SOMEWHERE BETWEEN ROME AND TRION, GEORGIA
“Well, first of all, it wasn’t my idea,” Marjorie Taylor Greene says brightly to the group of reporters. The polarizing Georgia congresswoman is perched on a seat near the front of a 15-seat minibus packed with the hated mainstream media, and we’re all trying to figure out why. Despite having invited us here, Greene herself doesn’t seem to know.
It’s unclear to us—a dozen journalists for local Georgia media, a right-wing streaming service, and TIME—what Greene stands to gain from this unprecedented encounter. It’s not to increase her visibility: after just a year and a half in Congress, her name ID eclipses that of politicians who’ve been in Washington for decades. Nor does she need a boost in the polls: a few weeks hence, she’ll win her primary by more than 50 points. Normally, Greene only talks to Fox News and its even-further-right counterparts—friendly interviews in which her outrageous statements are unlikely to be challenged. Last year, a local reporter who tried to question Greene at a town hall was kicked out and threatened with arrest.
But on this warm May day, she’s made an exception, dragging a troop of us out on the campaign trail for a 14-hour tour with eight stops across her rural Northwest Georgia district. Meeting the press, Greene tells us, was the brainchild of her communications director, Nick Dyer. “He brought the idea to me, and I thought about it, and I said, ‘I’d like to give the press an opportunity to see what we do each day,’” she says. “To talk to people and hear about what they think about me, compared to the things that are said about me.”
Many things are said about Greene in D.C. People call her hateful, crazy, toxic, a clown. Nancy Mace, a Republican congresswoman from South Carolina, once tweeted a description of Greene consisting of a bat emoji followed by a poop emoji. Before Greene was even elected, other Republicans were denouncing her long history of stoking racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, conspiracy theories and political violence. On her first day in Congress, she wore a mask reading TRUMP WON. On President Biden’s second day in office, she introduced articles of impeachment. She’s been kicked off Twitter for spreading misinformation, banned from congressional committees and fined tens of thousands of dollars for refusing to wear a mask on the House floor. Greene believes COVID-19 was a Chinese bioweapon, the 2020 election was stolen and the detained Jan. 6 rioters are political prisoners. She recently hired the notorious alt-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos as an intern in her congressional office. Just in the last few weeks, she has claimed that the government wants to surveil and punish people for eating cheeseburgers, that straight people will go extinct in the next several decades, and that the shooter who killed 19 children in Uvalde, Texas, was a cross-dresser, a baseless conspiracy theory from the Internet fever swamps. “There’s always people on the fringe, but she seems mean and crazy in a whole different way,” a GOP source who has worked in Congress told me.
But here on the bus, Greene wants us to see that all that stuff has been blown out of proportion, and has little to do with her work representing her constituents. She welcomes our questions.
A reporter for an Atlanta-based TV station tries to get Greene to reflect on her reputation for divisiveness. “You’ve had fights on the Capitol steps, you’ve had fights in front of members’ offices,” the reporter says, before asking whether Greene thinks she has contributed to the poisonous atmosphere in Washington.
Greene smiles an indulgent, bless-your-heart smile. She can see why people might think that, “because I don’t back down and I stand my ground.” But in fact, she says, she didn’t start any of those fights.
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For example, there was the time she got in a screaming match with Representative Cori Bush, a liberal Democrat from Missouri, who subsequently moved to a different congressional office to get away from her. The way Greene tells it, she was innocently walking in a tunnel under the Capitol, talking to her phone on Facebook Live, when Bush, whom she’d never met, yelled at her to put a mask on—which Greene immediately did. “She was the one that started screaming at me,” Greene says. “But then she got her office moved, because she claimed that I was a threat to her.”
Then there was the time another Democrat, Marie Newman of Illinois, said Greene attacked her transgender daughter. But it was Newman who instigated the conflict, Greene insists, by putting up a transgender pride flag across the hall from Greene’s office in the Longworth building so that Greene would have to, in Newman’s words, “look at it every time she opens her door.” Greene merely responded in kind, she says, posting a sign outside her office reading, “There are TWO genders: MALE & FEMALE.”
