How the “QAnon Candidate” Marjorie Taylor Greene Reached the Doorstep of Congress

“There’s nothing she can do to lose my vote, unless she murdered a baby or something,” a local Republican official said. “Nothing.”
Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks into a microphone.
“She’s bat-shit crazy,” a conservative commentator said, of Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is running for a U.S. House seat in Georgia. “But she’s going to Congress.”Photograph by C.B. Schmelter / Chattanooga Times Free Press / AP

Georgia’s Fourteenth Congressional District was created by Republican legislators about a decade ago, after the 2010 census. It’s bordered by Tennessee to the north and Alabama to the west, with jagged lines in between—which reflect, in part, an effort to redraw the neighboring Ninth District around the home of a Republican congressman, Doug Collins. Except for Athens, where the University of Georgia is based, north Georgia is highly Republican, “largely because it has very few minorities, and if you don’t have minorities you have a Republican district there,” Charles Bullock III, a political-science professor at U.G.A., told me. “But the kinds of Republicans there may have changed.” The Fourteenth incorporates some of the old Seventh District, which, in the seventies and eighties, was represented, as Bullock put it, by a “paranoid urologist” named Larry McDonald. McDonald was a Democrat, but he was also one of the most conservative members of Congress and the second president of the John Birch Society, a group committed to the idea that the civil-rights movement was a Communist plot. In 1983, McDonald was on a Korean Airlines flight to Seoul that accidentally flew into Soviet airspace. “He was very much a Russian conspiracist,” Bullock said. “And, sure enough, the Russians shot down a plane he was on, and killed him.” An investigation concluded that the Soviets had most likely misidentified the aircraft as a U.S. spy plane.

Today, eighty-five per cent of the Fourteenth’s more than seven hundred thousand residents are white. Around fifteen per cent have graduated from college, and most earn well below the national median income. The vast majority adhere to some version of Protestant Christianity, including a few unorthodox variations—one local believer described the area to me as “a greenhouse for heretical religious beliefs.” Three-quarters of the district’s residents voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and more than six thousand recently signed a petition to save a local statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Many politically active citizens in the area identify as Tea Party Republicans. “It’s never been a quiescent district,” Neill Herring, a lobbyist who grew up in Dalton, the district’s second-largest city, told me, citing an attempt by one of its counties, in 1860, to secede not only from the Union but from Georgia, too. Dalton, population thirty-three thousand, calls itself “the Carpet Capital of the world”—it has more than a hundred and fifty carpet plants employing tens of thousands of people. Slightly larger is Rome, a city in the center of the district which features a statue of Romulus and Remus—a gift from Mussolini, per local legend—whose naked bodies are occasionally diapered, in a show of modesty.

The Democratic Party has fielded a candidate in only three of the five congressional races held in the Fourteenth since it was created. The winner in each of those races was Tom Graves, a Republican, who announced, in December, that he would not seek re?lection. Daniel Eason, a former Delta Air Lines employee who lives in Rome and serves as the vice-chairman of candidate recruitment and membership for the Floyd County Democrats, told me it had been hard to find someone willing to run against Graves. The Party ran a candidate in 2018, but Eason couldn’t immediately recall his name. It was Steven Lamar Foster, a former physician who had not been vetted by the Party. His medical license had been suspended, it turned out, and he had been investigated by the U.S. Army years before. “Something to do with federal boats that he confiscated, for runs down to Central America,” Eason said. (Foster, who couldn’t be reached for comment, was doing charitable work in Honduras at the time; he was not convicted.) Foster also ran a nudist camp. “And he had a D.U.I. during the campaign,” Eason noted. In a drunken tirade during his arrest, Foster said, “I hate this county. I prayed to God that he would curse it. And guess what? He did.” “A truly wild candidacy,” Eason said. “We wound up being embarrassed he was even in the race.” Foster lost to Graves by fifty-three points, on the day he was released from jail.

