Politics

How Marjorie Taylor Greene fell so fast from MAGA stardom

Making an Icarus allusion is tempting, except it would go right over MAGA heads. Plus the Greek myth of the ambitious young man who flies too close to the sun and falls to his death is a tragic story. But there was nothing sad about watching Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., faceplant on live TV late Wednesday. Earlier in the day, it seemed that Greene was backing off her ongoing threat to move to oust Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La. Republicans in Congress repeatedly made it clear to Greene that there was no chance of success if she tried this. Not only did most Republicans oppose her efforts, but even most Democrats were ready to block her motion. Even Donald Trump, the not-so-secret actual leader of House Republicans, issued condescending social media posts warning her this “will negatively affect everything!”

This was more about Republicans and Democrats joining hands to tell Marjorie Taylor Greene to take a seat already.

Faced with certain defeat, Greene made noises on Tuesday suggesting that she was finally backing down. New York Times reporting suggests, however, that her ego simply could not allow her to admit that she’s not the head honcho of the House GOP. By calling for the vote and failing spectacularly — she only got 11 Republicans to join her — Greene only proved how little power she actually holds. Now she’s running around accusing Democrats and Republicans of being a “uniparty.” In reality, the two sides agree on very little, except a shared belief that Greene should shut up and go away. 

Heaven knows this moment of bipartisanship is not about any great love for Johnson, a far-right Christian fundamentalist whose religious faith doesn’t stop him from smoothly lying into every microphone put in front of his face. (Recently, for instance, he falsely claimed Trump’s 88 felony indictments are a “sham.” As a lawyer, however, he knows this is not true because four separate grand juries had to sign off on every one of those charges.) Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., indicated to reporters that Democrats have no plans to come riding to Johnson’s rescue in the future. Even Republicans, the Washington Post reported last week, “have ruled him out for any leadership position in the next Congress.”

No, this was more about Republicans and Democrats joining hands to tell Marjorie Taylor Greene to take a seat already. As former editor-in-chief of The Bulwark Charlie Sykes told MSNBC after Greene’s failed motion, one doesn’t have to like Johnson to enjoy this moment. This is about Greene “basically reaching her expiration date.” 

Greene’s belief that she is a major power player who can force the GOP to bend to her will didn’t come out of nowhere. It wasn’t that long ago that her conspiracy theory-heavy brand of MAGA trolling made her a rising star in the GOP. Her unique ability to “trigger” liberals made her a sought-after guest on right-wing media outlets and a powerhouse fundraiser for the party. During the 2022 midterms, the Daily Beast reported, Republican politicians were practically begging her for endorsements, viewed as second only to getting Trump’s public blessing. 

Now, however, she is getting the cold shoulder from Republican colleagues. They booed and heckled her on the House floor Tuesday. Some have even started to call her “Moscow Marjorie,” because she opposes military aid to Ukraine, as they fend off a Russian invasion. Fox News and other outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch also turned on Greene, with the New York Post echoing the “Moscow Marjorie” nickname. 

Greene broke the cardinal rule laid out by the late Biggie Smalls in 1997: “Never get high on your own supply.” Because of all the attention and praise she was getting from Republicans in her first couple years in the House, she thought she could leverage her loud-mouthed crank act into a role as a real leader on Capitol Hill. After all, Trump had gone pretty far on nothing but a big mouth and hate in his heart, so why couldn’t she?

“She” is the explanation here. The Christian right-controlled GOP sees women as support staff, not leaders. Greene was beloved when she paid little mind to legislative work and spent all her time spewing invective to rally the MAGA troops. She was playing the part of a cheerleader, albeit one from a right-wing hell dimension. When she jumped in the huddle and started trying to call plays, however, that’s where they drew the line.

Greene’s GOP detractors don’t even pay her the respect of dismissing her as an adversary. They talk about her like a bratty child. When asked by a reporter for The Hill if Greene is a serious lawmaker, Johnson dismissed her with, “Bless her heart,” the traditional Southern way of saying someone is a joke. Nor does the MAGA base really care for her. Even in early 2023, she only had a 30% approval rating with Republican voters, which Aaron Blake at the Washington Post notes, “was better only than now-former congressman George Santos (N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) among a list of 11 high-profile Republicans.”

Not that anyone should feel sorry for Greene, who happily regurgitates misogynist talking points to pander to a MAGA audience all the time. 

It’s just crucial to understand that Greene isn’t being pushed aside for being “too” MAGA, as much of the press coverage implies. After all, Johnson is just as far-right as she is, and is even worse on some issues. For instance, he takes a dim view of divorce and what he calls “sexual anarchy.” Greene is a divorceé who runs around with a boyfriend she is very much not married to. The GOP turned on her because, simply put, she got too big for her britches. Or, in more old-fashioned terms, she wanted to wear the britches, while they wanted her to stay in skirts. 

That said, Democrats still did the right thing by voting to table Greene’s motion. It’s not like the House GOP will cough up someone less awful than Johnson as speaker, after all. Going into the 2024 election, it’s crucial for Democrats to position themselves not just as a reasonable alternative to Trump, but to the MAGA movement in general. Being seen publicly smacking down a politician who has become the face of MAGA is just smart politics in that environment. 

With so many terrible things happening in politics, it’s nice to see this particular chicken coming home to roost. Greene is emblematic of the empty-headed fascism Trump has brought to life in American politics, where “leadership” is about trolling to build up a politician’s brand, and responsible governance is the furthest thing from their minds. But by making herself a right-wing celebrity who doesn’t care much about policy, Greene painted a target on her back. There’s much to be gained, for Democrats and Republicans, by throwing her overboard, and little to be had in keeping her around. She’s in a safe district, so it’s possible — likely even — Greene sticks around in Congress for many more years yet. But her relevance just took a big blow she may never recover from. 

Doha Madani

Doha Madani is a senior breaking news reporter for NKY News.

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