s going to be a lot of investigations. I’ve talked with a lot of members about this.” A lot of members? The Gang-Greene? There are a lot of them, not enough to make Greene speaker, but enough to deny McCarthy his dream or make his speakership hell on earth.
Greene has a dream too: impeaching Biden (and various members of his cabinet), “a pursuit Greene has advocated literally since the day after Biden took office, when she filed articles of impeachment accusing Obama’s vice president of having abused his power to benefit his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine. ‘My style would be a lot more aggressive, of course,’ she told me, referring to McCarthy. ‘For him, I think the evidence needs to be there. But I think people underestimate him, in thinking he wouldn’t do it.’”
In Greene’s view, a Speaker McCarthy would have little choice but to adopt Greene’s “a lot more aggressive” approach toward punishing Biden and his fellow Democrats for what she sees as their policy derelictions and for conducting a “witch hunt” against former President Trump. “I think that to be the best speaker of the House and to please the base, he’s going to give me a lot of power and a lot of leeway,” she predicted in a flat, unemotional voice. “And if he doesn’t, they’re going to be very unhappy about it. I think that’s the best way to read that. And that’s not in any way a threat at all. I just think that’s reality.”
Though the 48-year old self-described “Christian nationalist: possesses a flair for extreme bombast equal to that of her political role model Trump, Greene’s assessment of her current standing within the Republican Party— owing to the devotion accorded her by the party’s MAGA base— would seem to be entirely accurate.
Over the past two years, Greene has gone from the far right fringe of the GOP ever closer to its establishment center without changing any of her own beliefs; if anything, she has continued to find more extreme ways to express them. When she entered electoral politics in 2019, she had spent much of her adult life as a co-owner, with her husband, of her family’s construction company. (Her husband, Perry Greene, recently filed for divorce.)
She through herself into her first campaign… with almost no strategic planning or political networking, and a social media history replete with hallucinatory conspiracy theories. When she switched to a more conservative district in the middle of the 2020 campaign and won, she was roundly dismissed as an unacceptable officeholder who could be contained, isolated and returned to sender in the next election. And yet in 2021, her first year in Congress, Greene raised $7.4 million in political donations, the fourth-highest among the 212 House Republicans, a feat made even more remarkable by the fact that the three who outraised Greene— McCarthy, the minority leader; Steve Scalise, the minority whip; and Dan Crenshaw of Texas— were beneficiaries of corporate PACs that have shunned Greene. (As Trump did during his candidacy, Greene maintains that it is in fact she who refuses all corporate donations.)
In another measure of her influence within the national party, Greene’s endorsement and and support have been eagerly sought by 2022 G.O.P. hopefuls like the Arizona gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake and the Ohio U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance. Within the House Republican conference, McCarthy has assiduously courted her support, inviting her to high-level policy meetings (such as a discussion about the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets Department of Defense policy for the year) and, according to someone with knowledge of their exchanges, offering to create a new leadership position for her.
McCarthy’s spokesman denies that the minority leader has made such an offer. When I asked Greene if the report was inaccurate, she smiled and said, “Not necessarily.” But then she added: “I don’t have to have a leadership position. I think I already have one, without having one.”
Greene’s metamorphosis over the past year and a half from pariah to a position of undeniable influence presents a case study in G.O.P. politics in the Trump era. The first time I saw Greene in person was on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021. She was barreling down a crowded corridor of the Longworth House Office Building, conspicuously unmasked at a time when masks were still mandated by U.S. Capitol rules. Her all-male retinue of staff members striding briskly beside her were also maskless. In the late hours after that day’s insurrection— one that the Georgia freshman arguably had egged on with her innumerable claims that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen and her assertion to a Newsmax interviewer that Jan. 6 would be “our 1776 moment”— Greene stood on the House floor and objected to the Michigan election results, a move that was promptly dismissed by the presiding officer, Vice President Mike Pence, because the congresswoman had no U.S. senator to join her in the motion as the rules prescribed.
