Back in 2019, before Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene was elected to the House of Representatives, a video was recorded showing her walking up to Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg and peppering him with questions.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has said he will speak to Greene, but most House Republicans have been quiet about it. Greene, a known QAnon supporter, is now on the House Committee on Education and Labor.
WABE reporter Lisa Hagen has been following Greene’s political rise. She describes the viral video of Greene harassing Hogg as her “breakthrough” moment, but the Southern Poverty Law Center has been watching Greene’s social media activity since 2017.
Back then, Greene was pushing a petition to impeach Pelosi and accused Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of marrying her brother so he could obtain U.S. citizenship, Hagen says. Then she started showing up at pro-Trump and other right-wing rallies.
Greene supports a range of wild conspiracy theories, including the idea that the deadly 2018 California fires were started by a Jewish laser beam from space, a false theory rooted in anti-Semitism. But when she started running for Congress, Greene toned down the conspiracy theory rhetoric, Hagen says.
“What she did run on quite a bit rather than, you know, those conspiracy theories, she was very anti-antifa,” she says. “And I would say that gun rights have been a really winning issue for her from the very beginning.”
Gun rights is a popular issue with her constituents in northwest Georgia, Hagen says. Greene also has such a strong online presence because she often shares ideas that support violence, which “is a common way that people in her circles speak about how to address political issues.”
“If you drive around there today, there’s still plenty of pro-Trump signs out. You can see the occasional Confederate flag,” she says. “It is a rural Georgia area with a lot of very conservative and far-right views.”
Greene was still elected to the House despite Georgia sending two Democrats to the Senate for the first time in two decades. Hagen says that’s due to her close ties to gun rights activists in the state.
“In those circles, you hear a constant drumbeat of Georgia is changing. They’re going to come for your guns soon enough. The state that you live in and grew up in and love … it’s going to be unrecognizable soon,” she says. “And I think someone like Marjorie Greene gaining popularity in a moment like this makes sense because this is the sort of inevitable backlash against the changes that we are seeing in the state politically.”
Greene’s rise is a sign of former President Trump’s hold on the Republican Party, but it is also representative of a new trend emerging — like the “Tea Party 2.0,” Hagen says.
“The difference with someone like Marjorie Greene and someone like Donald Trump is that Trump is sort of known for being more of a chaotic political figure,” she says. “Marjorie Greene, I think, for Democrats, probably represents a much more canny actor because she has very distinct views about what she wants and is very much a conservative, and I think is being advised by conservative actors who really have specific goals in mind.”
Greene is also very calculated about how she reaches those groups of conservatives, recently spending $200,000 advertising on Parler, the now-defunct social media site that was popular among far-right groups. She has also heavily advertised on Telegram and other alternative messaging sites, Hagen says.
“I think we’re going to see that Greene, like many of the gun rights activists that I’ve been studying in the state who she’s linked up with, are very, very good at raising money,” she says. “Where the money is coming from and where it’s going is going to be where I’m keeping an eye on in the future.”
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.