So many of the things that have been said and written and believed about Greene are “flat-out lies,” she complains. She hopes seeing her in action will give the media a different, less biased perspective. “Maybe it’s helpful for you all to be here, to understand the issues people care about,” she tells us.
We’re here to be educated, in other words. We’re not here for Greene’s benefit at all. We’re here, as she sees it, for ours.
We will all learn a lot—about each other, about ourselves, about Marjorie Taylor Greene, about Georgia’s 14th District, about America and the human condition—before the day is out.
But let’s start at the beginning.
ROCKMART, GEORGIA, 7:05 a.m.
The morning fog rises from the red clay of Northwest Georgia, and the rolling green landscape is saturated with Greene’s large white vinyl campaign signs. FLOOD THE POLLS! they say on top, in red, and SAVE AMERICA, STOP COMMUNISM! on the bottom. When she first ran for Congress two years ago, Greene will later explain, the signs said STOP SOCIALISM instead. That was before she got to Washington, met the Democrats, and decided that what she was up against was far worse than she had even imagined.
There’s a HELP WANTED sign on the front door of Linda’s Place, a metal-roofed one-story building on the side of Highway 278 that’s packed full for breakfast as the sun begins to rise. A whiteboard advertises a fish-and-cheese sandwich and homemade peach cobbler. Greene steps out of a black GMC SUV in a red sleeveless dress that shows off her CrossFit-toned biceps.
The interior of the diner is a single giant room lined with blue leatherette booths. As Greene goes from table to table, a man with long gray hair holds up one of her bumper stickers. “IMPEACH BIDEN – MTG4America.com,” it says.
Greene gives him a thumbs-up. “Yes sir, I’m tryin’!” she says. “We’ve got to get the rest of the Republicans on board with me. They don’t want to rock the boat.”
Edwin Bramlett, a 63-year-old retired metal fabricator, asks Greene what’s wrong with the liberals in Washington.
“They do not respect our faith in God,” Greene says. “They do not respect traditional values. They do not respect freedom. And they look down on all of us. They think they’re smarter than we are.” Liberals, Greene says, think anyone who doesn’t agree with them on climate change and socialized medicine must just not be educated enough. “If you don’t like migrants coming across the border, you’re a bad person—that’s how they treat us.”
“And they’re taking everyone’s rights away with the Second Amendment, or trying to,” Bramlett says.
“Oh, yeah, well, shame on you for supporting gun rights—you’re a white supremacist,” Greene responds as she moves to the next booth. Table after table, the diners praise her and thank her and encourage her to keep up the fight.
Greene goes to the front of the room and stands on a small platform in front of a massive TV screen and an American flag. “Every time I speak with people here back at home,” she says, “it tells me I’m doing the right thing, because you’re telling me back the things that I’m saying in Washington.”
Greene has just returned from South Texas, where she claims Border Patrol agents are “suicidal” because the Biden Administration has “tied their hands,” and where “children have been attacked, even sodomized by people coming across,” according to the ranchers she says she spoke with at the border.
“Everyone’s had enough with it, but it seems to be falling on deaf ears in Washington,” she says. “They do not care one single bit. Do you know where Nancy Pelosi has been this week? Ukraine!”
The crowd rumbles. What’s happening in Ukraine, Greene says, is heartbreaking, and no one wants the Ukrainian people to suffer. But Americans are suffering, too.
“You all see how I’m attacked,” Greene says. “The whole reason they attack me constantly is because I go there and I boldly stand up for the things that we believe in, the things that we talk about here at home, the things that we know are the right things for America.” For now, with Democrats in charge, there’s not much that can be done. But when Republicans take back the House, she says, they’ll do what’s needed for the country: investigate Hunter Biden and fire Anthony Fauci.
“I have a lot of hope,” she says. “Because I believe in solving problems.”
DALLAS, GEORGIA, 8:19 a.m.
The bus lets us out in what seems like the middle of nowhere, where a dozen people in red shirts stand on a grassy median waving signs for Greene. She holds one that’s been modified with red tape to say “HONK 4 GREENE.” Many passing motorists comply.
A large man in a red polo shirt, bespectacled with a full head of white hair, gets off the press bus and attaches his phone to a tripod. “Folks, we have our mic on our camera, we don’t know how well it’s picking up,” he says into the screen. “Voice of Rural America, BKP here, with Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene’s campaign.”
Brian K. Pritchard is the political opinion director for this obscure live-streaming service. It’s part of a growing ecosystem of niche broadcasters that make Newsmax look mainstream by comparison, feeding the seemingly bottomless public appetite for hyperlocal right-wing political chatter. Voice of Rural America, which covers parts of Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee, is a regular stop for local Republican officeholders and recently hosted a debate between the primary candidates for secretary of state. They broadcast political events, chew over the news, dissect every development. Pritchard spends several minutes discussing Greene’s recent dust-up with CNN’s Jim Acosta, who tried to ask her a question in the Capitol.
Shouting to be heard over the roar of passing semis, Pritchard delivers a diatribe about the incumbent governor, Brian Kemp, who made Donald Trump’s enemies list for refusing to overturn his defeat in the state. Kemp has been telling voters that he, too, wished the 2020 election had gone a different way, but he was unable to change the result. “He was frustrated by the election?” Pritchard says. “He is the one that could actually do something about it!” Pritchard then interviews some of the sign-wavers about whether they, too, are angry at Kemp. They are.
A truck roars by. “You can hear the horns honking in the background because they’re honking for Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene,” Pritchard says. “We’ll be right back.”
ROME, GEORGIA, 9:58 a.m.
As the bus trundles northward to Greene’s hometown of Rome, one of her campaign ads plays on the radio. Greene recently had to spend a day testifying before a local administrative judge about whether she should be deemed an insurrectionist and thrown off the ballot under a Reconstruction-era law. The challenge, brought by liberal activists, will fail, but Greene suggests a conspiracy is afoot. “A Soros-style dark money group is politicizing our courts and trying to rip my name off the ballot and steal your opportunity to vote for me, but I’ll never let them win,” she says in the ad, her voice eerily filling the bus she’s not currently riding in. “The left hates me because I’m not like other Republicans. Their personal attacks, frivolous lawsuits and pathetic name-calling doesn’t intimidate me or scare me. Every day in Congress, I fight to protect our faith and freedoms. That’s why they fear me and hate me. But it’s really because they fear you and hate you.”
We pull up to Evans Construction in Rome, where Kevin Evans, a clean-shaven man wearing khakis and a blue button-up shirt, sits behind a large wooden desk in an air-conditioned trailer. Evans previously supported Greene’s predecessor, Tom Graves, a conventional conservative who represented the district for a decade. When Graves retired in 2020, Evans took stock of the nine Republican candidates vying to replace him. They all seemed to be “selling the same thing,” he says, but Greene was the only woman, and he wants to see more women in politics. This is the day’s first surprising invocation of feminism, but it will not be the last.
The TV cameras cluster around Evans to get a local business leader’s view of the congresswoman. “How does it make you feel when you see her portrayed in the media, the butt of jokes on late-night television?” an Atlanta-based reporter asks. Greene recently claimed to have filed a police report against Jimmy Kimmel after he suggested she could use a good slapping, to hearty laughter from the studio audience.
“I think it’s just part of politics,” Evans says. “I mean, Democrats have people that are sort of the face of their party, and I think Marjorie’s sort of the face of this party. It’s just sort of the red versus blue thing.” Evans says he considers himself an independent, and wishes there were less partisanship in Washington.
“So would you like to see the congresswoman reach across the aisle and sponsor a piece of legislation with a Democrat?” the reporter asks.
“Certainly,” Evans says.
