Marge Greene and Asylum for White Conservatives

As part of the GOP effort to distract from President Biden’s dramatic trip to Ukraine, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene rolled out a proposal for a “National Divorce.” Very interested in being Trump’s 2024 running mate, Greene is a combination of Republican mover and shaker, conservative provocateur, and fan-girl of the twice-impeached, disgraced, ex-president. If she wants Trump to nominate her, Greene needs to thread the thin needle of being provocative enough to remain popular with the right-wing base and important enough for Trump to see her as a positive for the ticket without being so important that Trump views her as a rival.

Given that Greene rolled out her “National Divorce” proposal at the same time Kevin McCarthy announced that he was giving Tucker Carlson access to the House tapes on Jan. 6, it’s obvious that Green was engaged in distraction from Biden. And it was successful. While the news cycle moved on from Biden’s trip to Ukraine, attention is still giving attention to Greene and “national divorce” two weeks later. Greene’s first tweet on the topic came on the morning Biden announced that he was in Kyiv, Ukraine and it was mostly about her disgust at having to live in a country where gay people have rights and are increasingly viewed more as normal Americans than homophobic MAGA’s like Greene herself.

In Greene’s idea, “red states,” and I assume she’s talking about Florida and Texas but also West Virginia and Arkansas, should divorce the blue states like California and New York because they’re so “disgusted” by “woke issues” like critical race theory, antisemitism, and trans rights that they are “done” with the United States in its current form. Greene is just as put off by “America Last” foreign policy by which she apparently means U.S. support for Ukraine against her much more favored country Russia. For many on the left (and probably the right), Green’s advocacy for “national divorce” sounds like a call to secession and civil war. After all, she was so disgusted with the United States that she wanted to disaffiliate.

It was also nonsense. The primary division in the U.S. is between urban and rural areas not red and blue states. The state with the most GOP votes in the 2020 election was California rather than Texas and Houston, Austin, Birmingham, New Orleans, Tampa, and Miami are all bright blue bastions within red Republican states. Mississippi is not only a red state but it’s the Mississippi-like parts of blue Democratic states that vote Republican.

But Marge Greene has never feared to traffic in nonsense and kept going with her provocations.

 well, okay, if Democrat voters choose to flee these blue states where they cannot tolerate the living conditions, they don’t want their children taught these horrible things, and they really change their mind on the types of policies that they support, well once they move to a red state, guess what, maybe you don’t get to vote for five years.

But this time, Greene was speaking more out of defensiveness than disgust. The original question from Charlie Kirk was about “how the GOP could stop liberals from “trying to invade our states or our counties.” Kirk’s idea was that the Republicans “own” red states like Florida and Idaho and red counties like Orange County in California and that “liberals” are threatening GOP/conservative property rights by moving into those places. Greene agrees that “defending” GOP dominance of red states is a priority and believes that Republicans need to act  Republican states to act “so that their red states don’t get changed. Which is what’s happening, unfortunately, when Democrat voters leave their Democrat states and they take their Democrat votes with them.” Given that Greene’s state of Georgia voted for Biden and elected two Democratic senators in 2020, Greene has grounds to worry about about continued Republican dominance in traditional GOP states and her provocations about preventing recent arrivals from voting represent her concern more than they involve an effort to enact more vote restrictions.

A similar defensiveness underlay Greene’s final provocation last week where she changed tack on her national divorce theme and re-formulated it in terms of safe spaces for MAGA.

Fox News

Greene speaks as a cultural and political loser who envisions red states as a space for white conservatives that is separate from the United States but still in American territory. Greene doesn’t want to live under Democratic policies but seems to worry that Democratic dominance of the federal government either is or could become permanent. She doesn’t want to be subject to “woke ideologies” on race, gender, sexual orientation, and sexual identity. Opposition to racism, the oppression of women, and bigotry toward the LGBT population and immigrants is at least the official ideology of American culture and Taylor wants to live in an American space where the traditional bigotries are safe from the moral pressure coming from minorities and their lib/left allies. Greene not only despairs of convincing Democrats of the virtues of MAGA conservativism, she also has severe doubts about the ability of conservatives to socialize their children into their values. When Greene says “we’re tired of our children being brainwashed into these same ideas,” she’s admitting that MAGA parents haven’t been nearly as convincing to their children as the internet, Disney movies, and the teachers and books they encounter in school. If red states don’t withdraw from American government and society and create an asylum of their own, Greene apparently believes that conservatism would continue to decline.

