ATLANTA – Stripped of her congressional committee assignments and causing heartburn for traditional conservatives ahead of next year's elections, Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene may actually emerge stronger back home in her deep-red northwest Georgia district.
Greene's long history of incendiary social media posts — expressing racist views, pushing absurd conspiracy theories and endorsing threats of violence against elected officials — caught up with her Thursday when Democrats, joined by 11 Republicans, removed her from two House committees.
Her rhetoric could make her a liability for the Republican ticket in future elections, in Georgia and beyond. GOP control has already been slipping in Georgia, where Democrats won this latest presidential contest for the first time since 1992 and followed with dual Senate victories in January runoffs, made possible in part by a sizable drop in voting in Greene's district after she pushed false claims about voter fraud.
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, for one, is likely to face a tough reelection battle in 2022, potentially facing Democrat Stacey Abrams, whose voter registration campaigns put the state in play.
GOP state Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, who shares some constituents with Greene, says she's repulsed some educated swing voters who would otherwise vote Republican.
“We need to be a party of ideas, not a party of slogans and sensationalism,” Hufstetler said. “The fringe people push people away and don’t help anybody out.”
Being punished by Democrats, however, is something even Greene's foes in the staunchly conservative district can't let go.
“The people here, the voters, voted for her to be there,” said Lydia Hallmark, a Republican activist in Paulding County. “And I will defend that all day long.”
Hallmark said she didn't support Greene before she won office by running unopposed in November, and won't defend what Greene said on social media. But she said Republicans who refused to vote for her before are rallying around her now after what they see as a power grab by congressional Democrats.
“All this is doing is consolidating her 14th District for her,” Hallmark said.
Whether this newfound support will endure through the 2022 elections depends on what Greene does next, Hallmark said. “I think the ball is in her court. It’s how she votes, how she speaks for us and how she conducts herself going forward.”
Atlanta tea party leader Debbie Dooley counts herself among the Georgia Republicans who cringed over Greene's success last year. She thinks the Democrats have only made Greene stronger.
“Hell, I am defending Greene and that is something I thought I would never do,” Dooley tweeted Thursday, accusing Democrats of creating a double standard by not penalizing some of their own members over controversial statements.
“The Trump grassroots, Republican grassroots in general are sick and tired of weak-kneed, spineless Republicans like Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan,” Dooley said. “They want someone who’s a fighter, someone like Donald Trump. And Marjorie Taylor Greene is a fighter.”
Greene herself seems to be embracing the spotlight. A day after distancing herself from some of the conspiracy theories she pushed in a House floor speech and insisting that any social media posts she made before taking office shouldn't be used against her, she launched fresh invectives against her colleagues.
“I woke up early this morning literally laughing thinking about what a bunch of morons the Democrats (+11) are for giving some one like me free time,” Greene tweeted Friday. She has also been fundraising heavily off the row.
Many top Republicans have either tacitly supported Greene or remained silent, fearing a backlash from the GOP base. Even so, some opposition to Greene lingers.
Neurosurgeon John Cowan, who lost to Greene in last August's Republican primary, told The Associated Press that he's mulling a rematch in 2022, though he hasn't made a final decision. He said Greene's supporters need to reexamine her statements in light of the deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol.
“We see where this type of disinformation has taken us,” Cowan said. “I think it's been a bit of a wakeup call.”
Hufstetler, meanwhile said Republicans must do more to clean their own house.
“This should have been taken care of by the Republican Party,” Hufstetler said. “When they let the other party do it, it shows that we’re not taking care of our responsibilities.”
Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia.