Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) touched a nerve across the political spectrum this week with her call for a “national divorce” that echoed the nation’s history surrounding secessionism.
Greene’s call for the U.S. to be split into two nations of red and blue states has infuriated members of both parties, while giving Republicans an unwanted headache. While Greene is known for incendiary rhetoric sure to provoke Democrats and Republicans alike, her words take on new importance now that she is a key ally of Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and serves on the House Homeland Security Committee. She also has her eyes on a possible vice presidential bid on a ticket led by former President Trump.
“That is the biggest change. … There have absolutely always been gadflies in both parties who were extremists who were kind of going places that no one was comfortable with,” Brian Rosenwald, a political historian at the University of Pennsylvania, said. “Having an extremist in Congress is not new. Having someone willing to say insane and incendiary things [is] not really new. What I think is new … is that here’s someone saying these things and doing these things and being embraced by leadership.”
Greene made similar statements in late 2021, and her latest pitch to divide the nation by political ideology came on President’s Day. She followed it up on Tuesday with an extensive Twitter thread expanding on her reasoning.
Others in her party have been notably silent on the issue.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) labeled the idea “evil,” and former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) tweeted that “Secession is unconstitutional. No member of Congress should advocate secession, Marjorie.”
But neither House GOP leadership nor rank-and-file Republicans in the lower chamber have responded.
Multiple GOP strategists told The Hill that some on the right are staying quiet because they believe Greene’s comments were meant to get a reaction — and help her fundraise.
“She wants you to cover it. She wants the MSNBC love so she can raise money off it. She wants people talking about it,” one GOP operative told The Hill.
A second GOP strategist echoed that thought, adding her comment doesn’t make much sense no matter how you slice it given her home state.
“Does she forget her state is kind of blue and has two Democratic senators?” a GOP operative involved in House races said. “I think it’s a lot of people just writing it off and being like ‘oh this is the shit she says.’”
“Sounds like wishful thinking,” the operative said. “She’s just trying to stir the pot a bit, and I’m sure she’ll raise some money on it.”
But Rosenwald says those dismissing Greene’s comments should do so at their own peril, especially in a party that has in recent years seen outsiders rise up and become prominent parts of the party apparatus.
“This is the problem with how things get normalized. … Part of the problem the Republican Party has had for probably 40-plus years is they roll their eyes at the fringe of the party,” Rosenwald said. “These are the people who are getting more and more popular with their base and these are the people that are getting the attention and sort of setting the agenda.”
Democrats have pounced on Greene’s comments, eager to tie her to McCarthy and the greater GOP.
“Kevin McCarthy’s shameful silence on Marjorie Taylor Greene’s divisive calls for secession of states sends a dangerous message to conspiracy theorists and anarchists,” Tommy Garcia, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman, said in a statement. “Apparently, upholding and defending the Constitution is merely a suggestion to the House Republican party.”
Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison tweeted, “Kev, Call your caucus…”
McCarthy’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
As the 2024 cycle kicks into gear, the larger concern for Republicans is that Democrats can use Greene’s comments in advertisements to pan the entire party.
Distancing themselves from Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-Fla.) call to sunset all federal legislation after five years didn’t protect other Republicans from Democratic attacks that the GOP was trying to cut Social Security and Medicare.
“It’s easy to see Democrats latching onto some of her comments and using it as a way to define the rest of the Republican Party,” a third GOP operative told The Hill. “Democrats will be anxious to use a lot of this stuff to define us as the party that has lost our way and not focused on issues that have a real chance of being put into action.”