For Marjorie Taylor Greene, red state “safe spaces” are the only way to protect a MAGA/white conservative culture she perceives as under siege and failing. I imagine that what Greene has in mind is the fascist Florida being created by Ron DeSantis. But she can’t say that because Marge very much wants to be Trump’s VP running mate.

From Nov 2016: Mad at Trump Voters

One of the more interesting sub-plots emerging from last November’s election is whether white progressives are ever going to talk to their Trump-voting relatives again. I may exaggerate a little, but there are reports from all over the country of progressives unfriending Trump supporters on facebook, changing holiday travel plans to avoid conservative relatives, and otherwise cutting themselves off from camaraderie with people on the right. In fact, I’ve done all these things myself. I don’t have any close friends who would have voted for Trump but I’ve unfriended some facebook friends and taken a break from others. I’ll be traveling past several conservative siblings on the way to Florida on Saturday but they’ll be lucky to get cards let alone visits.

There’s been a fair amount of surprise over the intensity of the anger over Trump’s election among white people on the left. I’ve seen that surprise from arguments on facebook, conservative writers for the National Review, and even some black commentators. I’m not sure why though. Donald Trump is a sex predator, peeping tom, and con man. He’s not just a racist, but he’s been flamboyantly racist towards blacks, Hispanics, and Muslims while his campaign single-handedly brought anti-Semitic hatred of Jews back into the public sphere. Trump’s also the kind of buffoon who bragged about how he would have dated Ivanka if she hadn’t been his daughter. Voting for Trump wasn’t just “deplorable,” it was despicable and any moral person—not just white progressives– would be obligated to reconsider their connections with Trump supporters.

Of course, this didn’t just didn’t happen overnight. The white population in the United States has been dividing into mutually hostile progressive and conservative tribes since the 1990’s at least. Just before the 2008 election, former Herald-Leader reporter Bill Bishop wrote in The Big Sort that white progressives and conservatives were beginning to move away from each other geographically and concentrate in politically similar neighborhoods and regions. If anything, the Obama years have accelerated that trend as more white progressives move to multicultural urban areas while rural conservatives sink ever deeper into evangelical churches, gun stockpiles, and nostalgia for the manufacturing economy and white-dominated politics of the 50’s. Commentators bemoan the increasing geographical and cultural distance between white progressives and conservatives and African-American writers, in particular, urge white progressives to stay in touch with their conservative contacts in the hope that some form of mutual understanding will develop in the future.

But I don’t see that happening. If the 2016 election has shown anything, it’s the power of bigotry and the lack of moral principles among the 45-46% of voters who supported Trump. In my opinion, white progressives would be better off if they left conservatives behind and became better friends and allies with the African-Americans, Hispanics, immigrant populations, feminist, and gay rights activists who are going to be the prime targets of the Trump administration and its supporters. Becoming more closely tied to minority friends and allies involves a number of issues for progressives whose lives have been as shaped by white privilege as any other white people. Progressives would do well to expand their personal allegiances, shared culture, and political alliances with other groups in the America’s democratic multicultural coalition while continuing to loosen their bonds with the white conservative world. That way there’s a chance that we can emerge as a better country after the dark days of the Trump administration.

Is Trump in Control of His Own Domain?

The news on Saturday, Dec. 3 was that former president Trump called for “terminating” the Constitution and either re-installing him as President or holding a new election. It’s been known since before the Jan. 6 Insurrection that Trump was all for overturning the Constitution if that meant he could stay in office as President. Much of the outrage over Trump’s statement was a renewal of the outrage over Trump’s Jan. 6 coup attempt and the revelations in Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony that he wanted to join the assault on the Capitol. Trump’s statement also fed into the anxiety over the threats to American democracy posed by the GOP right wing and a determination to prevent new attempts to overthrow the constitutional system

Donald Trump, Truth Social

But I also believe Trump’s outrageousness was designed to shore up his suddenly vulnerable position on the political right and that the defensive dimension of Trump’s gesture also needs to be understood. The weakness of Donald Trump’s post-midterm election position has been widely discussed. While Trump’s only significant GOP rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, was winning re-election by almost 20 points, Trump recruits like Blake Masters (Arizona) and Mehmet Oz (Pennsylvania) were being defeated in races for the U.S. Senate while Herschel Walker faces a Tuesday runoff where his Democratic opponent Sen. Rafael Warnock is favored. Perhaps even worse, Trump-favored Ohio candidate J.D. Vance only won because Mitch McConnell injected tens of millions of dollars into his flagging campaign. After the mid-terms, the difficulty of Trump’s position was confirmed by polling showing DeSantis leading Trump for the first time among GOP primary voters.

