When she isn’t filling me with shame at her presence as a member of the congressional delegation of my beloved home state of Georgia, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene is occasionally useful for her habit of coming right out and saying things her extremist colleagues think and imply but don’t usually articulate. That happened this week during an interview MTG gave to a right-wing media outlet, as the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake reported:
During an appearance on conservative outlet Real America’s Voice, Greene repeated a frequent GOP talking point that the real focus of congressional investigators should be violence at Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. But while doing so, she essentially suggested the Capitol riot comported with our Founding Fathers’ vision.
The racial-justice protest violence “was an attack on innocent American people, whereas January 6th was just a riot at the Capitol,” she said. “And if you think about what our Declaration of Independence says, it says to overthrow tyrants.”
This is not a tossed-off comment or anything new for Greene, as the Post reported soon after the Capitol riot:
References to the year 1776 and the American Revolution have grown substantially among the far right as Trump supporters and conspiracy theorists have hinted at the possibility of a revolution in the wake of Trump’s election loss, which they view, falsely, as illegitimate. Trump allies and surrogates, including first-term Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), referred to Jan. 6 as Republicans’ “1776 moment.”
This is actually a sentiment that goes a bit deeper than its “my violence GOOOOD, your violence BAAAAAD” wrapping. In January and this week, MTG was almost certainly alluding to the time-honored right-wing extremist doctrine that whenever “patriots” decide the government is controlled by “tyrants,” they are entitled to pick up shooting irons and start trying to kill soldiers and cops and anyone else complicit in that tyranny. That is, after all, what the Founders did in 1776, right?
Indeed they did, but they did not purport to serve as leaders in the very government they were overthrowing and certainly didn’t intend to create some permanent right of violent revolution against the republic they created. To put it another way, you can choose to be a revolutionary or you can choose to be a member of Congress, but you can’t be both. Once you have deemed the government a tyranny (which MTG constantly does in conflating the “Democrat Party” with communism), you pretty much need to take to the hills and stop giving interviews in and around the U.S. Capitol. That’s particularly true when the “tyranny” in question is the result of a democratic election that every available nonpartisan institution has confirmed as fair.
The treatment of right-wing insurrectionism, actual or potential, as the work of patriots as blessed by the Founders is hardly original to Greene. It is intrinsic to the Second Amendment absolutism that is dangerously popular among conservatives these days. The doctrine holds that the ultimate purpose of the right to bear arms is to ensure a citizenry that is willing and able to “resist tyranny,” with the meaning of “tyranny,” of course, left up to those choosing violence to battle it. And it was also implicit in the tea-party-era movement known as “constitutional conservatism,” which argued that conservative policy prescriptions ranging from free-market capitalism to states’ rights to fetal personhood were eternally embedded in the Constitution in conjunction with the Declaration of Independence by the Founders, who themselves had divine sanction for their work. Thus any contrary policies imposed via democratic representative government were inherently illegitimate and warranted resistance. In unbalanced minds, that resistance would definitely justify terrorism.
The same anti-democratic creed is alive and well in MAGA circles, including the intellectuals of the Claremont Institute who serve as shock troops in the wider world, much as MTG does in Washington. “In March, one of Claremont’s senior fellows published an essay proclaiming the need for a counterrevolution against the American majority who didn’t vote for Trump,” Laura Field reports at The New Republic. “In late May, the think tank produced a podcast that gamed out how a future president might convert herself or himself into a new Caesar.”
Even absent any exotic constitutional theories, the idea that nothing must stand in the way of the correct people (i.e., Donald Trump) holding power is at the very heart of the Big Lie that inspired (and, some would say, incited) the Capitol riot. Unfortunately, MAGA folk seem determined to claim a permanent right to power, which in every important respect is a direct and permanent threat to democracy.