Marjorie Taylor Greene vs. Everyone

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S1: So, Charles, you’ve a bit of a history with Marjorie Taylor GREENE.

S2: This is a.

S1: Is that how you’d put it?

S2: History? Yeah, sure.

S1: Charles Bethea writes for The New Yorker, but he lives in Georgia, right near Marjorie Taylor Green’s congressional district. He’s covered her political rise for the last couple of years. He’s tagged along to her campaign speeches, interviewed the guys in her CrossFit gym. He even has the congresswoman’s cell phone number, but they are not close. When he did a splashy profile of her back when she was first running for Congress. She would not even grant him an interview.

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S2: It was pretty clear she didn’t see any benefit in doing that with me. She knew it wasn’t going to actually be able to harm her political chances in northwest Georgia, largely because no one reads The New Yorker there. Not no one, I shouldn’t say, but few people probably read The New Yorker. And and also because she could just actually weaponize it and use it as look at the, you know, liberal fake news media coming after me. And that could actually be used to to raise money.

S1: What a weird situation for you to be in to know that you’re, like, doing your job and you’re not doing anything wrong. And yet there’s no way that whatever you produce is not essentially repurposed right. For Marjorie Taylor GREENE ends.

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S2: Yeah. And I think that that’s it’s just it’s sort of a regionalized version of the Trump phenomenon. You know, I think he he does the same thing or has done the same thing with lots of well-sourced reporting on him and and his world.

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S1: So did Marjorie Taylor GREENE like your article?

S2: I see where you’re going here. No, she she said that she said something along the lines in a text message that that I’m still not sure she meant to send to me that that the article, you know, wasn’t worthy of wiping her ass with or something like that.

S1: Now Marjorie Taylor Greene is back on the campaign trail. Like all members of Congress. So Charles is following her around again. But he’s found that the congresswoman doesn’t have a traditional story to tell her constituents. Her casual racism and prankish approach to politics mean she’s been stripped of her committee assignments, even kicked off of Twitter. So instead of getting attention for the bills she’s passed, she’s been in the spotlight for telling Transportation Secretary Pete Budda, judge, to, quote, unquote, stay out of girls bathrooms. And the thing is, none of this seems to matter.

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S2: A lot of the Green supporters didn’t seem to be able to offer what’s what you could describe as a more substantive case for why they wanted to vote for her like it’s. And I think that’s been borne out by how little she seemed to actually have done for them.

S1: It sounds like you’re saying she’s like not even a congressperson to these folks. She’s like an avatar.

S2: Yeah, I think that’s a good way to put it.

S1: But being an avatar of the Republican right has downsides. It puts a target on your back. Today on the show, there is more competition than ever for this rural Georgia district. But Marjorie Taylor GREENE, she is not running scared. Mary Harris, you’re listening to what next? Stick around. It can be hard to gauge the level of support for a candidate like Marjorie Taylor GREENE. Polls are few and far between in rural Georgia. The Republican Party seems to be holding GREENE at arm’s length. Her home state has become a battleground between Democrats and the GOP. And then there’s Marjorie Taylor GREENE district. It’s in the northwest corner of Georgia, just beyond the reach of most of Atlanta’s suburbs.

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S2: It’s a corner of Georgia that while the rest of the state may be becoming purplish or bluish. This particular corner of the state is sort of behaving in more anachronistic ways, and she will continue to take advantage of that.

S1: I mean, you’ve spent some time in this district, so tell me about it. Like you say, it’s kind of anachronistic. What do you mean?

S2: Well, I mean, so it’s it’s very rural. It’s very white. It’s poor. Two biggest cities each have fewer than 40,000 people. Neither one is the top 20 town in Georgia. Fairly recently, I think, 6000 people signed a petition to preserve a statue of a Klan member.

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S1: Not a Confederate soldier. A Klan member.

S2: Right. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. It has a history of electing fringe candidates. I wrote about this a few years ago, and the first piece I did on her there was the election of a guy who was described to me as a paranoid urologist who represented the district back in the eighties. Obviously, the district loves Trump and Democrats have really made an under somewhat understandably kind of half hearted efforts at even running candidates. There’s been six contests there since the district was drawn in 2010. I think they’ve only fielded a candidate in three of those. And when they’ve done that, they’ve had almost laughable candidates step up to the task, one of whom was a doctor with an expired medical license, who was also a well-known nudist. And during during a DUI stop that took place during the last weeks of the campaign, he actually told the arresting officer this was recorded, that he hated the county and he prayed for God to curse it.

