Much of the attention being devoted to congressional Republicans right now is focused on the handful of House and Senate members willing to hold Donald Trump strictly accountable for his conduct on January 6, as well as the less courageous elephants who can at least bring themselves to criticize their former tyrant or drop blind quotes suggesting they wouldn’t mind if he’d just go away.
But it’s important to remember that while actual and semi- (or more often crypto-) heretics matter in terms of the optics of Trump’s impeachment and trial and perhaps indicate some rays of sunshine for the GOP, the bulk of that party, in Congress and around the country, remains in thrall to the 45th president. And if you want to see the tip of the spear of unrepentant MAGA fury, a good barometer is freshman Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Greene became famous during the 2020 cycle as the most fiercely extremist viable Republican congressional candidate in the country, in part because of a bulging file of past (but recent past) Facebook posts explaining and/or expressing sympathy for QAnon, assorted racists, calls to execute Democratic politicians, and sundry right-wing conspiracy theories. Her campaign ads, in which she generally brandished an AR-15 and sometimes squeezed off rounds at signs marked SOCIALISM and GUN CONTROL while hilariously warning antifa to keep away from Northwest Georgia, were borderline insane. Greene’s antics briefly led national and state Republicans to distance themselves from her.
But when she disposed of her primary and runoff opponents (not exactly moderates themselves) and steamed toward Congress in a bright-red district (her Democratic opponent ultimately dropped out for personal reasons), her party snuggled up to her pretty quickly. Donald Trump hailed her as a “future Republican star,” and appointed Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler acted as though she had won the lottery when she secured Greene’s endorsement. Nobody, but nobody, was Trumpier than Greene in supporting the president’s efforts to overturn his election defeat, and she was, of course, a loud opponent of his impeachment. She also joined her hero in getting hit with a suspension of her Twitter account for repeating Trump’s lies.
But Greene’s reputation as chief engineer on the Crazy Train was most firmly secured by her hustle in filing an article of impeachment against Joe Biden the day after his inauguration, in which she claimed that he had “abused the power of the Office of the Vice President, enabling bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors, by allowing his son to influence the domestic policy of a foreign nation and accept various benefits — including financial compensation — from foreign nationals in exchange for certain favors.”
The single article is really all about Hunter Biden’s alleged misconduct in Ukraine, China, and Russia and might have been downloaded directly from Devin Nunes’s id. Greene thinks Biden should be impeached for “enabling” bribery and other misdeeds by his son. The transparent purpose, of course, is a sort of so’s-your-old-man response to Trump’s first and second impeachments. You wanna impeach Trump for what he did as president after he leaves office? Hey, we’ll impeach Biden for what he did as vice-president four years after he left that office!
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who is to the right of many in his caucus but barely within shouting distance of Greene in the fever swamps, publicly criticized her move as spoiling their party’s professions of self-righteousness and victimhood over what Democrats were doing to Trump. I’m sure Greene doesn’t care. Her brief and meteoric political career has never suffered for excessive extremism. And now there’s even talk she could run for the Senate in 2022, when Loeffler’s vanquisher, Raphael Warnock, must run for a full term.
I don’t know what it is about my home state, but it does seem to breed right-wing extremists (along with the occasional progressive hero like Warnock). When I was coming of age, the Peach State sported not one but two nationally renowned Democratic members of the John Birch Society. One was Governor (and later Lieutenant Governor) Lester Maddox, famed for threatening Black customers seeking to integrate his restaurant with an ax handle and a pistol. The other was congressman Larry McDonald, a veteran conspiracy theorist who died aboard a Korean Airlines flight that was shot down in 1983 by Soviet fighters who apparently mistook it for a spy plane. Newt Gingrich began his political career in Georgia as a moderate (almost liberal) Republican before going to Congress and getting the credit and the blame for radicalizing House GOP tactics. Gingrich later drifted into Trumpian extremism. In the 21st century, Georgia has produced Paul Broun Jr., a physician who earned national fame by calling evolution theories “lies straight from the pit of Hell” (while serving on the House Science Committee, no less). After a failed Senate run, Broun attempted a comeback in 2020 in which he ran ads suggesting his eagerness to gun down “looting hordes from Atlanta” (with a weapon he referred to as his “liberty machine”).
So Greene has quite a heritage to live up (or down) to. She looks unbeatable in her ultra-conservative congressional district, if she doesn’t run for higher office. And the wilder she gets, the more her party seems to treat her as someone to placate rather than tame. If you want to see where the MAGA movement is going next, keep an eye on Marjorie Taylor Greene.