Greene leans over and stage-whispers in his ear, “Which one?” and he chuckles. Bipartisanship sounds nice in theory, but “Democrats are crossing certain lines that I don’t think we can work with, unfortunately,” she explains.
Evans doesn’t see Greene, or himself, as particularly extreme: “I’m not far right, I’ll tell you that,” he says. The reporter asks him what he would consider to be far right, and he is momentarily stumped.
After a minute’s thought, he says that while he supports the Second Amendment, he’s not so extreme as to think people should have fully automatic weapons or not be subject to background checks. “That kind of stuff would be far right to me,” he says.
ROME, GEORGIA, 11:02 a.m.
Rome is a city of about 35,000 located an hour’s drive from Atlanta, in the northwest corner of the state near the Alabama and Tennessee borders. It got its name from the fact that, like its namesake in Italy, it rests on seven hills with a river flowing through them.
Before she was a congresswoman, Greene lived in the Atlanta exurb of Milton, where she raised three children, helped her husband run the vinyl-siding company her father founded, and worked at a CrossFit gym where, her onetime boss and other witnesses have publicly claimed, she had extramarital affairs with two fellow staffers. (She denies it.) Greene subsequently opened her own CrossFit gym and has participated in fitness competitions. She once posted a meme of herself flexing, holding a rifle painted with the stars and stripes, overlaid with the words, CAN’T BAN THESE GUNS. In 2020, when she ran for office, the Greenes pulled up stakes and moved to Rome in order to live in the 14th District. (Greene insisting on Biblical gender roles while simultaneously being jacked, allegedly sleeping around and making her husband move for her job doesn’t quite count as an interesting invocation of feminism, in my book, but it’s close.)
Today is the first day of early voting, and we’re accompanying Greene as she goes to cast her primary ballot. She emerges from the John Horace Anthony Recreation Center with a sticker on her dress that says “I’m a Georgia Voter” over a picture of a ripe peach.
A knot of supporters with signs and flags are gathered out front in the shade under a tree. One woman has a poster board decorated with hearts containing the letters “MTG.” Another is wearing a flag hat and a green T-shirt that says, “Well behaved women rarely make history.” (This is definitely interesting invocation of feminism No. 2.) “Marjorie! Marjorie!” they chant as she approaches.
Greene takes her place in front of them, using them as props for an impromptu press conference. The cameras make a line in front of her.
I ask Greene which candidate got her vote for governor. Kemp faces a Trump-backed challenger, former Senator David Perdue, but Perdue has failed to gain much traction, meaning Greene must take sides between her voters and her President. Despite her reputation for always speaking her mind, she declines to answer: “I’m going to be keeping how I voted private,” she says primly.
It only takes a few more questions for what started as a normal press conference to descend into chaos—a perfect tableau of Our Polarized Media, and a bravura demonstration of Greene’s talent for confrontation.
After Greene has fielded a few softballs, Rick Folbaum, an anchor for Atlanta’s CBS affiliate, decides to ask her about her controversial record. A curly-haired white man in his 50s, Folbaum was once a Fox News anchor and Roger Ailes protege, but he left the cable network and moved to Atlanta a few years ago. Folbaum wants to know if, as a onetime dabbler in the crazypants QAnon conspiracy theory, Greene feels any responsibility for rising anti-Semitism. Before she ran for office, Greene expressed concern about a “global cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles,” the theory’s linchpin, but she has since more or less disavowed it.
As Folbaum cites a a poll suggesting a majority of Republicans now believe high-ranking Democrats are involved in child sex trafficking, Greene cuts him off. “Hold on, hold on,” she says, turning to the group behind her. “Have any of you heard me ever talk about QAnon?”
“No!” the people behind her chorus.
Greene turns back to Folbaum with a smile. “Okay, we’re moving on now, that’s ridiculous.”
“You called Q a patriot,” he says. “I’ve seen the video.”
“Really, have you seen me in Congress doing that? Have you seen me on the campaign trail? We covered this a long time ago.”
“Do you still denounce QAnon?” he says.
