Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., greets Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on the floor after the House votes to adjourn until 10pm on Friday, January 6, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Who to believe, C-SPAN or my lying eyes? There she was earlier this month, gaveling the House of Representatives to order. It was a shock to see Marjorie Taylor Greene, the fireplug from Georgia, who had been stripped of committee assignments during her first term, running the place in her second. 

The explanation for her day in the grown-ups’ chair lies outside the organization chart of the 118th Congress. Greene famously pushed Kevin McCarthy over the finish line in his dicey bid to be speaker, and he owes her.

It’s McCarthy’s bad luck that his savior has anger management issues. Each day she presents the Speaker with a Hobson’s choice: He could distance himself from Suzy Space Laser to reassure the country he’s not running a mad House, or he could alienate Greene, the bane of the jackbooted “gazpacho,” and lose the House. Before honoring her with the gavel, McCarthy honored Greene with real power, a perch on the House Oversight Committee, where she can go hard on Hunter Biden, and one on the Homeland Security Committee, where she can go easy on Vladimir Putin. The latter comes with MGT’s favorite toy, a microphone, and a new bauble called a security clearance. At a March hearing with Raul Ortiz, head of the U.S. Border Patrol, she refused to abide by classification rules. When she asked Ortiz if he knew about a bomb left at the border (it turned out to be a bag of sand), he demurred, saying it was part of a classified report. “I’m not going to be confidential,” she said.

Greene is already out to be the Joan of Arc of Donald Trump’s looming indictment. She warned Republicans who would “stand by and cheer for his persecution or do nothing to stop it will be. . . remembered, scorned, and punished by the base.” The Georgia representative pinned the witch hunt against Trump on the “weaponized government” as if Jim Jordan, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, isn’t literally chair of its new weaponization of government subcommittee. (The former Ohio State wrestling coach who knew nothing, nothing of the team’s molestation scandal is promising to subpoena anyone and anything to do with the indictment.) 

Initially, McCarthy had as much pre-indictment rage as Greene, railing against “a radical DA who lets violent criminals walk as he pursues political vengeance against President Trump.” On Sunday, at his caucus’s annual retreat, where a few moderates and plenty of institution-respecting conservatives roamed the halls, McCarthy tried to downplay Trump’s incendiary rants about Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg and the king of Mar-a-Lago’s call for the populace to rise up. Trump’s tirade, McCarthy explained, was an effort to “educate” citizens about the looming prosecution: “He was not talking in a harmful way.” McCarthy urged “calmness.” 

This week, Greene plans to visit imprisoned January 6 insurrectionists as if she’s Amnesty International. A century ago this year, when he was penning Mein Kampf from prison, Adolf Hitler had plenty of visitors to his spacious cell with a view following the failed Beer Hall Putsch. Marjorie, too, has warm memories of a failed insurrection. At a New York Republican gala this winter, Greene said that if she (and Steve Bannon) had been in charge, “We would have won. Not to mention, it would have been armed.” 

McCarthy’s notorious ambition fuels Greene’s one-woman havoc machine, and a Faustian bargain yokes him to her. His old boss, mentor, and Republican predecessor in his Bakersfield, California, seat, longtime Representative Bill Thomas, has called him a liar and a “hypocrite” for putting political aspirations for party leadership before doing what’s right for the country.

Of course, there have always been provocateurs in Congress, but once upon a time, House majorities were not perennially in the single digits, giving leadership more room to ignore their pyromaniacs. The Greene situation is different. Democrats of a certain age may remember Ohio Representative Jim Traficant, known for his conspiratorial floor rants and bad hair reminiscent of a dead squirrel, or California Republican Robert Dornan, who could get so worked up screaming about abortion that you figure he’d have an aneurysm. But in the olden times, oddballs only had late-night C-SPAN to get their ya-yas out. Now, the likes of Marjorie have everything from Twitter to TikTok to countless news outlets, fake and real, to broadcast their message to the world’s seven billion smartphones. Each time we pay attention to her, it’s not because we’re gluttons for QAnon but because she has titular power in an evenly divided House. 