But that wasn’t all.

Trump’s political vulnerability within the Republican Party was magnified by his pre-Thanksgiving lunch with anti-semitic rapper and 2024 presidential candidate Kanye West (who now goes by “Ye”) and podcasting America First fascist Nick Fuentes. According to veteran far right activist Milo Yiannopoulos, the inclusion of Fuentes in the lunch was designed to cause a scandal and thus make Trump miserable because of Trump’s disloyalty to far right fringe extremists in his political base.

And it worked.

Because of the slow Thanksgiving news weekend, Trump’s dinner with Ye and Fuentes was the main story in the news for seven or eight days afterwards and was only fully displaced by last Thursday’s appearance of Ye and Fuentes on the Infowars broadcast of extreme right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones (himself fresh off losing a $1B libel suit by Sandy Hook parents). Ye talked about how much he loves Nazis, how Nazis are cool, and continued his anti-semitic attacks while brandishing a net and a Yahoo to ridicule former and soon to be Prime Minister again Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. Ye was mainstreaming a form of Nazi propaganda which Jewish people in the United States saw as threatening even larger-scale domestic terrorism against them in the near future. Ye and Fuentes were posing a challenge to the Trump right as well. Part of what charmed white conservatives about Trump in 2015 and 2016 was Trump’s willingness to say and do anything, his giddy transgressions of longstanding norms, and eagerness to break taboos. But now it was Ye breaking the taboos against open anti-semitism, ridiculing Trump ally Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jewish name, and bragging that Yiannopoulos, Fuentes, and he had punked Trump about the Mar-a-Lago lunch. Days later, Fuentes launched an attack on Trump ally Marjorie Taylor Green for her adultery, (pending) divorce, and status as a “girl boss.” The lunch with Trump and the InfoWars incident had given Ye and Fuentes enough media status that they could attack Trump and conservative Trump supporters like Greene from a still further right position. Where Trump made portentous demeaning gestures about blacks, women, and immigrants, Fuentes made his commitment to male and white supremacy open and forthright.

What Trump sought by his Truth Social post about terminating the Constitution was to reassert his pre-eminence as the dominant figure on the American right. DeSantis might have success fighting “wokeness” in Florida but it was Trump who had the “guts” to “terminate” the Constitution. Nick Fuentes might have called for a “dictatorship” but Trump was the political heavyweight who could make that a real possibility. Trump occupies what anthropologist Victor Turner called a “liminal position” in the politics of the American right. During his first presidential campaign, Trump single-handedly defined a discourse around himself in terms of dominance, but the multicultural and liberal opposition grew stronger during his administration and Trump lost re-election despite the powers of incumbency. As a result, Trump’s current claims to dominance are so shadowed by failure that he’s now facing competing claims on the right and Trump announcing that the Constitution should be terminated should be seen as a re-assertion of his pre-eminence.

Locking in Big Changes: the 2022 American Mid-terms

John Stoehr of the Editorial Board believes that the Democrats will overthrow “the political order of the last 40 years” if they can hold the House of Representatives after all 2022 votes are counted. Of course, a big win for Biden and the Dems has been unfolding and the consequences of the Democrats expanding their Senate majority and possibly holding the House are significant. Because of the 2022 election, the U.S. will both be a more stable country and maintain its current global role as a stabilizing force in Western Europe, East Asia, and Ukraine. But the idea of “overthrowing the political order” implies consequences on a much larger scale than that, and needs to be thought through.

That’s partly because there are several ideas of “political order” that may be in play.

