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Jackie Calmes is an opinion columnist for the Los Angeles Times in Washington, D.C.
Do as I say, not as I do?
What I’m about to do is give Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene just what she wants: attention.
What I’m saying, however, is this: Let’s ignore her (from now on). Or, to use Greene’s own words, let’s have “a national divorce” from her.
In just over one term in Congress, Greene has managed through her spotlight-seeking outrages to become the face, if not the de facto leader, of the new House Republican majority. Congress, her party and the nation are worse for it.
Take her dopey, divisive talk of a national divorce. By now you’ve surely heard, given the inordinate amount of ink, pixels and airtime expended on the idiotic idea, that Greene called for red states to secede from blue states, citing “irreconcilable differences.”
“I’ll speak for the right,” she humbly tweeted last week, “and say we are absolutely disgusted and fed up with the left cramming and forcing their ways on us and our children with no respect for our religion/faith, traditional values, and economic & government policy beliefs.”
Greene makes her proposed “legal agreement” to sever the states sound just about as easy, relatively speaking, as her actual divorce two months ago. Never mind that Americans aren’t simply divided North-South, as in the Civil War, but rather urban-rural and by education, race and generation — demographics that don’t allow for bifurcation along a Mason-Dixon Line.
And where would Greene end up in this mishmash? Her own, increasingly diverse home state of Georgia is no longer Republican-red. It voted for President Joe Biden and has two Democratic U.S. senators, one Black, the other Jewish. Yet Greene, a former QAnon adherent and current associate of white nationalists, conjures a right-wing Eden. She envisions Christian prayer in schools, anti-transgender laws, no environmental regulations informed by “climate cult lies,” and no sex toys on Walmart shelves.
Appearing on Fox News, Greene doubled down on her folly, filling in details and going from crazy to unconstitutional. Foreseeing a great migration of Americans fleeing blue states for her idyllic Red Nation, she said the newcomers should forfeit their right to vote for five years — “so they don’t bring their bad politics with them,” as a supportive Sean Hannity said.
But to discuss any of these wrinkles is to take Greene too seriously. She’s goading us. She just wants to draw national attention — Fox News! — provoke outrage, “own the libs.”
Instead, let’s disown her.
When Greene popped her secession screed on Presidents Day, it had been only two weeks since she last crashed the national news, dressed like Cruella de Vil and screaming “Liar!” at Biden during his State of the Union address.
Nearly 14 years ago, the House formally reprimanded another Republican, Rep. Joe Wilson, for bellowing, “You lie!” at President Barack Obama during a speech about healthcare; Wilson was cited for having committed a “breach of decorum and degraded the proceedings of the joint session, to the discredit of the House.” Democrats were in the majority then, but both parties were shocked by Wilson’s incivility.
Today, Speaker Kevin McCarthy arguably owes his job to Greene, who vouched for him to other hard-liners in the House, and to her vast national following of right-wing voters and donors. As she matter-of-factly said last fall to New York Times Magazine writer Robert Draper — speaking of McCarthy and her fan base — “I think … he’s going to give me a lot of power and a lot of leeway. And if he doesn’t, they’re going to be very unhappy about it.”
McCarthy discipline Greene? As if.
“I will never leave that woman,” McCarthy reportedly told a friend. “I will always take care of her.”
McCarthy has seen to it that Greene has coveted committee assignments on the Homeland Security and Oversight committees, after Democrats had the temerity to strip her of committee seats for, among other things, endorsing assassinations of party leaders. She’s now well-placed to pursue her goals of impeaching Biden and his Homeland Security secretary, Alejandro N. Mayorkas.
Republicans are cowed or co-opted, but don’t look to House Democrats to seek sanctions against Greene either. They don’t want to add to the MAGA money she rakes in whenever she plays the victim card. “The more attention you bring to her, the more money she gets,” a Democratic leadership aide told me. “That’s why we don’t make a bigger deal of any of it.”
Greene’s unwarranted prominence reflects how social media and the proliferation of right-wing “news” outlets has transformed our politics, making stars of once obscure extremists. When our heads explode at her every imbecility, she wins.
For years Trump’s critics implored the media to quit him. We can’t, we’d correctly say — he’s the president of the United States. But she’s not. And she’s only as ubiquitous as we help make her.
Now I’ll do as I say: Pay as little attention to MTG as possible. You should, too.