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Opinion How Marjorie Taylor Greene became the queen of the GOP fringe

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) waves during a campaign rally for former president Donald Trump in Waco, Tex., on March 25. (Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP/Getty Images)
4 min

Marjorie Taylor Greene is in a unique position. So long as the Georgia congresswoman remains queen of the GOP fringe, Republicans such as Speaker Kevin McCarthy will believe they need her. In fact, they’ll fall over themselves to stay in her good graces.

Greene — once removed from all House committees for promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories, and banned from Twitter for spreading covid-19 misinformation — is suddenly everywhere. She lobbied hard for McCarthy’s bid for the House speakership. She has plum committee assignments: Homeland Security and Oversight (read: the Hunter Biden investigation team). And she was given “rock star” treatment at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference.

Her grip on the GOP fringe is apparent in her fundraising haul. Small-dollar GOP donors who see politics as blood sport and often root for the most far-right candidates love Greene.

It’s reasonable to react to these numbers with horror. This is the same Greene who spread QAnon conspiracy theories, speculated that a Jewish cabal started the 2018 California wildfires using a satellite laser, and called the Sandy Hook mass shooting a “false flag” operation. Her views aren’t just false; they’re deeply disturbing. But, in just two years, she’s positioned herself as one of the most important figures in her party.

This wasn’t Greene’s destiny. Before she took office, she wasn’t the clear choice of the ultra-MAGA donor. Other conspiratorialist GOP upstarts, such as Rep. Lauren Boebert (Colo.) and former North Carolina congressman Madison Cawthorn, out-raised her.

But Greene had better timing than Cawthorn, Boebert or any of her MAGA contemporaries. She found the spotlight after the 2020 election.

At that time, the GOP base was angry. They denied that President Donald Trump had lost the election and that he had fueled the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. But Trump was no longer a candidate. His super fans couldn’t blow off steam by sending a quick check to his campaign.

That’s when Greene channeled Trump. She continuously promoted the lie that the 2020 election had been stolen — at one point wearing a face mask with the words “Trump won” on it. She also directly attacked President Biden’s legitimacy, attempting to impeach him on his first day in office.

Within weeks, reporters had uncovered past conspiratorial statements she made, as well as social media posts that indicated support for a “bullet in the head” of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and hanging Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Her colleagues stripped her of committee assignments, and Democratic Rep. Jimmy Gomez (Calif.) tried, unsuccessfully, to have her expelled from the chamber.

But that only kept her at the center of the post-inauguration news cycle.

And her base rewarded that conflict with cash:

This helped Greene avoid the fate of some fringe lawmakers. Once voters see their representatives as ineffective, they often seek replacements. For example, in 2020, Republican voters in Iowa ousted then-Rep. Steve King, who had lost his committee assignments a year earlier because of a series of racist comments. A similar story could be told of Cawthorn, who was given the boot after constantly courting scandal and running his campaign like a far-right circus. Greene, by contrast, never lost her base’s enthusiasm.

There’s another reason Greene hasn’t been marginalized: She cozied up to the party’s establishment.

As The Post’s Ashley Parker and Michael Scherer reported in January, Greene and McCarthy (Calif.) would meet “once a week” for “six to eight months” prior to the 2022 election. She started campaigning for other pro-Trump Republicans, such as J.D. Vance of Ohio. And she learned to modulate her tone, albeit slightly, in different settings. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Tia Mitchell reports that she apologized for comparing covid-19 restrictions to the Holocaust in mainstream news outlets — but skipped the remorse in far-right publications.

By mid-2022, her fundraising numbers had ticked up. In the fall, Republicans won the House majority. Then, while most of the far right had opposed McCarthy’s leadership, she stood steadfast by him. As a result, she now essentially serves as the bridge between the speaker and a key faction of the party he needs to maintain power. No wonder McCarthy said he will “never leave that woman.”

Greene’s strategy — embrace both the fringe and the mainstream — has given her power and credibility with both camps. But it’s a tough balancing act. If Greene becomes too friendly with McCarthy and his allies, her base could leave her for another devoted anti-establishment agitator such as Boebert or Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.). And if she becomes a liability on the national political stage, GOP leaders might (again) cast her into outer darkness.

But for the moment, her rule over the far right is — against all odds — secure.