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S1: This was the Democratic candidate.

S2: Yeah. This is the Democrat.

S1: When is this?

S2: This was within the last 12 years.

S1: Wow.

S2: Yeah. So that’s just gives you an idea of, like, it’s. It’s so hard to get anyone to step up to the plate to run against Republicans here that those who do are a little nuts.

S1: So let’s talk about the candidates who are running against Marjorie Taylor GREENE this time, because, you know, she’s made herself into a target by being so loud. And that means that maybe the parties are paying more attention and putting different kinds of people to run against her. I mean, I know you started off by talking to Jon Cohen, who lost to Marjorie Taylor GREENE last time around in a runoff. I was amused that he calls her empty g like it’s a play on her name instead of mtg empty G. Like she’s an empty suit, I guess.

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S2: Yeah. Yeah.

S1: So a little bitterness there.

S2: He’s a guy who you would have really expected almost any other very conservative district in the country to just jump at the opportunity to elect. I’m John Kelly. I operate on brains and backs. He was a Johns Hopkins educated neurosurgeon in his late, late forties Family Guy, former college football player, reserve deputy sheriff. And in his campaign against GREENE, he did things like blow up watermelons with an AR 15, you know, stuff that you’d think would kind of like excite the base. But the feeling among the Republican electorate was just that he was kind of trying to to play the part of a Trump of the Trumpian candidate, whereas GREENE actually was the real item itself.

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S1: So he didn’t feel authentic.

S2: He didn’t feel as authentic.

S1: What did he talk about when he was talking about running again and why he didn’t want to do that this time?

S2: I mean, a lot of it came down to redistricting and how the district was redrawn. And ultimately this district was made slightly more moderate, but just very slightly by adding a little suburb from Atlanta. So it went from being I think FiveThirtyEight said that it went from being like a plus 55 Republican district to like a plus 45. And meanwhile, he was already, even though he hadn’t declared his decision one way or the other, he was already getting attacked by Marjorie’s trolls, as he called them. And he just sort of was like, You know what? It doesn’t look like I have a real shot. I don’t wanna put my family through this. And, you know, don’t really blame him there. But there there is someone else who who who looked at that same scenario, a Republican who said, you know, I think that actually there is an opening here.

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S1: You’re talking about Jennifer Strahm. Yeah.

S3: So I’ll start by saying my background is not in politics. I’m a business owner.

S2: She’s a health care small business entrepreneur.

S1: One of your sources called her Marjorie with a brain.

S2: Yes. Which was intended to be a compliment.

S3: This is not the time for unserious politicians who just want to hear themselves talk. Identifying problems.

S2: Is easy. She describes herself as wanting to be a servant, not a celebrity. I mean, that sounds kind of hokey, but I think that, like when I talk to her, at least she did. She did come across as somebody who authentically wants to do work as a politician, as opposed to just sort of build up a sort of a celebrity status the way that GREENE has.

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S1: And she also believes Joe Biden won the election.

S2: She does. And that’s that’s like I mean, it’s kind of wild to say because it’s so obvious that he did. There were so many recounting of the votes here in Georgia especially, that made it very, very obvious. But but saying that is almost dangerous for her, which is wild. Right. Like just a state of fact. Like, you know, like the earth is round actually puts her in a precarious position with a percentage of the Republican electorate there that I think sees that as some sort of like treasonous statement.

S1: Marjorie Taylor GREENE also faces some notable Democratic challengers. One of them is a guy named Marcus Flowers, who’s a former Defense Department contractor. He’s a black man, likes to go to his public events wearing a big cowboy hat. He also seems to relish beating his opponent online. A few months back, he showed up at one of Greene’s rallies, accompanied by a camera crew.

S4: And I guess your security guy would do this. Your job to assess threat.

S1: When he got kicked out. He sent the footage to his followers. And then he asked for a donation. During the State of the Union, when Marjorie Taylor GREENE interrupted the president by chanting, Build the wall. Marcus Flowers saw it as an opportunity. He tweeted. Marjorie Taylor GREENE will not be able to heckle President Biden at the next State of the Union because I will have taken her job.