“I’m waiting for you to ask me a real question,” she says in her best disappointed-mom voice. “Are you guys wanting him to ask a real question?”
“Yes!” the crowd choruses.
Then Folbaum brings up the Jewish space laser.
In 2018, Greene authored a Facebook post speculating that the Rothschild banking family’s involvement with a solar power company with ties to Democrats might have had something to do with that year’s deadly California wildfires. “Too many coincidences to ignore,” she wrote, linking to a now-defunct fringe news site. (The fires were determined to have originated with power lines, not the company’s space-based solar array, which it says does not have any sort of laser capable of reaching Earth.)
Greene says her post couldn’t have been anti-Semitic, because she didn’t even know the Rothschilds were Jewish.
Folbaum keeps pressing, and Greene decides she’s had enough. “You’re lying right now. You’re lying,” she says, talking over him. “Nope, nope. You’re lying. Stop right now.”
The crowd behind her starts to heckle Folbaum.
“You’re lying about me right now. You don’t even know what my real words are,” Greene says. “You’re going off of some fake news article.”
Folbaum tries a different tack. Given the ugly threats that Greene has received, doesn’t she think it’s time for both sides to tone down the rhetoric?
Greene gives him a look. “Let’s be real honest,” she says. “You just brought up lies about me, conspiracy theories about me. You’re the one that broadcasts all those crazy things to all kinds of people. And it’s when people that don’t know me as a person, they read the stuff that you say about me, that causes death threats and all kinds of possible violence against me. So why don’t you help in that process and not spread lies about me?”
“Yeah!” rumbles the crowd behind Greene, which has taken on a slightly menacing cast as it cheers her in-person attack on the media.
“I mean, you clearly have your own conspiracy theories,” Greene says. “You’re using your job to push your political views and push lies about me to the public. And you know what, the problem we have in America is when Democrat activists use their job, their media platform, to push lies about people like me.”
Greene turns to the crowd behind her. “What do you guys think? Isn’t this ridiculous?”
They jeer at Folbaum. “People don’t care,” one shouts.
Standing next to Folbaum in the row of cameras facing Greene, Brian K. Pritchard of Voice of Rural America steps in to calm the situation.
“Congresswoman,” he says, “how troubling is it that we’re talking about QAnon and 2018 while Americans are struggling with inflation?” Greene’s supporters murmur approvingly.
Greene smiles. “Well, I say it over and over, Brian, freedom of press is such a wonderful blessing and I always want to protect it, but freedom of press is not the freedom to lie about people,” she says. “But here’s what’s really sad, Brian: they discredit themselves, and it causes regular people to say, ‘I don’t trust the news anymore.’ People aren’t stupid. They are able to see the truth and look past the lies in the headlines and figure out things for themselves.”
The press conference is over, but the crowd isn’t done with Folbaum. A Greene supporter follows him all the way to the bus, urging him to put aside “private statements this lady made before she became a public figure” and investigate the stolen election instead.
TRION, GEORGIA, 2:55 p.m.
After a stop for lunch at a cafe in Rome’s cute, vibrant downtown, Greene boards the bus, where she greets Folbaum warmly and takes reporters’ questions en route to the Mount Vernon Mills denim factory in Trion—the last factory in America that still makes blue jeans.
We walk around the plant, where machine looms spin at preposterous speeds and clumps of cotton fluff drift across the floor. A sign on the wall, in both English and Spanish, says, “Asking me to overlook a simple safety violation would be like asking me to compromise my entire attitude towards the value of your life.”
Ron Beegle, the company’s corporate director of environmental affairs, tells us, “NAFTA was passed in ’94, and by the end of that decade we were feeling it.” The textile jobs went to Mexico first, then China. “We need to be America first,” says Beegle, who wears a Rush Limbaugh polo shirt. “You’re talking to one of the last survivors.”
