Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Red/Blue ‘National Divorce’ Looks an Awful Lot Like a Confederate Flag

Still from Marjorie Taylor Greene campaign ad titled "Win Marjorie Taylor Greene's 50 Cal Rifle!" Image: YouTube

There is nothing quite like the fresh hell of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Twitter account, wondering on a daily basis what the most erratic far-right member of congress will scream out into the void. And on Presidents’ Day, she tweeted this:

We need a national divorce.

We need to separate by red states and blue states and shrink the federal government.

Everyone I talk to says this.

From the sick and disgusting woke culture issues shoved down our throats to the Democrat’s [sic] traitorous America Last policies, we are done.

There’s a lot going on in this lone tweet—“national divorce,” a call for secession and the collapse of the federal government; the idea that “sick and disgusting woke culture issues” are being shoved down their throats (even as they call for the murder of transgender individuals); and, of course, “traitorous America Last” policies, continuing the rhetoric of a “real America” via “America First,” an interesting choice given the literally fascist history of “America First,” and even its more recent history, such as its role in the January 6 insurrection. 

But it’s the “national divorce” part that has captured the imagination and condemnation of the country; the call for secession, on Presidents’ Day, a day we’ve set aside to honor the legacies of both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln (an admittedly fraught endeavor, particularly in the case of the slaveholding first president). Because what is “national divorce” but the Second Klan persevering

Hyperbole is nothing new to political discourse, writ broadly. But Greene’s recent remarks, part of a longer Twitter thread, are a stretch, even for the increasingly outlandish rhetoric of right-wing ideologues. Nevertheless, its effects match the trajectory of so many other outrageous claims that have preceded it. Greene isn’t serious about trying to secede in an imaginary framework of “live and let live.” Indeed, in the wake of persistent calls for violence against LGBTQIA+ (but in particular trans) people across the country, Greene’s suggestions that Wal-Marts in “Blue States” would be placing sex toys alongside children’s toys is yet another echo in the chamber of cries trying to target queer bodies in an increasingly hostile political landscape.

The screed manages to insert every inflammatory talking point of the MAGA platformfrom denying the validity of gender identity and the insistence on “government controlled gender transition schools” to questioning climate data. Each point in the thread is another shove on the Overton window intended to give politically insensible and practically impossible ideas the illusion of simplicity and sensibility. 

Setting aside the overall unconstitutionality of the idea, it would be impossible to coordinate relatively simple measures like full faith and credit (the Constitution’s guarantee that states abide by one another’s judicial proceedings), or any degree of federal election necessary to her example, among countless other details. It would be equally impossible to imagine an economic landscape of shifting nation-states with conflicting values collectively operating, no matter the insistence that “interstate trade, travel, and state relations would continue.” No, Greene’s suggestion ignores the most basic fact of the American electorate:

There is no such thing as a red or blue state.

All states are, quite obviously, a mixture of political views. The distribution of those voters shifts over time, as does the makeup of state and local government. Go ahead and ask an even moderately informed college student how long it’s been since California’s electoral votes went to a Republican presidential candidate and Texas had the “bluest” of blue governors (1988 and 1995 respectively). They may be shocked by how quickly these changes occur.

As we sit here writing this piece, our home state of Iowa is overwhelmingly aligned with conservative politics and policies. Bills coming through the state legislature’s subcommittee’s include things like HF367, a performative piece of vice-signaling about pronouns and chosen names, and the state was in the news for a neo-Nazi group on the eastern side declaring tomorrow, February 25th, a “day of hate.” 

But that right-wing, and even far-right, bent is only part of the state. And that has not, and almost certainly will not remain unchallenged. In a country where only a fraction of voters who are eligible actually participate, sweeping statements about a given state’s political allegiances  are not only exaggerations in the moment but they’re also attempts to erase the tides of history. They seek to establish an imaginary identification point as a fiction for others to follow grounded in the now-established ethos of Christian Nationalism.

This is not a rallying cry for separation—though it’s certainly framed that way—but instead an accelerationist agenda designed to inflame the voter base as we hurtle into the next election cycle. In a less inflammatory time, we might simply pass off such rhetoric as ill-conceived nonsense. Unfortunately, in the wake of an insurrectionist coup attempt, it’s impossible to take such claims as anything other than a serious return to secession and a prequel to a national takeover. 

One has only to skim the responses to the Twitter thread to see how quickly followers take up the suggestion as a first step towards a violent takeover of blue states in the imaginary divided future. And her suggestion on Charlie Kirk’s show that Democrats who move to “red states” wouldn’t get to vote for five years is an easy prelude to disenfranchising even more segments of the population who disagree with her. 

This is not an attempt at a peaceable solution, but an invitation to achieve a new nationalism via sedition. This is the organic consequence of allowing a Lost Cause mythology about the Civil War to not only survive but to win the battle for popular consciousness among a significant slice of White America; the idea that the war was about “states’ rights,” ignoring that it was always about the “states’ right” to permit ownership of another human being and to keep them in brutal bondage—to choose sedition in the cause of racism. 

It’s the consequence of allowing the Second Klan to fizzle out instead of crushing them, and pretending that it was simply a Southern phenomenon, a rural phenomenon, a poor and ignorant phenomenon, rather than one that existed in every state and was made up primarily of the White middle class professionals who mixed money, power, social hours, and bigotry up with their violent pageants. 

It’s the consequence of failing to deal with the far-right militia movement in the 1970s and 1980s, and it’s certainly the consequence of a decade-long emergence of far-right rhetoric, from the boards of 4chan to the right-wing media fringes and Fox News, and finally into the Oval Office and the Capitol Building. It’s sedition, and it’s neo-Confederate doctrine, but it’s also fascism, Christian nationalism, conspiratorial thinking, and autocracy—now coming from the heart of our democracy.

Greene’s metaphor is intended to seem like a no-contest divorce—the aww-shucks “irreconcilable differences” approach to governance. But that’s the lie in metaphor, because the contest is still present. It’s a zero-sum game approach that ignores the consequences of what happens to the children in the wake of the separation. And while it might feel safer to wait it out, to hope that cooler heads prevail, or for the theoretical “adults in the room” to step in, it isn’t. Inaction doesn’t stop fascism and none of the compromises leading up to the Civil War saved the Union (but did get marginalized communities killed.) As the adults in the room, it’s up to us to take action, before the seditionists get the civil war they want.