This year, Eason helped the Party find a candidate with a clean record: a local I.T. specialist named Kevin Van Ausdal. When I first spoke to Eason, in early September, Van Ausdal was set to square off against Marjorie Taylor Greene, an entrepreneur who moved to the district only recently and who has, in the past, expressed a belief in QAnon, a sprawling set of delusional notions centered on the idea that President Trump is leading a fight against a “deep state” engaged in child sex trafficking, cannibalism, and Satan worship. Greene, who campaigns with a sort of aggro cheerfulness, has linked Hillary Clinton to pedophilia and human sacrifice and suggested that Barack Obama plotted to kill a Democratic operative with the help of MS-13. She described the 2018 midterms, which featured the victorious candidacies of Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, as “an Islamic invasion of our government.” Greene has also said that Americans now have “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out.”

None of these comments, many of which came to light during the spring and summer, seemed to hurt Greene during the state’s Republican primary, in June, or in a two-candidate runoff that followed, in August. But the comments did garner national attention, and fired up district Democrats. “We felt a string of events could catapult Kevin towards victory,” Eason told me. “No incumbent. Then we have a coronavirus. And we have a President losing ground in Georgia.” He added, “And we have Marjorie Taylor Greene, the QAnon poster child. She’s a gift.”

Greene was an early adopter of QAnon, expressing her belief in the conspiracy in late 2017, just weeks after cryptic posts began appearing on the message board 4chan under the name Q Clearance Patriot. (“Q clearance” is the Department of Energy equivalent to top-secret clearance in the Department of Defense, and grants those who hold it access to restricted information.) She posted wide-eyed videos on Facebook describing Q as someone who “very much loves his country” and is “on the same page as us,” and she wrote pro-QAnon articles for a far-right Web outlet called American Truth Seekers. (She also made videos about more conventional issues; in one, she accosts the gun-control activist and Parkland survivor David Hogg, as he walks down a street in Washington, D.C.) In a recent survey, a third of self-identified Republicans said that they regarded QAnon as “mostly true,” but it’s hard to pinpoint support for its ideas precisely. The QAnon community has grown in part by attaching itself to real-world concerns—in Georgia, for instance, a two-week operation, in August, to recover missing children was recast, on social media, as the bust of a sex-trafficking ring supposedly ignored by the media. Greene tweeted a solidly reported account of the news and added “#SavetheChildren,” a hashtag that had already been hijacked by QAnon conspiracists.

Greene originally planned to run for Congress in the more competitive Sixth District, which is closer to Atlanta and where she lived until recently. Then Graves announced his retirement, and Greene moved to Rome. She has owned a CrossFit gym and co-owned a construction business started by her father, but she has never previously run for office. An entrepreneur might find an advantage in the Fourteenth by campaigning on business-friendly policies, but she has mostly emphasized the culture war. A few weeks ago, on Facebook, she posted a picture of herself holding a rifle next to images of Omar, Tlaib, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, below the words “We need strong conservative Christians to go on the offense against these socialists who want to rip our country apart.” The post was subsequently removed by Facebook for violating the platform’s policy against inciting violence.

“Poor white people in the countryside, who’ve been ignored by both parties for years—they expect nothing from the federal government,” a local Republican named Jan Pourquoi, who works in the carpet industry, told me. “They feel that not only have they been ignored but their culture is under assault.” Greene, he continued, “taps into that the same way Trump does”—although Greene, he said, is “more aggressive” about it. Pourquoi, who grew up in Belgium, told me that he will likely vote for Trump, as he did in 2016, because he trusts him more than the Democrats on the economy and on America’s relationship with China. But he won’t vote for Greene, who, he said, “is sending out racist signals.”

“The Rambo-esque handling of guns—there is no need for that,” Pourquoi said, calling Greene “a dangerous demagogue.” Still, he added, “she cannot lose. You can be Mickey Mouse, you can be Marjorie Greene, you can be anything—if you have an ‘R’ behind your name in this district, you can win.”

