March 1, 2021
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who better represents the distilled toxicity of the post-Trump Republican party than Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene: a committed conspiracy theorist, antisemite, and shameless seditionist whose rising popularity within the GOP is as predicated upon her refusal to back down from being completely outrageous as it is on any sort of coherent political platform.
With a decidedly inverse relationship between the wellbeing of the country (and, hell, the whole world) and Taylor Greene’s having any authority and influence in Washington, it’s understandable that Democrats would be eager to place the freshmen representative’s Georgia district at the top of their 2022 wishlist. But by all indications, the plan to topple Taylor Greene seems to be to mimic the GOP’s transparently jingoistic nonsense, while running the same play that’s lost them other high-profile races in the past.
Meet Marcus Flowers, Democratic candidate for Georgia’s 14th congressional district.
To be clear, replacing Taylor Greene with Flowers would be extremely good. I am all for it. His campaign website doesn’t offer much beyond a relatively inoffensive list of centrist buzzwords Flowers claims to care “deeply about” (“healthcare, the environment, equality, social justice, education reform, veterans’ issues, supporting our military, voting rights, and dozens of other issues on which Americans fundamentally agree”) — but at least he hasn’t called for executing his political rivals or suggested that Hillary Clinton skinned a child’s face and wore it as a mask (yes, the bar is actually that low). So, yeah, Flowers sounds like a perfectly decent, if vaguely generic, Democrat.
But, oh my GOD, I hate Flowers’ first campaign ad — everything about it, from its power chord butt-rock soundtrack to its stock footage of military planes, computers, and dudes holding big guns. If you told me that this was an ad for a centrist Republican running for office in Nevada, I would believe you without a second thought. This is the oh-so-gently Blue-tinged equivalent of those idiotic Dan Crenshaw ads in which he jumps out of an airplane to show he’s a tough guy. Like that “politics-as-action-movie” abomination, Flowers’ campaign introduction is less about demonstrating how he would improve the lives of people in Georgia’s 14th district if elected, and more about the sort of plasticine patriotic posturing that doesn’t offer specifics beyond a G.I. Joe understanding of the world.
This is frustrating enough in and of itself, but to make matters worse, there’s the fact that Democrats have already tried this move — only for it to fail spectacularly. Here’s former Democratic Congressional-and-then-Senate Candidate Amy McGrath, whose 2017 campaign ad hits many of the same beats as Flowers’.
She ended up losing that race. And then, when she ran against Mitch McConnell in 2020, she lost by 20 points, despite raising $90 million dollars to his $66 million.
Of course, McGrath and Flowers are two different candidates running in two different races in two very different states. But the campaign play — at least, as far as it’s been presented so far — seems frustratingly similar. Consider that Greene is only marginally less popular than McConnell, but with a smaller unfavorable rating, and that she won her congressional race with a dramatically larger margin than McConnell did that same year. Indeed, Taylor Greene’s 14th congressional district is one of the most solidly Republican areas in the entire country, and voters there elected her knowing full well her associations with QAnon.
So, you would think that if Democrats really wanted to put the 14th in play, they would try something new and different, rather than the same GOP lite framing that lost them what appeared — by many indications — to have been a much more winnable race, right? It’s hard to imagine what sort of voter is going to leap out of their seat and start knocking on doors for someone who brags about having been a mercenary for a decade. Sure, Flowers will probably end up raising a lot of money based solely on his being the guy who isn’t Marjorie Taylor Greene, but as we saw in Kentucky, that’s no guarantee for victory. Even worse, it could end up siphoning off funds that might be better spent on other, more winnable races.
Look, there’s still a long way to go before Taylor Greene and Flowers actually face off at the polls. A lot can still happen between now and then. But if first impressions really are the most important ones, I’m not particularly enthusiastic about what’s going to happen in 2022.