The main question is what would be the political order of the last 40 years that’s being overthrown. Forty years refers to the Reagan Revolution and the election of 1980 where Ronald Reagan’s victory triggered the assertion of white conservatives as the dominant force in American politics and society and inaugurated several rounds of tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation of business, decline of the labor movement, and growing income inequality between the rich and the middle class. During the Reagan years, white men were advantaged politically, culturally, and economically while the claims of racial minorities, sexual minorities, and women were met with increasing skepticism if not outright derision.

Call that the orthodox model of the “Reagan Political Order.”

*But there are other ways to look at the idea of political order. If I were a conservative Straussian, I might refer to the U.S. in terms of a “liberal political order” including the representative form of government established in the 1788 Constitution, universal ideas of freedom (“all men are created equal”), and both broad and expanding rights to vote, hold office, serve on juries, and own property. In relation to this idea of “liberal political order,” the Reagan Revolution and 2022 mid-terms would both be seen in terms of redistributions of power toward white conservatives and away from liberal/minority factions. However, nothing would be “overthrown” by the Democrats maintaining their slim institutional advantage of holding the presidency and the senate while Republicans dominate the Supreme Court and the House of Representatives. It would just be that the liberal/minority coalition holds some advantages within the “liberal political order” while white conservatives hold others.

It’s also possible to view the traditional American political order as a “white republic” or “white patriarchal republic” in which constitutional processes concern the distribution of office among factions of white men while white women, racial minorities, and sexual minorities were subject to exclusion, surveillance, and control. Thus, Reaganism can be seen as reasserting white and male dominance in the face of the Black civil rights movement, feminist advocacy against patriarchy, gay rights activism and the claims of immigrants and Native Americans. Far from overthrowing the white patriarchal republic, the Reagan Revolution is best seen as reinforcing white patriarchy as a long-standing socio-political order. But there was a big difference between Reaganism and the re-assertion of white patriarchal order after the end of Reconstruction in 1877. With the end of Reconstruction, the gains of reconstruction were much more thoroughly negated and black opponents of the white patriarchal republic were much more thoroughly marginalized than was the case with the Reagan Revolution. During the Reagan years, the opponents of white patriarchy were put on the defensive but civil rights activism, feminists, gay rights protests, and labor unions formed a more or less permanent internal opposition to dominant white conservatives. White patriarchy may have asserted its dominance, but opponents of white patriarchy were able both to preserve large parts of the gains made as a result of the Civil Rights Acts, Roe v Wade, and various Warren Court decisions and maintain effective defenses of that legacy. As a result, the Reagan political order was defined both by a reassertion of the white patriarchal order and opposition between ascendent white conservatives and their liberal, minority, and feminist opponents.

In other words, the liberal/minority coalition remained strong enough to be considered part of the main dynamic of the Reagan political order.

There’s another consideration for the Reagan order. The big question hanging over Reaganism was whether white conservatives could maintain dominance over their domestic opponents. That is because the stakes were bigger than the distribution of power between conservatives and their opponents. Ascendancy by the liberal/minority opposition would not just give “liberals” the upper hand, it would threaten the white patriarchal character of the American republic as it had been defined in the Revolutionary and Constitution. Hanging over the Reagan political order was the specter of the United States becoming a very different kind of country than it had been for the previous 200+ years, a country that did not revolve around white men.

To a certain extent, that’s what happened.

Because Barack Obama initially posed himself as both a GOP-friendly Democrat AND aggressive reformer, his election in 2008 did not initially represent a sea change in American politics and society. But Obama was the first black president, the symbol of America, the nation’s most prominent celebrity, and someone on the news everyday. After the civil rights movement, white conservative tolerance for black people was always tethered to blacks only having a token presence in areas outside sports and music. But with Obama and other prominent black people like Attorney General Eric Holder being so “present” in American life, the result was a racist backlash that could be seen as early as the 2008 general election campaign and gained steam throughout Obama’s first term as a result of the “birther movement,” conspiracy theories about Obama’s wife, the Henry Louis Gates incident, the murder of Trayvon Martin, and conservative stonewalling of Obama’s initiatives. The backlash ensured that 2012 would be a test of strength between a stronger liberal/minority coalition and white conservatives who wanted “their country back.” With Obama’s victory in 2012, much more favorable opinion on gay marriage, the Supreme Court decision overturning bans on gay marriage, and the Black Lives movement highlighting police violence against black men, it looked like American culture and politics was swinging to liberal/minority ascendancy over white conservatives and the threats that entailed to traditional white patriarchal order.

