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Why Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert are fighting

MAGA has different rewards and prices for different lawmakers.
Photo diptych: Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene
Reps. Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene are diverging in their ideological and strategic outlooks.MSNBC / Getty Images file

Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., used to be pals. They joined Congress together as representatives of the MAGA faction of the GOP in 2020, shared a passion for bigoted publicity stunts, and happily heckled Joe Biden together at the State of the Union. But their friendship appears to be crumbling.

Boebert took a surprising swipe at Greene during an interview on Monday when asked whether she would support House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s bid to become House speaker in the next Congress, as her longtime ally Greene does. Boebert balked at the question: “Well, you know, I’ve been aligned with Marjorie and accused of believing a lot of the things that she believes in. I don’t believe in this, just like I don’t believe in Russian space lasers, Jewish space lasers and all of this,” she said to laughter from her audience, before explaining the conditions on which she’d personally back McCarthy. 

Boebert and Greene are choosing different paths as they reckon with different costs and benefits of their diverging experiences with right-wing populism.

Boebert was not just mocking Greene’s antisemitic conspiracy theory posted in 2018 speculating that Rothschild-backed space lasers cause wildfires; she was signaling that she doesn’t want to be grouped together with Greene anymore. 

Greene was swift to strike back. On Twitter she scoffed at Boebert’s slim margin of victory in her re-election, and lamented that Boebert “childishly threw me under the bus for a cheap sound bite.” Greene also accused Boebert of turning her back on McCarthy, Trump and Greene herself, despite their support for her.

Greene slammed Boebert for engaging in “high school drama,” but in reality their row runs deeper than personal tension. The emerging fissures shed light on the dilemmas the MAGA right faces in this political moment. Boebert and Greene are choosing different paths as they reckon with different costs and benefits of their diverging experiences with right-wing populism.

Right now Greene is feeling good. She comfortably won re-election in her deep-red Georgia district, and paid no penalty for her affiliation with the QAnon conspiracy theory or white supremacist Nick Fuentes. She has little reason to consider her fringe views a political liability. 

Somewhat counterintuitively, Greene also has a stake in backing the status quo when it comes to supporting McCarthy as he goes up for a vote to become House speaker in January. Despite her bomb-throwing political extremism, Greene has developed a mutually beneficial relationship with McCarthy. McCarthy is a political opportunist who likely sees her status as a powerful fundraiser and a political celebrity who can get the base riled up as good for the party. 

And there are signs that Greene has extracted some promises from McCarthy as he scrambles to get the support he needs to become speaker — a vote during which he can afford no more than four defections from within his party. Shortly after Greene took office, Democrats stripped her of her committee assignments after reports emerged showing that she endorsed a call for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be killed. It appears that McCarthy not only plans on allowing her to rejoin committees, but on giving her important ones, and possibly one that will allow her to sit front and center in investigating the Biden administration.

By contrast, Boebert is … not feeling so good. As of last spring she already appeared to be objecting to some of Greene’s most extreme views; they reportedly looked as if they were about to come to literal blows during an argument after Greene had attended one of Fuentes’ events. And Boebert likely now views her affiliation with the most extreme elements of MAGA world as politically dangerous after nearly being ousted from office by a Democrat in her conservative Colorado district. She won reelection by a little over 500 votes.

MAGA ideology continues to live in Congress, but it's also growing more complicated.

Boebert has not expressed any kind of wholesale re-evaluation of MAGA ideology, but it’s clear she is picking her political battles more carefully and could be hesitant to lean into controversy the way Greene continues to relish. 

Boebert seems to be threading the needle with her current position on McCarthy. She’s said that she’ll back him for speaker if he revives a rule that would make it easier for lawmakers to oust a speaker from their position during their term. It’s a strategic posture because it allows her to stake out a rebellious position; gives her and her far-right colleagues more opportunities to kick McCarthy out of leadership if they feel moved to (assuming he agrees to the rule change); and it allows her to present herself as someone who is willing to compromise rather than take the hardline “no to McCarthy” position of a few of her MAGA colleagues.

Greene and Boebert might have more in common than not. But they’re learning different lessons from the past couple of years, and they have diverging interests going forward. MAGA ideology continues to live in Congress, but it's also growing more complicated.