From space lasers to civil war: Marjorie Taylor Greene's long audition to be Trump's running mate

When considering her rants and tirades, remember this key fact: Marjorie Taylor Greene is in it for herself

Published March 7, 2023 5:30AM (EST)

Marjorie Taylor Greene and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Marjorie Taylor Greene and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Marjorie Taylor Greene has shown herself to be a geyser of bad ideas and outrageous proposals designed to own the libs and grab time on conservative media outlets. On March 1, the congresswoman from Georgia erupted again, claiming on Fox News that MAGA Republicans deserve their own "safe spaces" and that political power in this country should be returned to the states.

Move over John Calhoun, the legendary white supremacist whose love of states' rights and advocacy of nullification helped lead to the Civil War.

Greene's Calhoun-like advocacy of a "national divorce" has already caused something of a media frenzy. Was she proposing secession: Red states separating from blue? Was she encouraging  civil war? Or was it just "more paranoid fantasy" from the same brain that had tweeted about Jewish space lasers causing wildfires?

Ask the wrong question, get the wrong answer. Instead, we should start with basics whenever Greene  spouts off and remember that she embodies the quality that drives Americans' disgust about politiciansshe's in it for herself.

Like Donald Trump, Greene is a self-serving transactionalist, not someone who thinks about what's best for the country or anyone but herself.

The media, Democrats and everyone who believes in our constitutional republic should respond to Greene by pointing that out whenever she spews her hot water. Make no mistake: She's running for the No. 2 spot on Donald Trump's 2024 ticket. The narrative that she's only about Marjorie Taylor Greene is the one that needs to predominate over specific responses to the content of her latest provocation.

Take the one about secession. We know that no thinking person would truly advocate that "red states" go their own way. They would sink without federal money. The Tampa Bay Times reported last year that citizens in Mississippi and West Virginia, received $1.71 to $2.13 for every tax dollar sent to Washington. Meanwhile, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York were federal tax revenue losers: Citizens there received between 74 cents and 96 cents. 

Now that's MAGA-world "owning the libs." In cash.

As for a civil war, even when Trump was president, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley expressed his horror to the House Jan. 6 committee at an attempt to "overthrow the Constitution." In the unlikely event that red states try that via violence, count on the U.S. military to defend the union and to overwhelm some newly formed red-state army. 

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Which brings us back to space lasers, Greene's 2017 Facebook post. She was channeling a QAnon post, as she had regularly done on her way to electoral success and to building her conspiracy-theory base. Her quick deletion of that particular post suggests that she never believed it, but that it had already served her dog-whistling purposes. 

As with Trump, Greene's performative politics play well in our overheated clickbait media environment. Her maneuvers, similarly,, are aimed at amassing personal power. Check out her expedient alliance with Kevin McCarthy to help him gain the House speakership, and help her regain her committee seats so she can play a central role in the drama. 

In Greene's first term in Congress, her relationship with McCarthy was fraught. She stormed into his office to accuse him of not backing her when Speaker Nancy Pelosi removed her from committees. Ultimately, as we see now, she reversed course and formed a partnership of convenience with McCarthy. 

In other words, she understood on which side the bread of future power would be buttered.

To get Trump's vice-presidential nod in 2024, she needs to keep feeding red meat to his MAGA base, amping it up to keep attracting its loyalty for her own ends. Ambition fuels her tweets and taunts, and each of her provocations serves her ambition.

Of course Greene's "national divorce" would be devastating for the denizens of red states. That's irrelevant: She's appealing to emotions, not pocketbooks.

It's irrelevant that her call for a national divorce would undermine the economic interests of red-staters. She's appealing to their emotions, not their pocketbooks, and saying, "I'm with you." She evidently hopes that if she keeps them riled up, they won't notice her lack of interest in their actual well-being.  

Nor does the danger to America matter to her. She's happy to divide us to serve herself. In this she's allied not only with Trump and McCarthy, but also with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the international king of sowing discord and violence in America.

That kind of division can do plenty of damage. Think of Brexit, largely fueled by fear of immigration, with results that have been economically ruinous for the United Kingdom.

In the next 20 months before the 2024 election, expect increasingly extremist tweets and aggrieved rants from Greene. MTG's gonna go full MTG until she's defeated. 

That's why it's important for Democrats and the media to reinforce the message that everything she says is for personal gain. That message must be heard by the swing voters who determined the 2020 election and the 2022 congressional elections in competitive districts. If Greene's drive to out-crazy everyone else lands her on the Republican ticket along with Trump, their congenital self-interest – along with their extremism – is sure to alienate independent-minded voters.

Mind you, a Trump-Greene nomination is not something to hope for; the potential consequences are too dangerous. But if they turn out to be the 2024 GOP ticket, citizens who care about democracy, social security and kitchen-table issues over conspiracy and division will need to organize prodigiously to defeat them.

For all the divisions we have faced in our history and all the serious trauma of recent years, the U.S. has endured to build, by fits and starts, a more perfect union. The call of democracy is to live with our differences, not flee from them, and in fact to use them to make America better. 

Marjorie Taylor Greene wants precisely the opposite. That's what you get with politicians who are in it for themselves.

By Austin Sarat

Austin Sarat is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College. His most recent book is "Lethal Injection and the False Promise of Humane Execution." His opinion articles have appeared in USA Today, Slate, the Guardian, the Washington Post and elsewhere.

MORE FROM Austin Sarat

By Dennis Aftergut

Dennis Aftergut, a former federal prosecutor, is currently of counsel to Lawyers Defending American Democracy.

MORE FROM Dennis Aftergut

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Civil War Commentary Donald Trump Elections Marjorie Taylor Greene Republicans Space Lasers