The day after the insurrection, Greene sat in a corner of her office in the Longworth building, being interviewed for a right-wing YouTube show by Katie Hopkins, a British white nationalist who had been banished from most social media outlets for her Islamophobic and racist comments (the channel that carried her show has since been taken down by YouTube). The Georgia freshman reflected somberly on the events of the previous day: “Last night and into the early-morning hours was probably one of the saddest days of my life. Scariest and loneliest days of my life. On the third day on the job as a new member of Congress, um, just having our Capitol attacked, being blamed on the president that I love, and I know it’s not his fault; and then having it blamed on all the people that support him, 75 million people— 75-plus million people that have supported President Trump and have truly appreciated all his hard work and America First policies and everything about Make America Great Again.” (Trump received 74.2 million votes in 2020.) “It was extremely lonely in there, watching, basically, the certification of the Electoral College votes for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, even though we know the election was stolen, and the Democrats were working so hard on it, but Republicans too, there were Republicans also.”
Hopkins listened attentively, her face knotted with anguish, and observed, “It’s almost as if you’re one of them— you’re almost like one of those who could’ve been at the rally.”
“I am one of those people,” Greene said emphatically. “That’s exactly who I am.”
Hastily, as if realizing the implication of what she had said, she added: “I’m not one of those people that attacked the Capitol yesterday. I completely condemn that. I completely condemn attacking law enforcement; I support our police officers. And I thank them for their courage yesterday in keeping us safe. I know there were bad actors involved and investigations are underway— and it’s Antifa.” (In subsequent months, Greene would blame the F.B.I. for possibly instigating the violence on Jan. 6. She also voted against awarding police officers who defended the Capitol that day the congressional gold medal, its highest honor.)
Greene also said to Hopkins, “I’m not a politician.” Like much of what she said during their interview, this statement was not altogether accurate. Her precocious gift for offending and demonizing qualified her as a natural for the trade as it had come to be reimagined by Trump and his acolytes.
Still, days after her swearing-in, Greene came off as a somewhat desperate attention-seeker with nowhere to go but down. Some in her own party mocked her for her past allegiance to the QAnon conspiracy theory, made public in Facebook posts and videos that have since been deleted, and for her abiding fealty to a disgraced former president. Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee and a Trump ally, would soon publicly describe some of Greene’s comments as “atrocious.” The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, would refer to her views as a “cancer” on the party. Her victory, in the mostly white and rural 14th congressional district of Georgia, was cast as a kind of epochal fluke, a wrong turn that would surely be corrected with the next election, not a foretelling of where the Republican Party was headed in the wake of Trump’s presidency.
A month later, I sat in the House Press Gallery as Green was stripped by the Democrat-controlled House [with support from 11 Republicans] of her two committee assignments after several of her past outrageous social media posts surfaced. But Greene had learned from Trump the value of never admitting wrongdoing or asking for forgiveness. I attended her news conference the next day, at which she declared: “The party is his. It doesn’t belong to anybody else.” The committeeless freshman proceeded to spend her ample available time on right-wing media outlets, like Newsmax and the former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast. An early sign that she was not an ineffectual outlier came that April, when she reported raising a staggering $3.2 million in her first quarter, a majority of it coming from small donors.
In the wake of Trump’s departure from the White House, Greene fulfilled a yearning from the MAGA base for a brawler who shared their view that the left had stolen its way to victory and was bent on destroying America. In May 2021, I attended an “America First” rally in Mesa, Ariz., featuring two of the state’s well-known congressmen— the House Freedom Caucus chairman Andy Biggs and the veteran right-winger Paul Gosar— along with Greene and her fellow MAGA foot soldier Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida. As she paced the stage, Greene’s hold over the Arizona audience that night was confirmation that her constituency extended well beyond northwest Georgia. “Who do you think won Arizona on November 3?” she asked the crowd. When they replied by chanting Trump’s name, Greene said: “That’s how we feel in Georgia, too. As a matter of fact, that’s how Michigan feels. Pennsylvania. Wisconsin. I think that’s how at least 74-plus million people feel. As a matter of fact, no one went out for Biden. Did you see rallies like Trump had?”