When the tour is over and Greene goes to leave, a small Hispanic man in jeans and work boots approaches and gestures over the sound of the machines. The factory has its own dedicated fire station, and he’s one of the firefighters. Would Greene come over and sign some autographs for the men? And consider coming to an event they’re hosting in a few weeks’ time? These are her people, and they’re so happy to see her.
TRION, GEORGIA, 4:11 p.m.
It’s my turn to interview Greene. I get in the SUV and sit in the second row alongside her. She’s drinking a 16-oz. can of Bang Energy drink, which she recommends because it doesn’t make you fat.
“The fact that I’m in politics, you can ask my mother, she would tell you she’s still shocked,” Greene declares, pulling out a compact to freshen her makeup. “I mean, I never had any political ambition. I was never one to join a club in school. I played sports, but I’m not going to join a club. I never ran for, like, class president or anything like that. I didn’t join a sorority in college.”
For most of Greene’s childhood, her father’s company, Taylor Construction, was little more than a truck and ladder, she says. The family moved around Georgia, living in apartments and trailers, as he struggled to get work by knocking on doors, asking for small jobs. In the late ‘80s, he hurt his back and started managing crews instead. The company ultimately grew into a dominant player in the local vinyl-siding business, and the family became comfortable. Greene and her husband, Perry Greene, now own and operate Taylor Construction, which is worth between $5 million and $25 million, according to Greene’s congressional disclosures. Although Greene, the company’s onetime CFO, has portrayed herself as a job creator, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found little evidence she had an active role in the business.
Marjorie and Perry have three children, aged 24, 22 and 19. Greene goes out of her way to explain that she never would have run for office when they were younger, because being a mom was her priority. The empty nest, the move, the new career, the sudden fame: it strikes me that Greene, now 48, is going through a lot of big life changes at once. In addition, her father died of cancer last year, and her mother is about to sell her last childhood home.
When Greene got to Washington, it felt to her like another world. (At one point, I hear her tell a constituent that D.C. “doesn’t feel like America to me.”) Unlike Georgia, which Kemp kept open through most of the pandemic, D.C. was still in shutdown mode in early 2021, with shuttered restaurants and vacant office buildings. On the day Greene was sworn in, the Democratic majority voted to “honor all gender identities by changing pronouns and familial relationships in the House rules to be gender neutral.”
Greene couldn’t believe it. “It was like a slap in the face,” she says. “I’m sitting there going, ‘It says on the wall right there In God We Trust, and we can’t even talk about the gift of being a mother? Or having a daughter or a son, or my brother, or my mom, or my dad?’ It was overwhelming.”
Then Jan. 6 happened, which sparked Trump’s second impeachment. Unlike many Republicans, Greene never wavered, defending Trump at every turn. She says she still talks to the former President regularly. Sometimes, he calls out of the blue. Just the other day, she says, he called her to commiserate about the administrative hearing. Obviously, he was very supportive.
Even as Greene assures her constituents she’s the same person they sent to Washington, she’s trying, she says, to become more of a normal member of Congress. She wants to tone it down and be more of a team player, she tells me, not putting her GOP colleagues and congressional leadership on blast quite so often. Greene considers herself a people person. She seems to find it perplexing that she’s always portrayed as some sort of disagreeable outlier.
“I’m relational,” Greene says. “I really, genuinely like people.” Now that she’s getting to know more people on Capitol Hill, she hopes to be able to communicate with them better. “I’ve always worked with people, in every area of my life,” she says. “So I think it’s coming along pretty good. But I will say I’ve learned a lot.”
LAFAYETTE, GEORGIA, 4:42 p.m.
We’ve pulled up to another early voting location, a squat brick county building in LaFayette, which is closer to Chattanooga than Atlanta and pronounced “luh-FAY-it” by the locals. Another bunch of sign-waving supporters awaits Greene, and she beams and poses for pictures once again. Then a man in glasses and a blue T-shirt approaches.
Alex Boyle, 58, a Navy veteran who lives in nearby Chickamauga, he has a different view. “I’m frustrated by many of your comments,” he begins, before launching into a complaint about Greene saying on Fox News in April that joining the military these days is “like throwing your life away.” The claim figures prominently in Greene’s chief primary opponent’s ads.