Of course, the 2016 election happened with the white conservative backlash gaining even more intensity under the MAGA label and Donald Trump winning election. The result was both a factional arms race and major cultural changes on both sides. Beginning with the gay marriage decision in 2015, the liberal/minority coalition continued to strengthen in response to Trump’s election and morphed into something more like a multicultural, socially liberal society. With the expanding presence of civil rights ideas, the adoption of diversity as corporate and popular culture ethics, and the normalizing of an LGBT, Hispanic, and Native presence, the lib/minority coalition became multicultural, socially liberal and predominate enough in politics, business, education, and government that the U.S. could be described as a multicultural, socially liberal “society.”

Simultaneously, white conservatives developed what’s best called a MAGA counter-culture revolving around Trump and involving an overlapping religious right, a quickly developing conspiracy world, and gun culture that superseded the business oriented, small government, and national defense conservatism of the Reagan era. Even with the acquiescence of traditional Republicans and the advantages of President Biden and other Democrats being off the campaign trail because of Covid, the multicultural, socially liberal constituencies were stronger than MAGA and Donald Trump lost his campaign for re-election in 2020. For white conservatives, the defeat of Donald Trump did not signify his or their weakness but served to further energize 2020 election conspiracy theories, rejection of Covid vaccines, another round of vote suppression legislation aimed at black voters, and a culture war aimed especially at trans people but also against other LGBT folks and their supporters in education, business, and government. In this way, MAGA morphed from a slogan for supporting Trump to support for the Jan. 6 insurrection, political violence to achieve their political goals, and non-stop culture war against multicultural constituencies connected with the Democrats.

In other words, MAGA became a cover term for a more generalized white conservative assault on American government and society that’s best seen as permanent insurrection. The Reagan Political Order has definitely overthrown but it was just as much overthrown by MAGA as it was by the morphing of the Reagan era liberal/minority coalition into a multicultural, socially liberal “society.” White conservatives are still a bulwark for the white patriarchal Republic of the past but their main orientation is toward culture war against the contemporary society rather than defense of “tradition.” Indeed, in contemporary culture and politics, “tradition” is being re-defined in civil rights, multicultural terms.

So what do Democratic gains in the 2022 elections mean? Well, current political order is one in which a multicultural, socially liberal society both remains ascendent and is continuing to weaken the reach and appeal of traditional white patriarchy in favor of values of civil rights values and orientations. But white conservatives still have formidable power bases in the Supreme Court, right-wing state governments, and MAGA popular culture and have more or less committed to overthrowing the American democratic system if they can’t win political power at the ballot box. The Reagan political order has been overturned but the dangers associated with white conservatism have increased dramatically as a result.

The Rogue Super Power

New York Times

While I was teaching Global Studies at Morehead State University in Kentucky, one of my arguments about Trump was that he wanted the United States both to shift its alliances toward authoritarian regimes and become a “rogue super power.”

And that’s largely what happened.

During the Trump years, the United States tilted away from the NATO democracies, Japan, and South Korea and towards Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Poland, Hungary, and North Korea.

Likewise, phone calls between General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Chinese generals demonstrate that the Chinese government viewed the U.S. as a rogue superpower threatening a nuclear attack on China.

In the days leading up to the 2020 election, the book reveals, American intelligence showed that the Chinese believed that Mr. Trump planned to launch a military strike to create an international crisis that he could claim to solve as a last-ditch effort to beat Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The Chinese also view the United States as particularly unstable

On the Jan. 8 call, General Li suggested that Chinese leaders feared that the United States government was unstable. He pressed General Milley over the course of an hour and a half about whether the military was going to take action.

Despite General Milley’s reassurances, he feared that Mr. Trump might be trying to find a moment that he could seize on to remain in power, similar to Hitler’s exploitation in 1933 of an arson fire at the German Reichstag to help institute emergency powers, the book said.

The Chinese idea was that Trump’s idiosyncrasies made the United States an unstable super power capable of going rogue and launching unprovoked nuclear attacks. But the likelihood is increasing that Trump’s idiosyncrasies have become the dominant view of the Republican Party and that the United States is now in a position of always being just one election away from being an imminent danger to the rest of the world.