Democrats aim to make Greene their foil ahead of midterms
Democrats are making Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) one of their main GOP foils heading into the 2022 midterms as they look to retain their slim majority in the House.
Greene has sparked new backlash in recent days over comments she made equating mask mandates to the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust, remarks that Democratic aides and strategists say will help them as they seek to paint the entire GOP as a party of right-wing conspiracy theorists.
“I think that she is providing a huge opportunity in the absence of Trump to be a sticking point and a foil for Democrats in campaigns,” said Democratic pollster Molly Murphy. “All she stands for and represents is a walking depiction of where this Republican Party is going. And I think Democrats would be wise to invoke her and where she is trying to take that party.”
The controversy surrounding Greene comes as Democrats craft a strategy on how to defend one of the narrowest House majorities in modern history.
The party controls the chamber by only a handful of seats and already finds itself facing both a redistricting process that is expected to give Republicans an advantage and a historical trend in which the party out of the White House gains seats in the first midterm of a new administration.
Democrats have already previewed a campaign strategy that focuses on the Biden administration’s legislative efforts, including touting a sweeping coronavirus relief package that was signed into law earlier this year and proposals to implement trillions of dollars in infrastructure spending as well as expand the social safety net.
But House operatives are also planning to highlight controversial remarks Greene has made as well as Republicans’ reluctance to issue any kind of formal punishment against her in Congress.
Murphy predicted that Greene would be featured in Democrats’ paid advertising efforts as well as fundraising solicitations and could be used to knock other top Republicans.
“Democrats are going to run on popular legislation,” added one top House aide, “and Republicans are just kind of disqualifying themselves.”
“With Greene specifically, you see someone like [House Minority Leader] Kevin McCarthy [R-Calif.] just being unwilling and unable to rein her in or to stop her from consuming their caucus or really becoming a leader in it, which really does more to disqualify McCarthy and Republican leadership more than anything else,” the aide added.
Greene most recently drew controversy this week when she likened mask mandates in Congress and across the country to the Holocaust — and then doubled down in the face of criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike. She was met with rebukes from House GOP leaders but is not expected to face any formal reprimand.
The Georgia lawmaker is no stranger to controversy, having found herself embroiled in a number of firestorms during her short House tenure.
Greene was voted off her committees earlier this year over past remarks from before her 2020 election that voiced support for the QAnon conspiracy theory and advocated for violence against Democrats.
She then sparked an uproar in Washington over a draft from her office regarding the formation of the “America First Caucus,” which called for a “common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions.”
Besides those incidents, Greene has been a consistent proponent of the debunked theory that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from former President Trump and has clashed with several House Democrats, most notably confronting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and heckling Rep. Marie Newman (D-Ill.) over her transgender daughter.
Greene’s turn in the national spotlight coincides with Democrats’ search for a new foil now that Trump is out of the White House and has lost his Twitter and Facebook bullhorns.
“I think that what makes this an effective line of attack is that this is not a big step away, this is just a continuation really of where Trump took them and where she and other right-wing extremists are trying to take the party,” one Democratic strategist working on down-ballot races told The Hill. “She’s just picking up the baton from Donald Trump.”
The playbook mirrors one the GOP has used for years. Republicans for several cycles flooded the airwaves and social media with ads saying that people like Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Hillary Clinton and Ocasio-Cortez were running the party instead of Presidents Obama and Biden, who often had higher approval ratings than the GOP’s foils.
“You need voters on Election Day to have a picture in their mind of who in Washington is going to be in charge, and I think Republicans always tried to do that,” the strategist said. “It is not Kevin McCarthy. … It’s driven by Marjorie Taylor Greene, it’s driven by a number of her colleagues and these people who are in the fringe.”
When asked about the criticism and its effect on the midterms, Greene doubled down on her remarks, accusing Democrats of antisemitism over scattered criticism of Israel and denouncing mask mandates.
“Their attempts to shame, ostracize, and brand Americans who choose not to get vaccinated or wear a mask are reminiscent of the great tyrants of history who did the same to those who would not comply,” she said in a statement. “I’m sorry some of my words make people uncomfortable, but this is what the American left is all about.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee also swatted away the attacks, with spokesperson Mike Berg calling it part of Democrats’ effort to “do and say anything to distract” from a “socialist agenda.”
Still, Republicans voiced concern that Greene’s numerous controversial comments could be a drag on the party in 2022.
“I’m a Republican, I’m not Jewish, I’m not a history buff, but every time I hear Marjorie Taylor Greene talk about the Holocaust, it’s cringeworthy. And I think there are a lot of people out there as well that feel the same way,” said Georgia-based GOP strategist Chip Lake.
“Six months ago, nobody heard of this representative, and now she’s routinely leading national newscasts,” Alex Conant, another Republican operative, added. “That’s not great for Republicans trying to win the majority.”
It’s unclear that Greene will prove as effective a foil as Trump, Conant said. Despite her platform, Greene is a backbencher in the House, while Trump was president.
But still, she succeeded in recent days in monopolizing media coverage, forcing House GOP leadership to issue statements condemning her remarks while distancing themselves from questions over whether she should be removed from the House Republican Caucus.
Democrats say that dynamic in itself is valuable for them going into the midterms.
“That’s the biggest problem that she’s presenting for them … she’s distracting them from what an opposition party is normally trying to do,” said a second Democratic strategist working on House races. “She absolutely cuts both ways in terms of generating fundraising and keeping the Democratic base riled up but then also preventing the guys on her side from mounting a coherent argument against Joe Biden.”
While the attacks on Greene are sure to animate the party base, Democrats say they’re waiting until next year to see how much swing voters are swayed by the broadsides.
But strategists say the attacks don’t have to win over broad swaths of converts — they only have to convince enough undecided voters in enough House races to not vote Republican to have a shot at holding the chamber.
“Is she going to be a deciding issue for all of them? No,” Democratic strategist Eddie Vale told The Hill, referencing swing voters.
“But they see the whole party turning away from them. And again, that’s not going to be 100,000 people in a congressional district, but if that impacts 500 people in a district, that could swing it either way.”