IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The Marjorie Taylor Greene VP rumors are a frog-in-boiling-water moment

The narrative surrounding Greene shows how the party has gone off the rails.
Image: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene at an America First Rally in Dalton, Georgia.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., speaks at an America First Rally in Dalton, Georgia, on May 27, 2021.Megan Varner / Getty Images file

MAGA firebrand and serial conspiracy theorist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., is rumored to be angling for the position of Donald Trump’s vice presidential pick in the 2024 election. Whether that’s remotely likely is hard to say at this point. But the fact that at least some figures on the right see it as plausible speaks to the catastrophic state of the GOP’s establishment politics today.

Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, who has hosted Greene on his show, says she “sees herself on the short list for Trump’s VP.” A source with ties to Trump and Greene told NBC News that her “whole vision is to be vice president” — and that he believes she would be on Trump’s VP short list. Greene apparently sees herself as a bridge between the Republican establishment and the party’s hardcore activist wing, sources told NBC.

What in the world is going on? Greene is a relative political neophyte, a bomb thrower, and the kind of MAGA diehard who comes across as more of a true believer than a grifter. (She was, after all, speculating that space lasers controlled by wealthy Jews caused wildfires before entering office.) How could she ever conclude that she could be seen as a candidate who could balance out Trump and appeal to more moderate Republicans?

But what matters more than whether Greene actually catches Trump’s eye is what this emerging narrative says about the GOP establishment.

Because the establishment right has opened the door for her. The main data point for the new narrative is Greene's relationship with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, with whom she’s become noticeably close over the past year. McCarthy reached out to Greene last year to try to bring her into the fold of mainstream GOP politics and, in exchange, Greene has become his staunch supporter. She broke with the House MAGA wing in her unwavering support for McCarthy as he desperately clawed his way to the speakership, and she championed his “commitment to America” policy framework before the midterm elections.

In the process, Greene earned a Washington Post headline describing her as having journeyed “from outside agitator to inside player.” Bannon has said Greene’s behavior shows she’s “strategic and disciplined.” Longtime Republican strategist Chip Lake told the Post that Greene is rebelling “more strategically” and deserves “credit” for reassessing her role in Congress. 

We don’t necessarily have to take the vice president narrative particularly seriously; it’s possible that some right-wing strategists are playing up the Greene narrative primarily because they favor the idea of Trump pandering to his most devoted supporters. Greene is essentially a human-sized MAGA hat, and perhaps some on the right, knowing that Trump will never “pivot to center,” prefer that he embrace total chaos and use his ticket for fan service.

But what matters more than whether Greene actually catches Trump’s eye is what this emerging narrative says about the GOP establishment. The fact that it's even becoming possible for tastemakers on the right to advance the argument that Greene could represent some kind of compromise figure is astonishing. While there's no reason to think Greene would be appealing to moderates in the general electorate, the reality is that she is becoming embedded in the party apparatus. This is a frog-in-boiling-water moment that must not be ignored. 

McCarthy knows that Greene has attended a white supremacist-organized conference, endorsed violence against her Democratic colleagues, compared Covid safety protocols to Nazi repression, and harassed her colleagues through vulgar publicity stunts. Yet, he’s worked with her closely. He’s given her influential committee assignments. He tried to get her banned Twitter account reinstated. And, a New York Times report suggests, she’s had influence on his policy positions on everything from vaccines to Jan. 6 to the war in Ukraine. A friend told the Times that McCarthy said, “I will never leave that woman. I will always take care of her.” 

In internal debates on the right, analysts and advocates can say Greene has demonstrated a kind of pragmatism in the past year. But what’s striking about it is that this pragmatism hasn’t involved becoming more ideologically moderate. Instead it has involved building relationships and inroads into institutions.

Over and over again, the GOP party establishment has shown that while it prefers more disciplined figures than Trump, it doesn't have a fundamental problem with his ideology. Greene's rising status in the party shows how frightening that reality is.