By Jay Bookman
In a recent campaign video, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican from Georgia, likened Democrats to destructive feral hogs allowed to range free and destroy the American countryside.
But Marjorie had a solution:
As the camera followed her, she grabbed a rifle and climbed aboard a waiting helicopter, where she tracked down and shot a fleeing hog. In the next scene, quite pleased with herself, Greene posed next to her dead prey and invited supporters to enter a free drawing, with the winner accompanying her on her next hog-killing expedition.
In a healthy political climate, members of both parties would unite to condemn such a message. But that is not the climate in which we live. To the contrary, lest anyone have moral qualms about the message of such a video, Greene offered an answer for that too. At a Trump rally in Michigan this month, she told the crowd that “we are all targets now though, for daring to push back against the regime…. I am not going to mince words with you all. Democrats want Republicans dead and they have already started the killings.”
So … kill or be killed.
It would be nice to be able to dismiss that talk as the rantings of a loon, which on one level it is. But the rantings are being delivered by a loon invited to speak at a series of rallies by the former president of the United States, a man who remains the favorite for becoming the GOP presidential nominee in 2024, which implies a high level of support for such sentiments.
And instead of shunning Greene and condemning her remarks, other top Republicans are embracing her, happy to bask in her malevolent glow. JD Vance, the GOP’s Senate candidate in Ohio, has appeared alongside Greene at campaign events, as have Doug Mastriano, the extremist GOP candidate for governor in Pennsylvania, and many others. Far from a pariah, she’s the GOP’s new “it girl,” the one everybody wants to be seen with.
In fact, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has made it clear that if Republicans gain control of the House and make him speaker, he would reward Greene with a much more prominent role in party leadership
“I think that to be the best speaker of the House and to please the base, (McCarthy) is going to give me a lot of power and a lot of leeway,” Greene predicted in an interview with a writer for the New York Times. “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.”
Greene is not particularly bright – anyone who believes that forest fires are caused by space lasers controlled by the Rothschilds falls a few pennies short of a nickel. But what she knows she knows. She knows her party’s base and its obsessions, because they are her obsessions; she knows her party’s leadership. She knows that leadership is terrified of its base, and she knows that because she is the embodiment of that base, the leaders are by extension terrified of her. These days, nobody in the Republican tribe is voted off the island because you’re a racist or insurrectionist or because you espouse violence. But you dare to publicly condemn those things, you’ll be sent to sit with Liz Cheney.
Greene also knows, probably through instinct, that if you say crazy things with certainty and conviction, it is the certainty and conviction that people will find impressive, that will mark you as a leader to be followed. For example, in recent months Greene and others in her party have taken to calling the Biden administration “the regime,” as she does in the comments quoted above. Why? Because a regime is illegitimate; a regime is imposed on a people through force, rather than emanating from that people. You don’t remove a regime through elections, because elections are not how the regime gained power in the first place. Calling it a regime is a subtle justification for using violence in its overthrow.
It’s important to acknowledge that no political party or movement is immune to the lure of violence. It is not an inherently Republican thing or a Democratic thing; it is a human thing. Part of the responsibility of leadership is to recognize that frailty in ourselves and others and try to tamp it down rather than provoke it. But at this moment in American history, members of only one party are featuring assault weapons prominently in their campaign ads and even family Christmas cards. Only one party is tolerating and even promoting the likes of Greene, with none daring to condemn her message.
It should not be difficult to state that the outcome of elections should be honored, and that violence is never the solution. If those things can no longer be said, if we no longer have broad acceptance of those two bottom-line propositions, if stating and defending them makes you anathema to a large chunk of America, then we no longer have a democracy or even a country.
What you first act out through make-believe you can later make reality. That final step, that step from play-acting to acting, is much less daunting once you’ve had sufficient rehearsal, which is what we’re witnessing.
In his 1951 book “The True Believer,” American philosopher Eric Hoffer explores the phenomenon of mass movements and extremists. To the fanatic, Hoffer writes, “chaos is his element. When the old order begins to crack, he wades in with all his might and recklessness to blow the whole hated present to high heaven. He glories in the sight of a world coming to a sudden end.”
Greene is such a fanatic, as are many others in the rising New Right who are riding racism and hatred and fear, who hint openly at the necessity for violence if the change they seek cannot be produced through the ballot box. Speaking personally, I am not ready to see this world with all its shortcomings come to a sudden end. But such fires, once ignited, can be difficult to suppress.
Jay Bookman is a columnist at the Georgia Recorder, a media outlet of the States Newsroom. He covered Georgia and national politics for nearly 30 years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, earning numerous national, regional and state journalism awards. He was awarded the National Headliner Award and the Walker Stone Award for outstanding editorial writing. He is also the author of “Caught in the Current,” published by St. Martin’s Press. The Florida Phoenix is part of the nonprofit States Newsroom. This commentary was published earlier by the Georgia Recorder, an affiliate of the nonprofit States Newsroom network that includes the Florida Phoenix.