Popular culture talks about the “Teflon Don” when referring to the notorious Mafia capo John Gotti. Later, the same moniker has applied to Donald Trump, who seems to glory in violating any rules that morality or legality set down—and he gets away with it. Now we can add “Teflon Marjorie” to our list of politicians whose popularity seems to remain perpetually undiminished no matter what their offenses are against morality, legality, or even common sense. Every time that these characters seem to have reached bottom, and it looks like their careers are dead and buried, they keep making “comebacks”. Like Teflon frying pans, they take the heat and nothing sticks to them.
In February 2021, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia was dealt what would typically be considered a knockout blow in Washington politics: she lost her seats on House committees, where Congress does most of its work, because she had supported the QAnon conspiracy theory and spread other dangerous lies on social media. Since the January 6 insurrection, she has become the poster girl for outrageous, “out there” conspiracy theories and claims that no sensible person could support as truth. In short, she is the queen of fake news.
But instead of being consigned to the ash heap of politics, Greene has steadily gained power in the halls of Washington over the past two years, as Robert Draper explained in a New York Times Magazine profile of her published on October 17, 2022. Last month, Greene sat directly behind the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, as he unveiled his agenda for the midterm elections. Republican candidates often ask Greene to campaign for them. She has become a major fund-raiser within the party. Greene told Draper that she had talked with Donald Trump about being his running mate if he were to run for president in 2024. “This is not at all what I expected when I began reporting on Greene,” wrote German Lopez in a morning roundup newsletter.
“So how did Greene, who was a political pariah a few years ago, place herself at the center of Republican politics today?” Lopez asks. Greene’s precipitous rise did not come about because she renounced her extreme views, he says. Instead, like Donald Trump at his most belligerent, and his core supporters, the GOP base rallied around her because they agreed with at least some of her beliefs and liked that she stood her ground — a story that recalls Trump’s ascent as well; he is thus seen as the quintessential “in-your-face anti-politician” who as they say, “shoots from the hip”. Since politicians are seen as being notorious hypocrites who speak out of both sides of their mouths, this kind of reckless rejection of tact, diplomacy and respect has become precious political capital at a time when integrity and honesty seem to have fallen out of fashion. Yes, these are cliches, but cliches resonate with the public and also serve ably in describing their less-than-critically examined behaviors. Most people react with their gut, not their critical faculties.
Greene herself is a staunch supporter of Trump and his policies and falsely claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged against him. “She’s a perfect reminder that Trumpism will not go away even if he does,” Draper said.
In a stunning moment that clarifies just how powerful she has become, when House Republicans met to discuss whether to remove Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming from a leadership position after she voted to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6 attack, Greene justified her support for QAnon and other conspiracy theories, eventually carrying the day as Cheney was indeed removed. Cheney, who was acting in a manner that she knew would destroy her career in the GOP was removed– although with her integrity remaining intact– but about a third of the conference applauded Greene and gave her a standing ovation.
“The headline tonight is that we tried to kick out Liz Cheney, and we gave a standing ovation to Marjorie Taylor Greene,” Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina warned at the time. Since then Greene’s power has waxed, not waned. McCarthy, who would likely be speaker should Republicans regain control of the House in the midterms, has reportedly offered Greene plum committee assignments if she supports his run for the post — giving her back what she once lost, and more. If reports are to be believed, if Trump should run for president in 2024, she might very likely be his running mate.
Political strategists might point out that this would likely limit the appeal of such an ideologically lopsided ticket that could only draw the already established fringe GOP base. And they might advise against such a ticket. But it’s futile to recall that Trump won in 2016 against all the prognostications, projections and predictions of polls and pundits. And a Trump-Greene ticket might do the same. Donald Trump and Marjorie Greene seem to be immune to political traps and accountability. They do and say as they please knowing that their fanatical base reacts from the gut, and no mud will stick to them as long as they continue to pander to their wild theories. And as long as people act in humanly irrational ways, Trumpism will remain alive and well.
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