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Stewart vs. Greene: Let the debate begin

When television personality Jon Stewart is funny, he’s hilarious. But when serious, he is a formidable interviewer of prominent public figures.

It’s more challenging to know when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) is being serious. She appears to be the most conspiracy-infused member of Congress. “She can’t be serious!” is a reasonable reaction to most of what she says, often offensive and inflammatory rhetoric. But judging by all her selfies with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), she’s moving up the GOP’s ranks. Although she’s serving only her second term in Congress, she reportedly wants to be former President Donald Trump’s running mate in 2024, and Trump is said to have put her on his shortlist.

“If you’re going to be in a fight, you want Marjorie in your foxhole,” McCarthy told the New York Times. The question is why Republican leaders — or any Republican — would want an ally who fires indiscriminately in all directions.  

To get some answers, Stewart should invite Greene to join him on his television show, “The Problem With Jon Stewart,” for what surely would be a fascinating conversation. We saw just such an exchange in a recent viral interview Stewart had with state Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Okla.) on squaring the GOP’s reasoning for pushing anti-drag show bills in the name of protecting children against the party’s stance on firearms.

Let’s take this a step further. The Stewart-Greene conversation could kick off a series of televised encounters where prominent progressives and “regressives” explain their visions for America. For example, Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis — who seems to avoid the media and browbeats them when he can’t — could explain how Florida has become the “freest state in the nation” and a “citadel of freedom” (his words) under his increasingly totalitarian leadership.

These conservations would serve a much more serious purpose than political theater as the 2024 election season begins. They should involve announced and prospective national candidates, as well as other thought leaders on issues that cut to the marrow of who we want to be and what we stand for in America.

As President Biden warned before the 2022 mid-terms, “In our bones, we know democracy is at risk,” with radical divisions threatening the “very soul of this country.” The risk didn’t end when the red wave failed to materialize in midterm elections last year. Those who weaken or even threaten to dismantle our democracy are still in our midst — they did not slink away silent and defeated.

The threat to America’s soul is a tsunami — a succession of possible red waves — that will not lose energy and subside until the far right suffers repeated rebukes at the polls. It seems Trump was not discouraged by the 2022 midterm elections, while Greene has only benefited from the GOP’s slim majority in the House, which has allowed her to angle for increasingly more power and political spotlight.

Meanwhile, moderate Republicans would do themselves and the nation a favor by putting one or more centrist candidates in the running for the GOP’s presidential nomination. The Republican Party no longer behaves like a party. It’s looking more like a cult whose members dare not offend Trump or “the base.” As Stewart noted in his discussion with Dahm, the GOP’s “hypocrisy at its highest order” is becoming clearer.

After analyzing recent public opinion research, Philip Bump of the Washington Post concluded only one-tenth of Americans agree with positions associated with Trump and MAGA Republicans. Gallup’s polls indicate 28 percent of Americans identify as Republicans, and 41 percent consider themselves independents. They deserve a much broader choice of presidential nominees.

If we really want to make America better again, the 2024 Republican National Convention should be a funeral service for the Trump era and the MAGA mobs — along with the threat that democracy will give way to authoritarianism.

William S. Becker is co-editor and a contributor to “Democracy Unchained: How to Rebuild Government for the People,” a collection of more than 30 essays by American thought leaders. He also is a contributor to the upcoming book, “Democracy in a Hotter Time”. Becker is executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project, a nonpartisan initiative founded in 2007 that works with national thought leaders to develop recommendations for the White House as well as House and Senate committees on climate and energy policies. The project is not affiliated with the White House.

Tags 2020 election 2022 midterm elections Donald Trump Donald Trump Jon Stewart Jon Stewart Kevin McCarthy Marjorie Taylor Greene Marjorie Taylor Greene Politics Politics of the United States Ron DeSantis William S. Becker

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