The cancer attacking the fabric of American political life is not Marjorie Taylor Greene. It runs far deeper than that. There is a broader crisis of legitimacy in the land. Congresswoman Greene, like former president Donald Trump, is a symptom, not the cause. Ad hominem attacks on both of them merely make things worse. Perhaps that is inevitable, part of a national death spiral that is too far progressed to stop, but I am not persuaded. I still think we can do better. Indeed, we must do better.
Greene was elected to Congress in 2020 from Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, a heavily Republican enclave. The Cook Partisan Voter Index rated in an R+27, meaning that in the two previous presidential elections, the district voted 27 percentage points more Republican than the national average. The winner of the Republican primary is all but guaranteed to win the House seat.
This year, Greene was the top vote getter in Republican primary, gaining just over 40 percent of the votes in a field of nine. Because she did not win a majority of the votes, she faced a run-off vote in August against the candidate with the second most votes, Dr. John Cowan, who received 21 percent of the votes. Greene beat Cowan in August, capturing 57 percent of the run-off vote.
Come November, Greene clobbered her Democrat challenger, Kevin Van Ansdal, with a whopping 74.7 to 25.3 margin.
Why am I telling you this?
The people of the 14th Congressional District knew for whom they had voted: Three times in the summer and fall, they considered Greene, compared her to the alternatives, and then selected her.
So what platform did this 46-year-old political newcomer offer: She ran promising to stop gun control, against open borders, against the Green New Deal and against “socialism.” Along the way, she expressed cynicism about whether mass shootings at schools actually took place, or whether the events were staged “false flags” to fan the flames of the gun control lobby. She accused Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of treason, noting that execution is a fit punishment for the crime. She is a subscriber to Q-Anon, a crazy mismash of conspiracies and fantasies about good versus evil and the apocalypse to come.
She campaigned with a flame thrower.
What did Georgia voters reject? Her most serious obstacle was her fellow Republican in the August run-off election. Dr. John Cowan, a board certified neurosurgeon who promised to run against “deranged Democrats” and “weak Republicans.” Dr. Cowan appeared on Michael Smerconish’s television this past weekend: Dr. Cowan appears to be just what Washington needs just now, an outsider unbeholden to anyone or anything other than the needs of his constituents.
The reasonable man lost. The woman with the flamethrower won.
Think about that. When given a choice, Georgia voters did not choose a man they trust to treat them when they are ill; they chose a woman who wants to burn it all down. There are angry people Georgia’s 14thCongressional District, just as there are angry Americans across the land. I’d suggest that 75 million Americans did not vote for Donald Trump because they thought he was a statesman. Donald Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene tapped the same dark root of despair.
Lost in the 2020 pandemic and overstated claims about the need for a racial reckoning was a book by Angus Deaton and Anne Case, Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism. The book notes that deaths among older white members of the middle class are increasing at a disproportionate rate, a function of drug abuse, alcoholism and more direct forms of suicide. These are folks for whom the American Dream no longer works; no one mourns for them, they are mocked for whining about their failure to cash in on their white privilege, and told to stand aside while others now move to the head of the line. It’s no mystery, I suspect, that many of those who subscribe to Q-Anon’s balderdash come from the same cohort.
Something is broken in the country, right and left agree on that much. There’s a cancer dividing, spreading, overcoming the healthier tissues of the American fabric. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Washington, where partisan gridlock reflects the politics of fear and anger over an uncertain future.
Ousting Congresswoman Greene, as Democrats apparently want to do, is wrong. She’s elected. What would the message be to the 14th District: You spoke, but we don’t want to listen? Sidelining her sends much the same message.
The country is drifting apart, fragmenting, disintegrating – attacking the symptoms doesn’t address the cause. All it really does is make Congresswoman Greene more attractive to millions of Americans who feel as though the system doesn’t work. Suicide? Nah. Vote Greene. Perhaps in 2024 for an even higher office.
. There’s a reason Donald Trump has reached out to Greene for a meet.
These two canaries are tweeting in the same mineshaft. Is anyone listening?