On February 20, 2023, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) took to Twitter on President’s Day with a rather unpresidential notion: the United States needs a “national divorce.”
She went on to say that this would entail separation between the red and blue states. In a February 21, 2023 tweet, she further claimed that the left and the right have reached “irreconcilable differences.” She should consider a “legal agreement to separate our ideological and political disagreements by states while maintaining our legal union.”
While, at first glance, these statements may seem inflammatory to viewers on both sides of the political spectrum, the idea of separating the nation this way is not entirely new. In an interview with the Atlantic, Richard Kreitner, author of the book Break It Up, discusses the United States' history of division. Kreitner, a journalist and historian, attacked the myth that the American colonies melded into one unified nation after the Revolutionary War.
In response to Greene’s February tweets, Kreitner stated that Greene is “just arguing that the states should have more powers over things than the federal government.” In other words, Greene is arguing for federalism, the definition of which has been debated all throughout the nation’s history. The early debate was between Alexander Hamilton, a strong advocate of federalism, and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, anti-federalists. Hamilton advocated for a strong federal government and executive bank, while Jefferson and Madison argued for the state’s rights over national power; both men were concerned about the economic power and control that would be granted to the federal government via a national bank.
Not only did the debate over federal power date back to arguments between American Revolutionary leaders, but the idea of breaking up the nation, as suggested by Greene, was a topic of conversation among the United States’ founding members. James Madison cautioned against this idea, saying that even “In the smallest of the fragments, there would soon be added to previous sources of discord a manufacturing and an agricultural class.” Madison believed that even dividing the nation based on homogenous interests would not result in the formation of a homogenous community, as debates and disagreements are prone to occur no matter how small the divisions are.
Others have interpreted Greene’s calls for a national divorce as a play in a longer game of becoming Donald Trump’s vice president for his 2024 campaign for president. Steve Bannon, Trump’s former top aide, said of Greene in an interview with NBC News:
"When MTG [Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene] looks in the mirror, she sees a potential president smiling back."
A source with ties to Trump, and who served as an advisor to Greene, spoke in an interview with NBC on the stipulation that he remains anonymous. He told NBC in his interview that the goal driving Greene’s efforts is the rebranding of herself as a politician who can “stand astride the divide between the party’s hard-liners and its establishment wing.”
While, on the whole, Greene’s comments about dividing the nation may be easy to dismiss as unachievable or as part of the United State’s larger history of struggle with differing political views, it is important not to overlook them. Greene’s rise to political prominence and the expression of her views demonstrate a larger shift in US politics. As stated by the New York Times, in the past two years, Greene has gone from the “far-right fringe of the G.O.P. ever closer to its establishment center without changing any of her own beliefs; if anything, she has continued to find more extreme ways to express them.”
This trend of far-right shifting toward the center is not only seen when examining Greene’s statements, but research also supports this trend; the Pew Research Center found that the US political climate is more ideologically divided now than at any other point in the past two decades. This division among Americans leaves the political landscape ripe for partisan politics.
Deva Woodly, an associate professor of politics at the New School, discusses ways in which the political landscape can shift as a result of discourse. In her book The Politics of Common Sense, Woodly states, “the way we talk about issues in public both reflects and determines what solutions are considered desirable or plausible.” Woodly’s idea of public discourse means that there is a potential that Greene’s contentious statements have actually been working to her advantage by changing what solutions are considered plausible.
While political figures such as Marjorie Taylor Greene may seem to be deliberately provocative, it is important to take note of how statements such as the need for a “national divorce” fit into the broader changes in the American political landscape. Part of the debate surrounding Greene has been her charges against Big Tech and social media companies. Twitter permanently suspended Greene’s account in early January 2022 for violating COVID-19 misinformation policies, and Facebook suspended her account for 24 hours for similar reasons.
"Social media platforms can't stop the truth from being spread far and wide. Big Tech can't stop the truth," Greene said in her statement following her Twitter suspension. As the 2024 presidential election looms in the not-so-far future, these accusations and online altercations only serve to fuel party polarization. Democrats and Republicans agree on very little; when the parties do agree, they often share the belief that they have little in common. The closer Americans come to the presidential election, the more meaning these actions and party politics will take on. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s calls to divide the nation may seem to be nothing more than inflammatory tweets, but the continuation of such rhetoric has the potential to carry over into future campaign promises.