…Throughout this 18-month span of reporting, Greene’s messaging machine achieved a kind of wall-of-sound inescapability. Her daily litany of often-vicious taunts, factual contortions and outright falsehoods on social media and behind any available lectern depicted a great nation undone by Biden’s Democrats, with allusions to undocumented immigrants as rapists, transgender individuals as predators, Black Lives Matter protesters as terrorists, abortion providers as murderers and her political opponents as godless pedophilia-coddling Communists. The Trumpian media ecosystem where these phantasms originated saw Greene as their most able exponent, while Trump himself, in a news release earlier this year, proclaimed her “a warrior in Congress,” adding, “She doesn’t back down, she doesn’t give up, and she has ALWAYS been with ‘Trump.’” The latter distinction mattered. By they end of 2021, the House GOP’s most powerful female member, the conference chairwoman Liz Cheney, had been booted out of her leadership position and demonized by the base for condemning Trump. Two months into 2022— barely over a year into her career as an elected official— Greene told me that she and the former president had already discussed the possibility of her being his running mate in 2024… Regardless of her future prospects, Greene’s observation to me in September that she didn’t need an official leadership position to enjoy an unofficial one seems beyond dispute.
What has received far less discussion than the outrageousness of her daily utterances is what the sum total of them portends for America under a Republican majority with Greene in the vanguard. In recent months, she has continued to insist that Trump won the 2020 election. She maintains that America should have a Christian government and that open prayer should return to classrooms. She has called for the impeachment of not just Biden but also Attorney General Merrick Garland and the secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas; for the defunding of the FBI, after the agency searched Mar-a-Lago to retrieve secret government documents that Trump took from the White House; for the expulsion from Congress of those she claimed were Communists (and among those she has referred to as Communists are the progressive icon Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and the Jan. 6 Committee member Jamie Raskin of Maryland); and for a congressional investigation into the business activities of Biden’s son Hunter. She has introduced legislation to suspend all immigration into the United States for the next four years, as well as a bill that would impose up to 10-to-25-year prison sentences on medical specialists who provide hormone treatment or surgery to transgender youth under 18.
Greene believes that abortion should be banned and that gun-control laws should be overturned. She favors eliminating any and all regulations that were intended to address climate change because, in her view, “The climate has always changed, and no amount of taxes and no government can do anything to stop climate change.” In late September, and hardly for the first time, she excoriated a number of her Republican colleagues, suggesting they were abettors to a globalist conspiracy in tweeting “21 Republican Senators just voted with the woke climate agenda” by ratifying an international agreement to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbon pollutants in coolant systems.
When Greene announced her candidacy for Congress on May 30, 2019, she told “local Republicans that she intended to run just as Trump had: all heat and hyperbole, reliant on small online donations and her personal wealth rather than the establishment Republicans who wanted nothing to do with her. Like Trump, she described herself as a successful business owner. His campaign slogan was ‘Make America Great Again’; hers was ‘Save America Stop Socialism.’ Few believed she had any chance of winning” but she got a lucky break when Tom Graves announced he wouldn’t seek reelection. She immediately jumped into the race to replace him— a carpetbagger, but in a deep red district. Fellow delusional fascist Gym Jordan endorsed her right away. She slaughtered the establishment Republican candidate in the primary and was immediately on the warpath— calling, for example, Nancy Pelosi a "bitch" in her victory speech.
