Bookman: Marjorie Taylor Greene clown show just the thing to unite a divided America

A polka-dotted sock puppet with a tinfoil hat and long blonde hair

Image above generated by ChatGPT/Dall-E at the Cobb County Courier

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

May 2, 2024

We are a divided country these days, so much so that certain people have taken to mad mutterings about a “national divorce,” secession or even civil war. But fear not, fellow Americans, for a time of healing and reunion may be upon us.

If you have doubts, I get it, because what could inspire renewed unity in this overheated political environment? What could possibly bring together Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, at a time when we appear to agree on so little? 

Well, history tells us that nothing brings people together faster than having a common enemy, and Americans of both parties now seem to have found one in Georgia’s own Marge in Charge, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Of course, Democrats have openly despised Greene since she entered public life a few years ago, in large part because she’s as mean as a water moccasin and nutty as a south Georgia pecan orchard. But times being what they are, that disdain has become the foundation of her political career. Conservatives love what liberals hate, so the more anger that Greene could trigger from the left, the more adoration and power she got on the right. It has worked very, very well for her until now, but her limitations are about to come into play.

Thanks to her time in the spotlight, Greene now sees herself as a foreign policy expert, as the arbiter and enforcer of what Republicans are allowed to believe, and even as vice presidential material. She has also recently decided, pretty much all on her own, that House Speaker Mike Johnson, her fellow Republican, must be removed from that high office because he dared to allow votes on foreign-aid packages to Ukraine, Taiwan and Israel that Greene personally opposed. (All three passed by large margins.)

“Mike Johnson’s speakership is over,” she proclaimed last week, as if she held his fate in her hands, saying that “he has betrayed America, he has betrayed Republican voters.”

Instead, and for the first time in her short career, there has been significant blowback from her own party. Her insistence that all aid to Ukraine be ended has earned her the title of “Moscow Marjorie” from the Murdoch-owned New York Post. The far-right editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, also Murdoch-owned, called her “Rep. Mayhem Taylor Greene” for her ongoing string of tantrums. 

“She — not the Democrats — are the biggest risk to us getting back to a majority,” said Sen. Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, accusing her of being “a terrible leader” and “dragging our brand down.” Even Democrats are now saying that if necessary, they will join with Republicans in voting to spite Greene and keep Johnson as speaker, a step of bipartisan cooperation that would be extraordinary even in less heated times.

Greene is clearly a clown, but clowns can be popular. However, the traits that make a good clown aren’t transferable to other lines of work. A funny face and big feet don’t qualify you to dictate American foreign policy on Ukraine. A lapel flower that shoots water doesn’t make you vice presidential material, and a big red nose doesn’t give you the power to unilaterally remove a House speaker. 

The most famous clown in America, Ronald McDonald, has been the popular mascot for McDonald’s for more than 60 years, but nobody, including Ronald, thinks Ronald should be CEO of McDonald’s Corp. (The actual CEO of McDonald’s went to Harvard Business School, not to clown college.) 

But you see, that’s where Ronald McDonald and Marjorie Greene part company. Ronald is self-aware enough to know he’s a clown. Marjorie doesn’t. She thinks she gets all this TV time and attention because of her wisdom and leadership qualities, when in fact she has just happened to come along at a time when her party’s base cares more about performance art and political theater — which she’s good at — than they do about actual governing.

But like Greene herself, that approach has severe limitations. The GOP has forfeited so much power to the clowns among them – including at the very top – that on its own it is incapable of performing the basic functions of self-government. Thanks to the leeway they’ve given to Greene and others, the party that famously rejects compromise as betrayal now needs Democratic help just to keep its own speaker in place.

It’s a kumbaya moment.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.