The conservative commentator Erick Erickson, who lives in central Georgia but ran a campaign in the state’s northwest in the early two-thousands—and who is known for making his own inflammatory remarks—told me the same thing. “She’s bat-shit crazy,” he said, referring to Greene. “But she’s going to Congress.”

Erickson long ago soured on Graves, who had cultivated Tea Party support early in his career but appeared to soften over time. “He didn’t join the Freedom Caucus,” Erickson pointed out. “And he walked away from a lot of his Club for Growth positions.” Still, Graves was well liked in the district and probably would have been re?lected had he run again. After he announced his plan to retire, nine Republicans joined the race. John Cowan, a neurosurgeon from Rome, got the support of many local officials. His campaign chair was Andy Garner, a lawyer in Rome and the chairman of the Floyd County Republican Party, who told me that Cowan and Graves had a lot in common—though Cowan had the additional appeal of being a former college football player and a reserve deputy sheriff.

Greene, on the other hand, had money. Her father, Robert Taylor, is the founder of Taylor Commercial, a successful construction company, which he sold to his daughter and her husband in 2002. Since then, according to Greene, the company has “managed a quarter of a billion dollars in construction projects.” (Greene held several leadership roles at the company; she was listed as its C.F.O. from 2007 until 2011, when company filings cease to show her as an officer.) Greene gave roughly a million dollars to her campaign—and also got crucial support from the House Freedom Fund, which has ties to Jim Jordan, one of Trump’s most prominent allies in Congress, and to Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff. Cowan felt that “the Freedom Caucus had made their pick without getting to know me,” he said. Cowan told me he tried to get Trump’s endorsement. “Ben Carson taught me in medical school, and we called him asking to get in front of the President,” he said. “But it didn’t happen.”

The Fourteenth, Erickson told me, has a fondness for “the diehard Christian conservatives, as opposed to people with establishmentarian ties.” And Greene’s penchant for controversy prompted a lot of free media coverage to go along with all the Facebook ads she was buying. Erickson believes that few voters in the Fourteenth are familiar with QAnon, and that, even if they are, it didn’t matter. “They don’t care about QAnon,” he said. “It’s ‘Who’s the Trumpiest? Who sounds like the President?’?” He added, “When you look at John Cowan or Kevin Cooke”—another of the Republican candidates—“there was a perception that they weren’t really with the President. They were just saying it, while Greene meant it.”

Greene won the primary with more than forty per cent of the vote; Cowan finished a distant second, but nearly every elected official in the district endorsed him in the runoff. Greene sought Erickson’s support, but he found her entreaties “annoying,” he said. “She got my cell-phone number and would text constantly, trying to get my endorsement.” In one text, she boasted about how many mail-in votes she’d received—despite her public comments asserting, falsely, that mail-in voting brings with it a high risk of fraud. “I just never bothered to text back,” Erickson said.

Cowan and Greene were not far apart when it came to major policy positions—and, when it became clear that she was getting traction with her Trump-like approach, Cowan appeared to adopt her style, or some version of it. “He wanted to try to beat her at her own game,” Eason told me. “So he shot a watermelon with an AR-15.” Cowan told me that the exploding-watermelon ad was meant to signal his commitment to gun rights, and to push back against ads that tied him to Chris Christie, who, in 1993, expressed support for an assault-weapons ban. (Cowan donated to Christie’s Presidential campaign five years ago. The watermelon was decorated to look like the coronavirus, because the ad was also meant to show Cowan’s seriousness about the pandemic.) The Fourteenth, Cowan told me, needs a representative who “can actually sit in a room and have an intelligent conversation with somebody, and not be outrageous or say something that’s gonna make national news in a bad way.” He ended speeches by describing himself as “All the conservative, none of the embarrassment.”

Cowan didn’t run ads targeting Greene’s QAnon comments, though he told me that if he’d had “unlimited funds” he might have. Garner thought those comments were getting enough attention elsewhere. Garner told me that he’d never heard of QAnon prior to Greene’s campaign. “But, you know, I read National Review,” he added. “Maybe I’m not seeing the right stuff online.”