Draper also wrote that the grievance-ridden Greene told him “that while she wasn’t advocating that Christianity become America’s national religion, she believed that ‘right now, Christianity is practically persecuted in America.’ She wants to see teachers leading students in prayer and to see American presidents set a Christian example. Invoking Jesus, Greene said: ‘He fought against what was wrong. He ran the money changers out of the temple. He threw their tables over. So he stood strongly against things that were wrong.’ Though she readily volunteers that she is ‘a sinner,’ Greene has frequently used the word ‘godless’ to describe Democrats, including Pelosi, a practicing Catholic. (Greene told me that Pelosi’s support of abortion rights essentially disqualifies the House speaker from being a true Christian. She does, however, ruefully admire how Pelosi wields power, and she recently told the conservative activist Charlie Kirk on his podcast that if she ever managed to hold that same position, ‘I would reign with an iron fist.’) When I mentioned this to Emanuel Cleaver, a 77-year-old United Methodist pastor from Missouri who has been a Democratic member of Congress since 2005, he replied: ‘I believe that she actually believes that about us. But as I remind myself all the time, sincerity alone does not make a weak doctrine strong… We are in an era of nationalism, all across the world and here at home. And there’s a symbiotic relationship between nationalism and religion. Human beings often mix their political belief with religious fervor. It allows them to think that they’re God’s agent… It doesn’t take much theology to understand that what many of them at the Capitol that day believed was that they were an army of God. And that’s what scares me about Christian nationalism here in America.’”
Greene’s political operation is committed to the goal of reflexively demonizing nearly anyone and anything she opposes, regardless of what it costs her. Twitter has permanently suspended her personal account for repeatedly spreading untruths about Covid vaccines. Her refusal to wear a mask on the House floor during the pandemic resulted in Greene’s being fined more than $100,000. Her appearance onstage in February with the avowed white supremacist Nick Fuentes caused Bannon to cancel a public appearance with her in Georgia. (Bannon has since brought Greene back on his podcast.) Earlier this year, she traveled with a bodyguard (which, as The Times reported, Greene paid for with campaign funds) because of threats that she says have been made against her. In August, according to the local police, her house in Rome, Ga., was repeatedly “swatted”— someone claimed to a 911 operator that a violent crime was taking place in Greene’s household, compelling a SWAT team to enter her home— apparently by someone who objected to her anti-transgender rhetoric, according to a report she obtained from the police and released.
But the attention economy manifestly rewards her performative combativeness, both in online donations and in social media ubiquity. That this was not just some happy coincidence, but in fact an assiduously strategized core of Greene’s political machine, became evident more than a year ago, when I met two of her senior-most advisers (who, as a precondition for our conversation, requested anonymity so that they could speak freely about their boss) at a restaurant in the Atlanta suburbs.
One of them challenged me: “Who do you think are the top five Republicans in the House, other than the ones in leadership?” The adviser then clarified that this was not a Beltway lobbyist popularity contest. “I’m not talking about who K Street wants. I’m talking about, if you had five House Republicans on a national ballot, who would the public vote for?”
It was a revealing question. Tom DeLay had once told me that there were three career paths for any member of Congress: to be in leadership, to be a committee stalwart or to be a tireless advocate for your district. Greene had chosen a fourth path. Her ambition was to be a national figure.
She had achieved this distinction in part through an extremist posture that may well be earnestly felt but is also politically calculated. In May, I accompanied Greene on a 13-hour primary-campaign swing through her district. Two years earlier, her campaign slogan was “Save America Stop Socialism.” Now her yard signs read: “Save America Stop Communism.” Her senior adviser Isaiah Wartman said, “We’ve moved the needle.”
That Greene honestly believes that America has now fallen prey to a Communist regime seems unlikely. (When I asked her about a claim she had made that Jamie Raskin is a Communist, Greene responded: “Yes! Have you read about his father?” Marcus Raskin was a longtime progressive government staff member and never a member of the Communist Party.) It has therefore been tempting for her detractors, and for that matter many Washington journalists, to regard her as pernicious but ultimately unserious— and, like her political godfather, Trump, as someone who appears more attuned to what works as an applause line than what fits her core beliefs. I tended toward this view in my early appraisal of Greene, particularly after she accosted Ocasio-Cortez on the House floor and challenged her to a debate in April 2021, promoting the hashtag #MTGvsAOC and a month later chasing the Democrat down a corridor of the Capitol, yelling in full view of reporters: “Alexandria! Alexandria! Why won’t you debate me?”