With newfound power, a lot has changed for Greene since her first term. Back then, she was reprimanded by then Minority Leader McCarthy and removed from her committee seats by the House Democratic Caucus with ten Republican crossover votes. Her offenses, unbefitting a candidate or a member, are too long to recount. There’s the famous theory that Jewish Space Lasers cause wildfires and her seeming expressions of support for the assassination of Nancy Pelosi, who she later ridiculed for deploying her “gazpacho” police, confusing Hitler’s secret force with a refreshing chilled tomato soup. On Facebook, she posted a picture holding a gun next to the images of The Squad. She hung a sign on her House office door bleating that “There are TWO genders: Male & Female ” right across the hall from a member with a transgender child. 

Two years later, why display a poster when you’ve moved from the cheap seats to the Speaker’s chair? We’ve arrived at the point where Greene could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose McCarthy, who’s turned gratitude into a vice. Semi-delirious after he eked out victory close to 2 a.m. back in January, he gave Greene a bear hug and posed for a selfie with what could have been a tear in his eye. To the press, California Kevin gushed about the “ironclad bond” he’d forged with the North Georgia congresswoman during their time in a foxhole. He told a friend, “I will never leave that woman. I will always take care of her,” according to The New York Times

Unfortunately, he meant it. In politics, as in Hollywood, the key to success is to fake sincerity, not to practice it. McCarthy could have put her on committee backwaters like Small Business or the Joint Committee on Printing, where her tantrums wouldn’t reveal secrets, but Kevin felt compelled to bequeath her more power. 

Each day, he has to mollify Greene and her ilk. Last month, McCarthy went to the White House for an anodyne meeting with Joe Biden on the debt ceiling, which the Greene wing is dead set against raising. McCarthy and Mitch McConnell have signaled they won’t allow default. To make up for taking the meeting, McCarthy jingled his keys to distract Baby Marjorie and gave over 40,000 hours of January 6 surveillance video, which the right had been clamoring for, to the always measured and tranquil Tucker Carlson. Earlier, she’d pushed hard for the tape’s release, aware it would expose the Capitol’s security system, but told CNN afterward that it was “foolish to release certain parts publicly. We can’t give away our national security.” With that, McCarthy should realize that Greene’s followers are unique in the animal kingdom. They can be thrown all the red meat in the world, but rather than curl up in a food coma afterward, they howl for more. 

In a dull moment, Greene brought up another subject McCarthy could do without. She’s had it with the United States and called for secession as a national divorce. “From the sick and disgusting woke culture, issues shoved down our throats, to the Democrat’s traitorous America Last policies, we are done,” she said. Greene seemed to forget, if she ever knew, that red states are on blue-funded welfare, paying less in federal taxes than they enjoy in federal services. It’s doubtful she stopped to wonder whether her Georgia, a purple Biden state with two Democratic senators, might end up part of Wokestan.

The split will be based on irreconcilable differences with any state that promotes electric bikes and has an abundance of gluten-free options. She’s suing for ownership of the libs, the wedding china, and the moral high ground. 

Greene ignores questions like who gets custody of the nuclear missiles or whether Austin and Miami could merge with the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Otherwise, the code of un-Wokestan is clear. She believes in school boards censoring books, governors jailing gynecologists, libraries cracking down on alleged drag storytime, and chain drugstores being prohibited from displaying sex toys next to the Crest 3D Whitestrips. 

No one’s asked the blue states how they feel about Greene’s proposal, but who could object to being separated from Greg Abbott, Ron DeSantis, and Tommy Tuberville?

Sadly, Greene is not alone. Polls show a disturbing sympathy for secession. Among southern conservatives, secession has long had the support of more than 60 percent of those in Dixie. In a recent country-wide Rasmussen poll, a plurality of Republicans and a third of likely voters believe the red and blue states should split up. In 2022, researchers at the University of California, Davis, Violence Prevention Research Program found that half of those surveyed believed there could be a civil war in the United States in the next several years.

The usual normies objected to the divorce, including Senator Mitt Romney—for all he’s going to do about it—and former Representative Liz Cheney, who’s now Private Citizen Cheney for her other heresies. But not a peep from McCarthy. Into the void came Biden speaking at the Democratic Party’s recent retreat in Baltimore. “A little bit more Marjorie Taylor Greene. . . and you’re gonna have a lot of Republicans run our way.” He paused. “Isn’t she amazing?” Another pause. “Oof.”

Woody Allen captured McCarthy’s angst in his fictional speech to graduates standing at a crossroads: “One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness,” he declared. “The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.” Amen.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Margaret Carlson

Follow Margaret on Twitter @carlsonmargaret. Margaret Carlson is a columnist at The Daily Beast.