S2: You know, that’s catnip, especially for Democrats in California who are sending in money. But I think that a lot of them, frankly, don’t realize the real dynamics and demographics of of where he’s trying to run.

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S1: I’m glad you pointed that out, because I feel like this is a little bit of a perennial problem for Democrats, especially in the South, running candidates who get people in New York and California excited and send tons of money and then just being blown out, which seems like a waste of resources.

S2: Totally. Amy. Amy McGrath is a great example of that, right, in Kentucky.

S1: Jaime Harrison in South Carolina. Yeah.

S2: But I think I think I remember reading that McGrath outraised McConnell by like $27 million and still lost by like what was it, 20 or 30 points? It wasn’t even close. So one kind of wonders, like if it’s actually going to move the needle at all when it comes to voting. And there have been no polls that I’ve seen at least that have shown that either flowers or a woman named Holly McCormick, who’s in a similar spot, lots of Twitter followers raised some money, whether whether or not there were actually voters who are hearing their message in the district as opposed to people outside of it.

S1: It sounds like a long shot. Yeah. No matter who you’re talking about.

S2: Yeah, it’s like, you know, it’s like the moment in Dumb and Dumber where he’s like, Tell me, what’s my chance here? Jim Carrey character. And she’s like, you know, one in a million. And he’s like, Oh, so I have a chance. I think that’s kind of that’s kind of the vibe.

S1: Something I noticed about all the candidates in this race is that they seem to be reacting to Marjorie Taylor GREENE rather than creating their own weather systems, if you like, in terms of publicity. And it just made me wonder if any of them Democrat, Republican, whoever has a real shot here, because I don’t know how you go up against a person who’s a bit of a phenomenon without being a phenomenon yourself.

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S2: I mean, we saw this with Trump, too. I think that people who opposed Trump were tempted to and often did focus more on his deficiencies than on their own qualifications. I think Marjorie Taylor GREENE, she seems, at least to many people, to present this kind of smorgasbord of deficiencies as a person, as a candidate. And it’s really tempting to focus on the Jewish space lasers and on the failed attempt to impeach Joe Biden and all these various other things than to talk about kind of more nitty gritty policy stuff. That’s a little you know, it’s a little snoozy for the average voter, even if it’s actually more consequential.

S1: It’s interesting to see that none of them are like are finding their own footing, like in their own way. They’re just sort of going after her.

S2: Totally chasing the mail truck or whatever. Yeah.

S1: When we come back, Marjorie Taylor GREENE doesn’t just face political challenges. She’s also got a big legal challenge looming over her two. Even if Marjorie Taylor GREENE wins re-election this fall, there are other efforts to drive her out of office that are gathering steam. One group is claiming GREENE simply shouldn’t be allowed to serve. They’re looking to enforce this claim with a lawsuit.

S2: So it alleges that she fits the definition of an insurrectionist.

S1: The 14th Amendment says no person who’s engaged in insurrection can be elected to office. And since the congresswoman has been such an outspoken supporter of January 6th, rioters, this lawsuit attempts to use her own words against her.

S3: You can’t allow it to just transfer power peacefully like Joe Biden wants, and allow him to become our president because he did not win this election.

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S1: The same group suing GREENE is also taking aim at one of her House colleagues. Madison Cawthorn from North Carolina. But disqualifying someone from office for supporting a coup that hasn’t been done much since the Civil War. Who would be considering the case against Marjorie Taylor GREENE in Georgia?

S2: So the way it works procedurally, I think, is that the secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, will potentially put it in front of an administrative law judge who would then make a ruling of some sort and then it could continue from there to be heard. I think in both cases, the likelihood that GREENE will actually be disqualified from the ballot using these arguments like Cawthorn is relatively low. But I think that she could be compelled, as this plays out, to testify under oath about her role in January six, which hasn’t happened before, and which would be quite useful, I think, to get a broader picture of what actually took place in that day.

S1: So are the people filing this suit, seeing it that way too, that like, oh, well, this may be a way at least to hear from her about what happened on January six.