One of the people who encouraged Cowan to run was Ansley Saville, a retired public-relations professional who has long been active in local politics. After the primary results had set up a showdown between Cowan and Greene, a friend of Saville’s sent her screenshots of social-media posts written by the former owner of a CrossFit gym where, in 2012, Greene had begun to work, part time, as a coach. CrossFit is a fitness regimen famous for inspiring intense devotion; when the former gym owner, Jim Chambers, first met Greene, he got the sense that it “had kind of taken her life over,” he told me. “She had a lot of time and a lot of money,” he said, and also a vague ambition, as he saw it, “to run a gym.” When, eight years later, it looked like she might be headed to Congress, Chambers got on social media and told the world that, back when he knew Greene, she was having “multiple, blatant extramarital affairs in front of all of us.” He added, “I don’t even judge that, until you say the kind of shit she does and claim the Jesus about it.” (Greene, who was baptized at an evangelical church in a suburb just north of Atlanta, in 2011, and speaks frequently about being Christian, has said that she wants to bring “my faith and my family values to Washington.”)

I spoke to one of the men with whom Greene allegedly had an affair. He asked not to be named and told me that he, too, was bothered by Greene’s hypocrisy. He provided me with a screenshot of a text exchange in which Greene acknowledged sleeping with him. “She never talked about politics,” he said. He told me he later learned that she was also sleeping with another man who was not her husband, “while the whole time being ‘super Christian.’?” He added, “She’s not the pro-family, pro-Christian, strong-business woman she touts herself to be.”

Chambers has described himself, politically, as “somewhere between an eco-anarchist and a Marxist-Leninist”; in a Facebook post about Greene’s alleged affairs, he noted that he did not support “her republican primary opponent, any democrat, or anyone in the bourgeois electoral trap.” (His grandmother Anne Cox Chambers was a billionaire and a major donor to the Democratic Party.) Chambers told me that his politics didn’t seem to bother Greene when he knew her. Ansley Saville told me that, after she forwarded Chambers’s posts to friends, “it got back to Mrs. Greene,” who then, she said, left her a voice mail to the effect of “If I were you, I wouldn’t want my community to know that I had anything to do with Antifa”—an apparent reference to Chambers, who earned some local notoriety a few years ago after posting a sign on his gym saying that cops and active military were not welcome as members. Saville said that she also received direct messages from Justin Kelley, a Greene staffer who often attends campaign events with a firearm tucked beneath his belt, and who, last year, completed felony probation for stealing thousands of hydrocodone tablets from a pharmacy where he worked, in 2013.

When I asked Greene about the alleged affair, she replied by texting me a series of screenshots from Chambers’s social-media accounts, including a photo of the sign he put up on his gym. “Let me be clear with you,” Greene texted. “Writing defamatory articles about me is a very bad choice. Be very wise in who your ‘sources’ are.” She also directed me to her attorney, L. Lin Wood, who has lately been suggesting, on Twitter, that Trump’s political opponents deliberately infected the President with the novel coronavirus. When sent a series of claims and allegations about Greene that are addressed in this piece, Wood responded by insisting that the piece was “intended to smear her with false accusations, half-truths, misrepresentations, out-of-context statements, and agenda driven lies”—but, like Greene, he did not specifically refute or deny any of the particular allegations or claims presented to him.

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“I think the people you surround yourself with are usually a lot like yourself,” Garner told me, referring to Greene. “And I think she surrounded herself with some questionable folks.” He declined to say whom he had in mind. Chambers’s allegations did not appear in the press during the runoff; Greene won by double digits, and called Nancy Pelosi “that bitch” in her victory speech. A spate of articles in the national media followed, all of them highlighting that a QAnon supporter was likely headed to Congress, at which point Greene made a few efforts to shed the conspiracist label. On Twitter, she explained that she no longer believed that the damage inflicted on the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001, was done by a missile rather than a hijacked plane. She added a caveat: “The problem is our government lies to us so much to protect the Deep State, it’s hard sometimes to know what is real and what is not.” The next day, on Fox News, she offered a broad but vague disavowal of QAnon, saying that she had decided to “choose another path.” (A spokesman for Greene declined to answer more specific questions about her current beliefs. This week, Facebook announced plans to remove all groups and pages devoted to supporting QAnon. NBC News has reported that some “high-profile QAnon influencers” have stopped using “Q” to refer to the conspiracy, to avoid social-media bans.)

