Marjorie Taylor Greene is a proud follower of QAnon, a radical, baseless conspiracy movement that the FBI has labeled a “domestic terror threat.” Yet, on Aug. 11, Greene won the runoff for the Republican nomination for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District. Because of this district’s deep conservatism, she’s inevitably bound for Congress, where she will become the first seated representative to publicly support QAnon. But considering how widely the movement has spread, she likely won’t be the last one. On Wednesday’s episode of What Next, I spoke with Greg Bluestein, a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who covered Greene’s campaign, about her victory, QAnon, and what this all means for the GOP’s future. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Ray Suarez: Let’s talk a little bit about Q itself.
Greg Bluestein: It involves a claim that there is a “deep state” conspiracy to either hobble President Donald Trump or get him out of office. But it also involves lots of code words on social media and an ideological belief that you can never trust the government no matter who’s in charge. Greene said she’s maintained her belief and never backed down from it, and that became one of the things she was most known for.
The district where Greene won her runoff covers pretty much all of the northwest corner of Georgia, by the borders with Alabama and Tennessee. It’s a district where Republican incumbent Tom Graves, who decided to not run for another term, beat his Democratic opponent 3-to-1 in 2018. So, winning the GOP primary means you’re headed to Washington. It may actually be part of the reason Greene ran for the vacated seat in the first place.
She at first was running for the 6th District, in the metro Atlanta suburbs, a much more moderate area where Lucy McBath, a Democrat, won in 2018 in an upset victory over Karen Handel. Greene lived in that district and originally wanted to run for or against Handel for the Republican nomination. But then Tom Graves decided he wasn’t going to run for another term, and so she suddenly decided to move out there, run from scratch.
One of the reasons she switched races was because she started getting calls from some of the most conservative members in the House: Jim Jordan, Andy Biggs, even Mark Meadows’ wife, Debbie Meadows, all of whom urging her to run in the 14th. There are two reasons why. One is because they wanted someone with sympathetic views to join them in Congress. That’s obvious. But the second one, I think, is they wanted to clear the field for Handel because she’s running in a rematch against McBath and was probably going to be forced into at least a runoff against Greene that would have gotten national attention. An internal fight would have strained resources. No one’s ever said that, but that seems like a plausible secondary reason.
We have a first-time candidate who has hinted that the 2017 Las Vegas massacre was orchestrated, who has described Black people as slaves to the Democratic Party in Georgia. The big names in Georgia’s Republican politics hedged their bets and covered themselves, but none of them said, “I want to be 500 miles away from this woman.” In the recent past, you’ve had a candidate named Arthur Jones, a former head of a regional Nazi party, who inexplicably won a Republican congressional primary. The Republican Party froze him out, completely distanced itself from him. There is a candidate in Oregon running against Sen. Jeff Merkley, Jo Rae Perkins. On the night of her primary victory, she tweeted out support for Q, but nobody thinks she’s going to win. However, Marjorie Taylor Greene is vocal, unapologetic, unabashed, and rich, which would seem to be rather inconvenient for Georgia Republicans.
Some stayed quiet after Greene’s victory, like Gov. Brian Kemp and Sen. David Perdue, and others congratulated her immediately, including Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins. I think they felt they had to because Trump himself tweeted that Greene was a future Republican star. So going against her at this point would mean going directly against Trump, who in many polls still remains the most popular figure among Republicans in Georgia.
There’s a chance that she’s a brief flicker who fades away. But there’s also a chance that she takes this and tries to run for statewide office or leverage this for more power in the party and become a main Republican player in Georgia. She is a magnetic speaker. She makes all sorts of accusations in social media and speeches that are unfounded and have no basis in fact whatsoever, but they appeal to voters because they’re so out there.
There are more than a dozen other candidates for congressional seats who believe or at least are allies with the QAnon movement. Many are long shots, but some, like Greene, are favorites to win their races.
Support Slate’s politics coverage
Slate is covering the stories that matter to you. Join Slate Plus to support our work. You’ll get unlimited articles and a suite of great benefits.