Greene cuts him off. “No, sir, those have been twisted, that is not what I meant—“
“It is not twisted, ma’am.”
“No, your service, I am thankful, we’re all thankful. They twisted my intent. So sir, I’m sorry, I never said that.”
“You said intent. So what was your intent, please, for me to understand?”
Greene mentions the deaths of soldiers in Afghanistan and the “woke training” now mandated in the military. Her comment, she says, was about Biden’s disastrous policies, not Boyle’s service or anyone else’s.
“I heard what you said,” he says, as she continues to shake her head. “You’ve cast disparaging things against the Jewish community. You suggested a space laser. You are disrespecting the United States Congress, and you’re a shame.”
From behind Greene, one of the sign-wavers yells, “You’ve been watching the fake news!”
“I’m really horribly saddened that the 14th District has gone to such craziness,” Boyle says.
“We’re not!” a sign-waver chirps.
“I just did my primary vote,” Boyle says. “I look forward to, maybe, one of your challengers seeing you in a runoff.”
“Good luck to them,” Greene says evenly. “Thanks for coming by.”
Boyle, who’s retired from nonprofit work, tells me he’s lived here all his life. He’s known the representatives for this area going back to Larry McDonald, who was killed when his plane was shot down by the Soviets in 1983. “Our Congressman was killed by the Russians—the same people that she has spoken favorably about,” he says. (In addition to praising Russian President Vladimir Putin, Greene has called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “corrupt.”) “Ronald Reagan is spinning in his grave to know that there’s people that claim to be Republican sympathizing with Vladimir Putin. It is despicable on every level.”
Read More: Inside Zelensky’s World.
Boyle says he’s a former Young Republican and GOP precinct captain, but he voted Democratic for the first time today because of Greene and her ilk. “She’s detached from reality, and I seriously question her mental stability,” he says.
Then again, Boyle recalls, McDonald was a crank too. A conservative Democrat, he was a virulent racist who opposed school integration, supported Joseph McCarthy and joined the John Birch Society. “Our region,” he muses, “still has a knack for picking out some interesting people.”
Greene is about 10 yards away, talking with several uniformed members of the Walker County Sheriff’s Department. An assistant chief is telling her they see fentanyl overdoses on a daily basis as a result of drugs coming across the border, and they wish they could arrest the drug dealers for murder. The country is in dire shape: “We’re soft on crime, soft on the border, the military is soft,” he says.
This is where Greene gets her information—right from the source. “We’re weak!” she says. “Weak!”
RINGGOLD, GEORGIA, 6:03 p.m.
As we approach the Parkway RV Family Outdoor Center in Ringgold, we see the flags first, flapping in the wind. There are half a dozen of them flying on poles by the highway, plus one that hangs by the door. They’re all the same: IMPEACH BIDEN HARRIS.
On the bus, Rick Folbaum from CBS and Brian Pritchard from Voice of Rural America have gotten into an argument. It started when Folbaum asked, “Why do so many Republicans insist on saying the election was stolen when there’s no evidence?” Pritchard, it turns out, is one of those Republicans. He’s not just putting on an act for his viewers. He has a lot of concerns about a lot of things, none of which you are qualified to debate him about unless you’ve seen every piece of purported proof that he has.
Folbaum, incredulous, is sure he can persuade Pritchard, an obviously intelligent man. What about all the court verdicts, some from judges Trump himself appointed? They spill out of the minibus, still arguing as they tote their gear across the parking lot.
“You have a determination, and I have a determination, and when two people have a determination…” Pritchard says, trailing off with a shrug. Two irreconcilable understandings of the world, one of them (Folbaum’s) actually rooted in reality, the other insane but bolstered by a belief so strong and impervious to evidence as to be essentially theological in nature. Between them, who’s to say?