After Greene’s primary win, President Trump congratulated her on Twitter, calling her a “future Republican Star.” Garner told me that Greene’s supporters on the executive board of the Floyd County Republican Party “basically issued an ultimatum on social media that, if you can’t come out and publicly endorse her, you don’t need to be involved in the Republican Party in Rome.” Garner resigned from his leadership post in September. “I just said, ‘Look, I’ve had fun for the last ten years, but it’s not worth it anymore.’?” He will probably write in a name in November, he told me; he will not vote for a Democrat. “We could have sent a neurosurgeon to D.C.,” he said.

Garner told me he prefers to view Greene as “an anomaly and an outlier,” but, when pressed, acknowledged that this wasn’t the whole story. “There’s been a populist uprising and a realignment,” he said. Greene “has learned a lot from Trump about her approach to campaigning and politics,” he added. A volunteer with the Cowan campaign, who has lived in the district for decades and described herself as a “Never Greener,” told me, “I honestly think that, because of the way Trump has behaved, he’s created the Marjorie Greenes, and I think there are gonna be a whole lot more that come along.”

I suggested to Garner that one might go further, drawing a line backward from Trump to the Tea Party, and from the Tea Party back to an earlier Georgia representative, Newt Gingrich, and the right-wing uprising that he led in the mid-nineties. One might keep going, I said, to Ronald Reagan, who, in the aftermath of Barry Goldwater’s unsuccessful bid for the Presidency, helped to make anti-government conservatism the essential ideology of the Republican Party—or to Richard Nixon, who helped steer Republicans toward the Southern Strategy. Garner said he doesn’t see it this way. Goldwater, notably, was supported by members of the John Birch Society, and there are those who think that his unwillingness to disavow that support contributed to his undoing—and that Nixon and Reagan succeeded, in part, by distancing themselves from that particular fringe. Trump was asked about QAnon in August, and responded by praising those who believe its outlandish claims.

Cowan noted that Greene has been called “a Donald Trump in heels.” I asked him to explain why he supports Trump, given how opposed he is to Greene. “There are similarities between them,” he admitted. “But I think it’s very different, being a chief executive versus being one of four hundred and thirty-five members of Congress, who actually form a coequal branch of government.” He added, “Trump is also a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. He’s not someone that people outside the executive role should try to emulate. I don’t think having a Congress full of people with Trump’s demeanor and decorum would be very productive.”

Would Cowan vote for Greene? “That’s just a decision between me and the Lord,” he said, and laughed.

Saville, who said she felt intimidated by the messages she received from Greene and Justin Kelley, told me that she was going to vote for Greene anyway. “I certainly don’t want to give any more seats to Nancy Pelosi,” she said. “I remain a Republican.” A local Party official, who asked to remain anonymous—and who assured me that he does not believe in QAnon, and that “ninety per cent of the people in that district don’t know who Q is”—said, of Greene, “There’s nothing she can do to lose my vote, unless she murdered a baby or something. Nothing.”

