It didn’t take long for U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to get Marjorie Taylor Greene’d last week after voting for the debt ceiling deal negotiated by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden.
Greene famously ran for Congress in 2020 in a district where she’d never lived in order to win a seat in the House. Last week, Laura Loomer, a Florida-based, right-wing conspiracy theorist, said she’s thinking about moving to Rome in Georgia’s 14th Congressional district, too, just to challenge Greene in a primary.
Loomer was following an even louder call for Greene to be punished with a primary by former pal Steve Bannon after the debt ceiling vote. Posting to the Gettr social media platform, Bannon said both Greene and conservative U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, who also supported the debt deal, should get a primary “from REAL MAGA.”
And on Monday, conservative talk radio host John Fredericks was still so incensed by Greene’s vote for the bill that he talked up the potential, if unlikely, challenge from Loomer. “If I’m Marjorie Taylor Greene, I’m taking this threat damn seriously,” he said.
That is, in fact, terrible advice. Let’s establish that Loomer is so nutty that even Greene has called her “mentally unstable” and a “documented liar.” And I have a Donald Trump bobblehead doll to bet that she’ll never even look up the 14th District on a map, let alone run for Congress there.
But what Greene should take much more seriously is the reaction inside her own north Georgia district, where the same activists who bedazzle their hats with her name are now trying to figure out whether Marjorie Taylor Greene is still their “MTG.”
None of the activists or Republicans I spoke with wanted their names used for this column. Some were still reserving judgment and others just don’t want to deal with an angry congresswoman who might come back around. But all were waiting to see where Greene goes from here, after backing McCarthy for Speaker and then going along with a debt deal that was rational by any measure, but not the burn-it-down flavor her people know and love.
“The word right now is that the base is confused,” said one Georgia GOP insider. “They’re shaking their heads saying, ‘I don’t know what to do with this.’ They’re hurt.”
Another Republican from North Georgia said the Greene of last week, who warned that a default would hammer local small businesses’ borrowing rates, sounded more like the Greene of 2019 in her original run for Congress in the 6th Congressional District in suburban Atlanta.
Before she ever talked about stolen elections and witch hunts, Greene told the AJC that overhauling the country’s finances would be her top priority in Congress.
“If we look at our country as our household, we’re going to go under foreclosure because we’re overspending,” she said then. “I look at it that way as a business owner and then I also look at it as a mom. This is where we have to dial in, and it takes people like me to step into it to solve these problems.”
Speaking of problems, Greene’s vote for the debt ceiling wasn’t nearly as offensive to some fellow Republicans as something she told reporters on the steps of the Capitol just after the vote: “I live In reality, not conservative fantasyland,” she said.
“So those other guys live in fantasyland?” one Republican back in Georgia asked incredulously of U.S. Reps. Rich McCormick, Andrew Clyde, and Mike Collins, the three Georgian Republicans who voted against the debt bill. “When she was being called a wacko, we had her back.”
Clyde, in particular, has stepped into the void that Greene has temporarily created on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast and other far-right spaces. Not only did Clyde vote against the debt deal, he was a holdout on McCarthy’s entire speakership until the bitter end, even while Greene talked him up. And Clyde kept the bad blood going with GOP leaders earlier this week by blabbing to Bannon’s podcast listeners about usually private threats he said leadership had made to him.
A key test of Greene’s status among activists will come this weekend when she attends and speaks at the Georgia GOP convention. Even though the party is a shell of its former self, those are MTG’s people. If she doesn’t have that room, she won’t have any room.
The benefit of Greene’s move from MAGA to mainstream on the debt deal, beyond keeping the U.S. economy from collapse, will take longer to gauge.
Ahead of the vote, Greene laid out the many sweeteners she wanted, including the nonsensical idea of impeaching five members of the Biden administration, including President Joe Biden himself. If those or other Greene wish-list items happen, all may be forgiven for her support for McCarthy.
Even further down the road, it’s worth noting that Greene’s district is red, but not as red as it used to be. Redistricting in 2020 swapped out portions of conservative Dawson County for a portion of Democratic Cobb County. And explosive development along the 1-75 corridor with solar plants and EV component manufacturers will speed the change from rural to purple even more.
Greene’s district elected her with 66% of the vote in last year, but that was down from 75% two years before that. Both were dominant results, but that math won’t work for much longer.
You can look at the town hall she held on the day after the debt ceiling vote to see why. After the event, Greene released a clip on Twitter of the crowd giving her a standing ovation. But an eagle-eyed observer spotted one man who remained sitting and flashing Greene his middle finger.
Another video surfaced of a different man in the audience yelling, “Crazy! Crazy is what you are!”
Greene is used to being called crazy, but she’s not used to being doubted by her base or losing elections. Her speech this weekend will tell us where she goes from here.