But enough time spent in her orbit revealed that Greene’s ceaseless quest for attention did not prove or disprove anything about her right-wing fervor. Her commitment to the MAGA agenda equals if not surpasses Trump’s. More significant, she has every intention of enacting what her Republican colleagues failed to ratify of Trump’s agenda.
“I’ve said it to them at conference,” Greenetold me in May in the black SUV, headed to a campaign event in the northwest Georgia town Ringgold. “I’ve said it over and over: ‘The whole reason I ran for Congress was, you basically shit the bed when you had your chance. You didn’t fund and build the wall. You didn’t repeal Obamacare— you didn’t do anything about it. You call yourselves pro-life, and you guys funded Planned Parenthood. You can’t fail any worse than that!’ So, no: I literally ran for Congress because they failed so badly that Nancy Pelosi became speaker again.”
Among the questions facing Greene is whether the pugnacity she displays toward her fellow Republicans is politically sustainable. “When you ask yourself how things could end up for her,” Brendan Buck, who served as counselor and chief communications adviser to the former speaker Paul Ryan, said to me, “one likely possibility is that it ends when you start becoming a problem for your colleagues. Steve King became a problem for his colleagues, and so did Madison Cawthorn.” Buck was referring, respectively, to the former Iowa congressman who was marginalized by the House GOP for expressing white-supremacist views, and to the freshman from North Carolina who was defeated by a Republican primary challenger after a series of incidents that included claiming that fellow Republicans had invited him to cocaine-fueled orgies. Buck continued: “It’s very easy to see her becoming a problem as well, whether it’s continually claiming they’re not conservative enough or them continually having to respond to her craziness. That’s the quickest way to see yourself out of the chamber.”
Even without alienating her Republican colleagues, Buck said, Greene faced an additional conundrum. “The driving dynamic among members like her has been the battle for relevance,” he told me. “Everything revolves around making your voice matter and making your voice heard in the conservative media ecosystem writ large. Turning the party in the direction you want requires your viewpoint being echoed hundreds of thousands of times.”
Greene once told that when the Georgia GOP establishment first encountered her in 2019, “They looked at me like I was a three-headed monster.” This was hardly the case anymore. Every Republican candidate in her state— and more across the country— seemed to be mimicking her. Georgia’s 10th Congressional District, to take just one example, had been vacated by the Republican incumbent Jody Hice and subsequently had a field of candidates that included three Greene wannabes. One was a demolition-company owner whose kickoff ad featured the candidate bashing various walls and doors with a sledgehammer while promising to “crush the woke mob and their cancel culture.” A second pledged to introduce articles of impeachment against Biden on his first day in office, just as Greene had done. A third, Mike Collins, who ended up as the nominee, vowed during his announcement speech, “I’ll make a great teammate for Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.”
… Greene’s message was prevailing. What her inflammatory rhetoric might consume or ignite, and whether that would bring her ever closer to the center of power or lead to her being cast out, was yet to be known. “Part of my problem is,” she said quietly as her SUV rolled through northwest Georgia, “I’ve been too early.”
I know this has gotten a little long but, I do want to recommend Hunter Walker’s piece on the beast today. It will help to watch this pack of lies she told in his debate with Marcus Flowers the other day:
Walker pointed out that despite her scurrilous denials “there is already ample public evidence that Greene was involved in the efforts to protest and overturn Trump’s loss on January 6. Greene was one of 147 Republican members of Congress who voted against the electoral certification that day. Those Republicans objected despite the fact a slew of officials and experts including Trump’s own attorney general have declared there was no credible evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Greene was also a top advertised speaker at the ‘Wild Protest,’ which was one of the major demonstrations against the electoral certification that was planned by Trump supporters in Washington that day. The ‘Wild Protest’ drew crowds to the Capitol but it ultimately did not proceed as Trump supporters brawled with law enforcement and stormed into the building.” Walker has 16 texts between Greene and Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows. If you’d like to read them, check out Walker’s blog, linked above.
Greene is unbeatable in her gerrymandered backward Georgia district. But the Republican Party is beatable in November. Want to help? Here's one way you can keep this dangerous freak out of power.