On September 8th, I drove to a north-Georgia strip mall where, in a hot, windowless room beside the Dalton Serenity Club, the Whitfield County Republicans were holding their monthly meeting. Greene was the main draw. Around seventy people—generally elderly, largely unmasked, almost universally white—congregated under fluorescent lights. By the entrance was a table holding items for sale, including a Trump doll (made in China) and a few copies of the book “Triggered,” by Donald Trump, Jr. A retired landscaper named John Agnew, wearing cowboy boots and sitting in the back, waited for Greene to speak. “I’ve seen so many Republicans get in Washington and, as soon as they get up there, they fall in with the crowd and they won’t stand on what they said,” he told me. Greene was different, he believed. Agnew said he wasn’t familiar with QAnon. I asked about his decision not to wear a mask. “Wear them if you want to,” he said, shrugging. “Some meetings I’ll wear them, some I won’t. If I get it, I get it. I don’t want somebody else telling me what to do.” Next to him was a carpet-industry retiree named Bill, who hadn’t heard of QAnon, either. He liked Greene’s “stances on abortion and guns, and her commercials going against the A.O.C. group—whatever you want to call it. A woman needs to be up there to counteract some of the women that are there already.” He added, “I trust her. I just feel it.” He said that he’d prayed with Greene months earlier, holding hands, “and I just felt God was telling me, ‘Pray for her.’?”

Greene walked to the lectern in jeans and a short-sleeved shirt that showed off her biceps. She turned to a cutout of Trump propped up on her right. “I just love this guy so much,” she said, stroking the cardboard. In the next few minutes, she mentioned socialism five times. “The Democrat Party is no longer an American party,” she said. She decried the Green New Deal and the Paris climate accord. She talked about “good guys with guns at schools” and “abortion mills, like Planned Parenthood,” drawing responses of “Amen!” and “That’s right!” She mentioned “communists, Antifa, Marxist Black Lives Matters,” and said that “the silent majority has had enough.” Trump, she said, turning to the cutout again, “works for us for free. He’s fantastic. This guy right here is great!” Earlier that day, she had tweeted that children should not wear masks, which resulted in a brief suspension from Twitter. “How do we have porn on Twitter, but conservatives can’t speak their freedom of speech?” she asked, at the mall.

At one point, she called attention to a man in the room. “My friend Matt over here, from the New York Times, who—I really want to be friends with him,” she said. “You know, it’s really sad, though. Americans don’t trust the media anymore.” The next day, Greene tweeted a photo of the reporter, Matthew Rosenberg, and noted that he had not been wearing a mask at the event. “UNMASK the CCP-controlled @nytimes!” she wrote, suggesting that the Times answers to the Chinese Communist Party.

After the event, four middle-aged women stood outside the mall, in the darkening parking lot. They introduced themselves as Lisa, Candice, Tammy, and Kristy.

“Margie,” one said, referring to Greene, “is like the female version of Trump to me. Everything that she believes in goes along the same line as what I believe in.”

“What we were raised on,” another said.

“What grabbed my attention towards Marjorie is the fact she was out with the people that she was going to represent.”

“Every time you’d turn, there was Marjorie.” Greene had come to an event in downtown Dalton in support of a Confederate statue. She’d shown up at the Biscuit Box, where she’d campaigned from a drive-through window. “She’s everywhere.”

“Matter of fact,” another said, “there she is now.”

The group called over to Greene, who was walking to her car with Kelley. “Bye, Marjorie! We love you!” Greene shouted back, “I love you, too!”

“It don’t matter if you’re the janitor or the President,” one said as Greene drove off.

“She is pro-God, she’s pro-life, she’s pro-guns,” another said. “And we’re hunters, and we’re all about the Second Amendment. When she started talking that, she sold me quickly. She just got me on board quick.”

I asked them about QAnon and Greene’s relationship to it. They were mostly well versed on the subject.

“Some people say it’s conspiracies. Some people say it’s facts,” one said. “If you see any of it, read any of it—they always give you names. You’re welcome to search it for yourself. Because the information is there.”

“When I get home, I’m gonna do some Googling,” one said.

“It’s really starting to surface more with people. I’m wanting to learn more and more.”

A fifth woman walked up. “She’s a ball of energy!” she said, of Greene. The fifth woman joined the conversation about QAnon. “Before Trump was elected, you heard nothing,” she said. “You believed the media.” She went on, “Then he gets elected and starts putting these little tidbits out here. And you’re thinking. And then you start seeing it for yourself. You see where the media has lied. Then it’s gonna put suspicion up here”—she tapped her head—“so when that stuff does come out people are gonna start thinking, Well, it could be true, you don’t ever know.”