Inside the RV dealership, there’s a bumper sticker on one computer that says, “God Bless Our Troops. Especially Our Snipers.” There’s a man in a black Trump shirt with the words, “2024: I’ll be BACK.” At the front desk, Greene compliments a young salesman named Shane Hiett on the InfoWars stickers that decorate his monitor.
Hiett, who has a bushy beard and earlobes stretched by large plugs, stands up and unbuttons his dress shirt to reveal a T-shirt that says DEFEND FREEDOM – INFOWARS.COM. Beaming, Greene poses for a photo. “You’re, like, my hero,” he gushes.
“Aw, I feel the same way,” she says.
Anita Merciers, a 55-year-old blonde woman in jeggings and flip-flops, is waiting out front. She’s come to see her idol. “I love you for standing up for what you believe in and not letting them scare you,” she tells Greene. Merciers runs a “Christian-based” Amazon resale business on Facebook Live.
Brian K. Pritchard spies a kindred spirit. “Let me ask you something,” Pritchard says. “Do you think Joe Biden won the election?”
Easy question. Merciers doesn’t miss a beat. “Absolutely not!” she says.
RINGGOLD, GEORGIA, 6:41 p.m.
It’s still light out as we pull up to our final stop of the day: a venue called Patriot Hall. A sign on the stage reads, “Catoosa County Republican Party – America First.” Soon after we walk in, Cooper Jacks, a lanky 15-year-old with a mop of dark-blond hair, takes the stage.
“President Trump won Georgia, right?” he says by way of greeting, to a round of cheers.
Jacks wears khakis and a red polo. He has the look of a golf-team captain and the delivery of a country preacher. He’s here to make the case for his preferred gubernatorial candidate: not Kemp or Perdue but Kandiss Taylor, who’s running to the right of both of them. Her slogan, which several audience members are wearing on their shirts, is “Jesus. Guns. Babies.”
“2020 was a wake up call for us all,” he says. “We thought we could trust anyone with an R next to their name.” But Kemp, he says, betrayed them. And while Trump was “a great President, the best one I have ever seen,” he made a mistake when he endorsed another RINO, Perdue.
When it’s Greene’s turn, she bounds onto the small stage, looking nearly as fresh as she did 12 hours prior. The entire crowd of about 100 people rise to their feet. One woman has a button with Greene’s face superimposed on Rosie the Riveter—interesting invocation of feminism No. 3. They chant her name as two syllables: “Marj-ree! Marj-ree!”
Greene gives them what they came for. She calls Biden “President Butterbeans,” laments that he seems to care more about Ukraine than the border, and advocates impeachment. “We all know Putin would not have invaded Ukraine if Joe Biden had not failed on the world stage and made America look weak like he did in Afghanistan,” she says. She tells the group that the government is trying to force them to drive electric cars, calls COVID-19 a “bioweapon” and talks about Hunter Biden and his laptop. But compared to the other speakers on the program, Greene’s routine almost seems sane and responsible.
“I’m frustrated every single day in Washington, D.C.,” she says. “They’re ruining a perfectly good country.” But, she says, “In America, we have freedom of speech, whether they like it or not.”
When she leaves the stage, Greene is mobbed by fans.
ROME, GEORGIA, 8:56 p.m.
Greene hops on the press bus to bid us a friendly farewell before it takes us back to Rome. A colleague and I are looking at the menu of a swanky restaurant overlooking the river when Greene enters and sees us.
There’s an odd look on her face, and when she approaches, we can see that her eyes are filled with tears. They’re tears of joy. Politico has just published the leaked draft of the Supreme Court opinion potentially overturning Roe v. Wade, and Greene is ecstatic. She’s prayed so long for this moment. “I can’t believe it,” she says, over and over.
In the days to come, many Republicans will try to avoid talking about abortion, a subject that puts them in a difficult place politically. Many will try to refocus attention on the dastardly leak, or insist that Democrats are politicizing the issue. But in that moment, Marjorie Taylor Greene’s reaction was totally pure. She received it like a gift from God.
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