Only the voters stand between America’s democratic experiment and an authoritarian GOP

Last Week, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) testified as part of a lawsuit seeking to have her barred from reelection for allegedly fomenting insurrection against the United States on Jan. 6, 2021. 

It’s tough to tell what’s worse for the country: that there is any uncertainty about a public official’s loyalty to her country or that Greene herself seems unsure what she did, and whether it was wrong. Asked directly by attorney Andrew G. Celli, Jr. whether she had urged then-President Trump to impose military rule as a way to extend his grip on power, the normally boisterous Greene managed only a meek, “I don’t recall.” 

In a career defined by outrageous allegations that the 2020 election was “stolen” and that Democrats are the “party of pedophiles,” Greene’s performance in Atlanta last week marks a staggering new low. And Greene isn’t just disgracing herself with her antidemocratic ranting. She’s dragging down a Republican Party in which Greene represents a dangerous new mainstream. Americans can no longer expect the GOP to police its spreading authoritarianism. That critical obligation now falls to our nation’s last resort: the voters themselves.

Greene’s sudden memory loss is striking — and completely unbelievable. As the congresswoman certainly already knows, she did send a text message to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows urging the president to declare martial law. And Greene is mentally present enough to understand Meadows would likely recoil at the idea, so she made her case that Trump’s military junta would be the last line of defense for American democracy.

“I just wanted you to tell [Trump],” Greene writes of her request for a declaration of martial law. “[Democrats] stole this election. We all know. They will destroy our country next. Please tell him to declassify as much as possible so we can go after Biden and anyone else!” 

That last bit – “so we can go after Biden and anyone else!”– should unnerve the American public just as much if not more than Greene’s demand that Trump declare military rule and upend the nation’s centuries’-long tradition of peaceful transfers of political power. Because for Greene and her like-minded MAGA colleagues, the Republican Party is engaged in an existential battle for the future of democracy and the global order. And in this fight only Republicans like Trump and Greene can be trusted. 

Anyone else is suspect. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who voted to impeach Trump? Compromised. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), whose crime appears to be participating in a full public accounting of what happened on Jan. 6? One of “them.” Depending on the issue, the time of day and the whims of Trump’s cult of personality, Republicans have spent much of the past five years playing a game of musical chairs to prove their true loyalty to Trump’s movement.

But one act of disloyalty is enough to find yourself on the outside of a Trumpified GOP, and the movement’s best players – Reps. Greene, Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), to name a few — thrive because they are single-minded enforcers of Trump’s orthodoxy who have no problem playing the fool to elevate Trump’s message to a national audience. 

In this new Republican Party, there is no longer any need to pretend democracy is an admirable or even worthwhile goal. If democracy hurts the advance of the MAGA movement, well, Trump and his lieutenants will simply identify candidates who oppose democracy, endorse them and unleash Trump’s considerable fundraising power in the hopes that those antidemocracy candidates overwhelm “traditional” Republicans. 

Trump and Greene have been busy cheerleading exactly these types of Big Lie-pushing candidates in contentious primaries across Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida and the rest of the country. And if those candidates win their elections and take office in 2023, there is no reason to think they will not act on their shouted words: to overturn future “stolen” elections (defined as any national elections Republicans lose) and keep the “wrong people” out of power. 

After years of Republican cries that Trump “doesn’t mean what he says,” lawmakers like Greene are urging Republican voters to listen carefully to what Trump is saying — and vote for the candidates who will help Trump “fix” America’s election problems. And in a highly-polarized political environment in which Trump’s popularity remains steady even after a string of controversial fights within the Republican Party, it is unclear whether external messaging from Democrats or anyone else will move the needle with voters.  

Voters should not expect the GOP to raise a finger to prevent the authoritarianism Trump and Greene are promising should Trumpist Republicans win their races this November. It will be up to them to exercise the most fundamental right – our right to vote – at a time when that vote is increasingly the only thing standing between America’s democratic experiment and a dark turn towards illiberalism and strongman politics.

I still believe Americans will make the correct choice and reject a politics history has shown us leads only to bloodshed and collapse.

Max Burns is a Democratic strategist and founder of Third Degree Strategies, a progressive communications firm. Follow him on Twitter @themaxburns.

Tags 2020 presidential election January 6 Marjorie Taylor Greene Trumpism

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