Bookman: Marjorie Taylor Greene ascends in GOP because of stupidity, not in spite of it

headshot of Marjorie Taylor GreeneMarjorie Taylor Greene (official photo -- public domain)

by Jay Bookman, Georgia Recorder [This article first appeared in the Georgia Recorder, republished with permission]

March 2, 2023

Marjorie Taylor Greene is an idiot, and idiots, as a rule, aren’t interesting people. They aren’t interesting because their idiocy overshadows all other aspects of their personality.

Greene is more an exemplar of that rule than an exception to it.

Nonetheless, in their wisdom, the voters in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District have elected Greene as their U.S. representative, and it’s probably necessary to point out that they’ve now done it twice. They made that choice in 2020 – in both a contested primary and a general election — then last fall they confirmed it, rejecting a qualified, competent challenger by almost a two-to-one margin. 

Very well. More than 775,000 people live in the 14th District, and if they have concluded that Greene is the best person to represent that district’s interests and values, if they think she’s the best and brightest they have to offer the country, then they have the right to make that choice. As just one of 435 members of Congress, what harm could she do, right?

But here’s where Greene does begin to get interesting, not in her own right but in what her existence and prominence tells us about our political culture. In her brief time in the public eye, Greene has uttered a long string of absurdities that rank among the dumbest things ever said by an elected official in our nation’s history, from alleging that Jews used space lasers to start California forest fires so they could buy the land cheaply to her most recent campaign calling for a “national divorce,” with red states separating from blue states.

Such a divorce, she claims, is “a necessary reality because of our irreconcilable differences,” and those who disagree must be “totally disconnected from real Americans and how they think & feel.” She then reeled off a long list of steps that such a divorce would enable, including the observation that blue states would be free to eliminate the national anthem and pledge of allegiance while red states could “require every student to stand for the national anthem and pledge of allegiance.”

That would be the pledge that speaks of “one nation … indivisible.”

Because of such stupidity – not despite it, but actually because of it – Greene has been elevated by the Republican Party to prominent positions in the hierarchy of the party and in Congress. She now serves on the House Oversight Committee, one of the more visible platforms the party can offer, and also on the Committee on Homeland Security, where no doubt she can be most effective in her campaign to protect us from Jewish space lasers. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has gone so far as to pledge his eternal devotion to Greene, telling friends “I will never leave that woman. I will always take care of her,” and Greene herself seems to be positioning herself as a running mate to Donald Trump if he wins the Republican nomination, and even if he doesn’t.

Greene’s growing prominence is further proof that the Republican Party has forfeited the ability to defend itself against stupidity. It has become a party in which even its nominally  brightest and best-educated, those with advanced degrees from the nation’s most prestigious universities, must feign a level of ignorance that would get you flunked from a ninth-grade civics class. In this case, almost no one in the GOP has dared to challenge the insanity of Greene’s proposal, because confronting insanity in that party has become the pathway to irrelevance. Bad ideas that are not confronted and challenged become stronger; silence is taken as acquiescence, which in fact it is.

We also see evidence of that weakness in the recent release of internal emails from Fox News that were written during the GOP’s effort to overturn the 2020 election. Those emails, made public through a defamation lawsuit, make it clear that Fox personalities such as Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham knew full well that Trump’s fraud claims were not merely false but ludicrous on their face. 

“Sidney Powell is a bit nuts,” Ingraham said in an email to her colleagues. “Sidney Powell is lying,” Carlson said in another, calling the allegations “absurd.” Another Fox executive referred to Rudy Giuliani as “unhinged … has been for a while. I think booze has got him.”

Even Fox owner Rupert Murdoch, after watching Giuliani on a Fox show, sent an internal email describing the former mayor’s allegations as “really crazy stuff.” 

Yet they did not dare to tell the truth – they did not dare to confront the stupidity, because for too long they had promoted the stupidity and encouraged the stupidity and profited from the stupidity. They admitted to each other in those emails that telling their viewers the truth – that Joe Biden won, and there was no evidence of voter fraud — would destroy the Fox News business model that was making them all rich. Out of “respect” for their audience, they told each other, they had to play along.

I’m sorry.  You don’t “respect” your audience when you tell them things that you know aren’t true just so you can keep milking them for ratings and ad dollars. That’s like saying a con artist “respects” his victim. Those emails reveal the Fox stars as venal as Greene is stupid, which is about the worst thing you could say about people on both sides of that equation.

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