S2: They’re not going to go ahead and concede that, that they’re not going to win this lawsuit. They’re not willing to say that. It’s pretty clear that, like a secondary goal of the suit is this other opportunity to get her to testify under oath.

S1: It’s interesting that Brad Raffensperger is involved in what happens next with this lawsuit against Marjorie Taylor GREENE, because he’s the same guy who went head to head against Trump. Right. Like he refused to find extra votes for him. Yeah, in Georgia. And I’m kind of not sure what to make of that fact about him in this circumstance with this lawsuit. And I say that because while clearly he’s shown interest in going his own way and considering all the facts, etc., etc., my impression is that Brad Raffensperger has suffered real consequences for what he chose to do in the wake of the 2020 election and has gotten a lot of anger hurled at him by even his own Republican colleagues.

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S2: Yeah, and she’s been one of the loudest voices criticizing him and I think arguably putting him in danger by really inciting a lot of the fringe, the right wing fringe, to really just go after him in any way that they deem worthwhile, whether it’s through social media or through actual death threats. Raffensperger’s gotten death threats. And I’m not you know, I’m not drawing a direct line between GREENE and those death threats. But she certainly has been fanning those flames by claiming that that that the election as a whole was stolen, that it was especially importantly stolen in Georgia, and that Raffensperger had a role in that.

S3: You just mentioned Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and Georgia has to go. The biggest person that needs to be held accountable on on Election Day is Brad Raffensperger.

S1: You know, I’ve done a bunch of shows about how the Republican Party in Georgia is feeling torn between its its identities and the people who’ve been there for a long time feel like this is not what we came here to do. When they look at people like Marjorie Taylor GREENE. And so you could see it as an opportunity if you’re one of those old school Republicans from Georgia to say, okay, there’s this lawsuit, here’s a chance for us to make a move here. Total optically. Yeah. But it’s unclear to me whether that’s something that Raffensperger will want to do, given how much he’s already put his neck out.

S2: I mean, I think his role in this procedurally is he’s not he’s not going to be doing. He’s not going to be making a final determination on this. But, yes, I think having any kind of attachment to what happens to Marjorie GREENE, while it might privately bring him some pleasure, I think politically, you’re right, there is a little bit of exposure there from the base of the party, which, you know, the Trumpian base that that very much exists in the northeastern fringes of the state, could could come out against him pretty strongly in his in his attempt to get re-elected.

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S1: When Charles birthday thinks about the challenge of unseating Marjorie Taylor GREENE at the ballot box using a lawsuit, it’s hard not to think back to the voters in her district the way they seem so energized by her, even if on occasion they find her behavior a bit beyond the pale.

S2: There’s been one poll done on Strahan and GREENE how they would fare matching up head to head.

S1: The two Republican candidates, Marjorie and Margie, with a brain.

S2: Yeah. And this poll showed that GREENE, I think, had a was favored by 60% of Republicans, whereas Strahan in the district won the favor of like 30%. And however and this is what Strayhorn’s campaign likes to point to when those same people polled were told or reminded, I guess, about some of the Green’s worst gaffes or incendiary comments. It really narrowed almost to a statistical tie between the two of them. And so, you know, that seems to indicate that there’s a possibility that that this could be an actually a tight race between the two. But my my gut says probably not. And we’ll probably know pretty quickly that it’s going to be. GREENE Against one of these sacrificial lamb Democrats.

S1: Given the political contest ahead and the Republican Party’s own desire for Marjorie Taylor GREENE to soften her approach. I asked Charles birthday if he expects to see GREENE change if she wins re-election.

S2: My gut says no. I mean, she’s she’s had so much positive feedback from playing the the like You Can’t Control Me card for the last two years. So much internal serotonin feedback too. Probably from just saying the craziest stuff and doing the craziest things that it’s hard for me to imagine that she would suddenly change change course.

S1: Charles Bethea, thank you so much for joining me.

S2: Yeah, thanks so much.

S1: Charles Bethea is a staff writer for The New Yorker. And that’s our show. What next is produced by Ilana Schwartz, Carmel Delshad and Mary Wilson. We are led by Alicia montgomery, and we are getting a ton of support right now from Anna Rubanova and from Laura Spencer. And I’m Mary Harris. I’m going to be back in this feed bright and early tomorrow morning. Catch it on.