Someone mentioned Jeffrey Epstein, and someone else mentioned a three-hour documentary that claims to expose an “evil masterplan to completely dominate the world” by a liberal “illuminati” engaged in pedophilia, Satanism, central banking, and more, all explained by “the enigma of Q.” One of the women called it “very worth listening to.” (Having since watched it myself, I would politely disagree.) “It is gonna tell you things that is going to blow your mind about all these powerful people out there,” she said. She told the group she’d text them a link later.

“Why do you think the Democrats are so hate, hate, hate right now?” one asked.

“Because they’re controlled by Satan.” Nodding.

“That’s right. They want to control everybody else. They want to control people with fear. O.K.? They’re wanting to control people by their pocketbook.”

There was talk of Pizzagate and the mainstream media. Polls saying that Joe Biden was leading Donald Trump were a lie, they agreed.

“If you want to know the truth, research,” one said.

“That’s what QAnon is about,” another said, before heading off into the night with her Marjorie Taylor Greene button. “Checking facts.”

Three days later, on a warm Friday afternoon, Rome was bustling. Restaurant patios on Broad Street were packed. At two of them, diners were flanked by Trump signs, which someone had placed in seats. But the reopening of the local Republican Party headquarters, inside a brick building plastered with more Trump signs, was not well attended. Greene was the event’s headliner, but she was running late, apparently because she’d taken a call from Debbie Meadows, the wife of Trump’s chief of staff. As we waited, I spoke to Nancy Burton, a retired schoolteacher, who told me that Trump “hung the moon and some of the stars.” She added, “I don’t want to be a socialist. I don’t want to be a Marxist. I don’t want to be anything. I want to be American and I want to be Christian, if I choose to. And I choose Christianity.”

Justin Kelley, who is large and bearded, led Greene to the front of the small crowd. She wore wedges and jeans and a sleeveless black blouse. Like most attendees, many of whom appeared to be in their sixties and seventies, she did not wear a mask for the indoor event. After some boilerplate thank-yous and conciliatory remarks directed at sour Cowan supporters, she brought up her Democratic opponent.

“We got some interesting news today,” she said. “I’m still trying to process it.” Kevin Van Ausdal—who, two days earlier, had touted an internal poll showing him with forty per cent support—had dropped out, citing “family and personal reasons.” Two Democratic officials told me they were completely blindsided. The next day, it was reported that Van Ausdal’s wife had served him divorce papers, and that he had to vacate their home, in Rossville. He had decided to move back in with his parents, in Indiana. Shortly afterward, the deputy secretary of state, Jordan Fuchs, announced that this constituted withdrawal from the race, and that the Democrats would not be allowed to replace him on the ballot. “A lot of people in the district offered to let me stay with them, but that created problems in terms of in-kind contributions,” Van Ausdal told me. He has since taken legal possession of the Rossville house, and moved back in, but his primary residence is now in Indiana. He said that Greene’s divisiveness had given him “a real shot,” and it “hurt my heart a little bit” not to stay in the race. Eason, the vice-chairman of candidate recruitment and membership for the Floyd County Democrats, was crestfallen. “Another mess,” he told me.

“I am very, very happy that now I’m unopposed,” Greene said, at the event in Rome. “And it allows me to take more time to get to know everyone here.” She said that Tom Graves had been advising her, and had been “a great help.” Graves had just announced that he was leaving his post early, in October, saying that his “work will be done” and that it “doesn’t seem right to kill time on the taxpayer dime.” Greene said, “Nothing is changing. Everything is still in place.”

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“Could you be appointed by the governor now?” a woman standing close to her asked.

“That would be lovely,” Greene replied. “Why don’t we try to ask Governor Kemp if he can just make that happen?” There was laughter. (Brian Kemp received Graves’s official resignation on October 2nd. As for what he will do now, a spokesperson for Kemp said, “When we have an announcement there, we will let everyone know!” A spokesperson for Graves did not respond to requests for comment.)

