Donald Trump caused an explosion in American government, and that detonation left behind a network of cracks and crevices, and by the laws of physics and nature, those crevices have begun to fill with ooze, and one trickle is Marjorie Taylor Greene, who spreads conspiracy theories, who once posted a gun-packing picture of herself threatening to “go on the offense” against congresswomen including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and who two years ago — in a Facebook post unearthed last week — speculated that California wildfires were caused by Jewish-funded lasers from space.
Like Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib, Greene is now also a United States congresswoman. And on Monday, House Democrats introduced a resolution to strip the representative from Georgia of her committee assignments. Shortly thereafter, Greene tweeted, “The DC Swamp and the Fake News Media are attacking me because I am not one of them, I am one of you.” And on Tuesday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy met with Greene privately, and Greene turned on her own party members, tweeting, “Too bad a few Republican Senators are obsessing over me, instead of preparing to defend President Trump from the rabid radical left.”
And so on Wednesday, House Republicans again discussed how to mitigate the toxic Greene-House gas effect. The current pressing issue: her apparent perpetuating of the falsehood that the Parkland school shooting, which left 17 dead, was a “false flag” staged event (in 2018 someone had referred to it as such on Facebook; Greene wrote back, “Exactly!”).
Marjorie Taylor Greene is unlike any congresswoman we’ve encountered before, and it’s difficult to even figure out how to make sense of this person whose ravings, in healthier times, we would not have to think about at all.
She has expanded our taxonomy of noxious White women. Previously we spoke of Beckys, blithely unaware of how they benefit — constantly, passively — from systemic White feminine privilege. Or we spoke of Karens, who are aware of their privilege and strategically using it to bend the system to their will (Weapon of choice: “I’d like to speak to the manager”). Greene represents a whole other level: a superwarrior who doesn’t just bend the system; she is the system. She is making the rules, she is making the reality, and hers has involved dredging up anti-Semitic tropes, like invoking "Rothschild Inc.”
She doesn’t want to speak to your manager; she wants to speak to the many angry Americans who are willing to believe that your restaurant hosts a child-trafficking ring.
My grandmother’s name was Marjorie, so it gives me no pleasure to say this, but: If you are a woman with substantial power — whose utterances are covered as news — who is nonetheless yelling that you are being silenced and disenfranchised, then we need a new term for that, and the term for that is “Marjorie.”
A Marjorie will call a school shooting survivor and gun-control activist a “coward” as she harasses him on the streets of Washington, and then a year later end up on the House Education Committee.
A Marjorie will campaign to #StoptheSteal — a conspiracy theory centered on the idea that unfair vote tallies in states such as Georgia prevented Trump from winning the 2020 election — while having no doubt her own election win in that state was legitimate.
A Marjorie will post a clip of her CrossFit workout, claiming that she can’t go to the gym because “NOTHING is open bc of Democrat tyrannical control” — nevermind the responses directing her to several open gyms.
A Marjorie is the type of person who will, while literally speaking into a microphone on the floor of the U.S. Capitol, wear a mask reading “Censored.”
Six years of Trump relentlessly insinuating that far-right conservatives are the only true victims made it a great time to be a Marjorie in America.
Greene is the proof-of-concept for a vision of politics where public servants can live in their own cartoon universe so long as enough constituents are willing to live there, too. She tweets, “I am one of you,” and her followers tweet back, “Stay strong!” as if their duty is to save their representative from being bullied about her belief that space lasers cause wildfires and not to think hard about whether they, too, believe space lasers cause wildfires.
The issue isn’t that Greene seems to believe crazy stuff. The issue is that she’s arrived in government at a time when believing crazy stuff can increase a lawmaker’s power. Because the people who support Greene genuinely believe that she is being disenfranchised. In the universe she shares with her supporters, being loathed in Washington is not an indication that she has behaved shamefully; it is an indication that she is right when she says everyone else is against her.
The more she does outlandish things, the more she will be criticized, and the more she will use the criticism as evidence of her silencing, and the more money she will raise, the more she will win.
It’s a cyclical, cynical game. She didn’t invent it, but she’s testing its limits.
Marjories are only Marjories when they are in control, setting the terms. The only way to make her stop being a Marjorie is to remove that power. Without it she still has the conspiracy theories, but now she’s just a blithering lady on Facebook. Not even a Karen. A Crazy Aunt Becky.
But as of Wednesday afternoon, the decision that Republican leadership seemed to have made about their Greene-House gas problem was to hope it went away on its own. McCarthy issued a statement:
“I condemn those comments unequivocally,” it read. He said he’d told Greene that she had to hold herself “to a higher standard,” and he believes that she now would. He then blamed Democrats for refusing to move on.
Marjorie has moved on, and she’s moved her party with her. Out of Trump’s political boot camp and into the halls of Congress, Greene has created a stain that House Republicans seem too afraid to scrub out, worried that disavowing her might make them toxic. She has oozed further than any Marjorie has oozed before.
Monica Hesse is a columnist writing about gender and its impact on society. For more visit wapo.st/hesse.