Greene closed her remarks by drawing attention to the date: September 11th. “We all know that America changed,” she said, adding, “Our country is so divided, and we shouldn’t be.” The crowd, which was all white save for one young Black man in a MAGA hat, applauded. “And hopefully soon, probably November 4th—hopefully then we can start healing and coming together,” she said. “Then the coronavirus will magically disappear. And all kinds of things. Sunshine and rainbows. That’s what we’ll look for.”

A local Party official named Randy Smith took the stage next. “Folks, for years we have told the minority citizens surrounding us—African-Americans and Mexicans, particularly—we’ve told them that we want them to vote Republican,” he said. “Well, we can’t just tell them. We’ve got to be their friends. They’re citizens, just like you and me.”

I stepped outside, to get some air. A few Greene supporters stood near a Humvee, featured in Greene’s campaign ads, that was furnished with a large American flag and a sign that read “Save America, Stop Socialism!”

“I’ve seen what happens in other countries,” Bill McNaney, a retiree in a Trump hat and MAGA mask, told me. “They absolutely hate the fact that they have to live in that country, but they don’t have much choice.” He mentioned a family he knew who’d come to America from Nicaragua. I asked him about Greene. “Well, she’s a fresh face,” he said. “And she seems to be sincere about what she thinks about the way our country’s gonna go.” He mentioned “this rioting stuff,” saying, of the protesters, “they’re criminals, as far as I’m concerned.” I asked if he thought Greene could do something about riots that were happening outside Georgia. “I hope so,” he said. “If we can get all Republicans in Congress, we’ve got a better chance of making that kind of behavior stop.” He added, “I don’t consider that free speech.”

Sandra Lindsey, a former banker, had been excitedly posting about the event on Facebook while Greene was speaking. She told me that she learned of Greene from a flyer in the mail, and later went to a Second Amendment rally, at the fairgrounds, to hear her speak. “Of course, she’s pro-Trump. I guess that would have to be No. 1,” Lindsay said, explaining her support. “She’s pro-Second Amendment. She’s pro-life. Most of all, she’s a fighter. She’s a bulldog.” After Lindsay left, a woman named Maggie gave a briefer endorsement. “Gun rights, the border, abortion. That’s Marjorie.”

A young woman passed by, walking her dog. She had a sleeve tattoo of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and Hancock. “I used to be really into politics,” she said. “But it got to be too much.” I told her about Greene, and mentioned the candidate’s ties to QAnon. “That’s interesting,” she said. “I’d like to know more about her.”

Not all who came were comfortable with what they heard. A Republican state senator named Chuck Hufstetler, whose district lies within the Fourteenth, watched part of the proceedings from the sidewalk, peering awkwardly through a window. “I couldn’t stay there, because of the lack of following rules,” he told me later, by phone. Hufstetler, an anesthetist, has represented his district since 2013. “I work in a hospital,” he said. “For my family, my colleagues, and my patients—I can’t put them at risk.” He noted that the event was in a “tough, not very ventilated environment,” and said that he saw “elected officials and others who weren’t wearing masks. It was disappointing.”

I asked Hufstetler about Greene. “I believe in good conservative government and spending money wisely,” he said. “But it’s turned into the QAnon and the conspiracy theories of 9/11 that have been totally debunked. And there’s been racist remarks.” He said that some of Greene’s surrogates had reached out to him, in a hope that he’d endorse her. “I can’t support her campaign in any way,” he told me. He felt that her popularity stemmed from a decreasing trust in governmental institutions. “There’s a lot of distrust of government—and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I think it goes into really a lot of anger that I don’t think is healthy,” he said. “Her campaign is more about attacking people.” Hufstetler believes that blame for the partisan divide belongs to both parties. “Trump certainly has had a role in it,” he said. But he still plans to vote for Trump, he said, calling him “the best of the options.” As for the Fourteenth, he’d either write in a candidate or “leave it blank,” he told me, before adding, “Not that it will likely matter.”


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