Amongst the constant chaos that has been this year’s election cycle, it’s easy to miss Marjorie Taylor Greene’s primary win. This past August, Greene beat her Republican primary opponent by 15 points for the chance to fill the House seat for Georgia’s 14th congressional district. Her Democratic challenger recently left the race for personal reasons, making it extremely likely that she will be elected this November. Greene garnered strong support from conservative voters despite the fact that her Republican opponent, John Cowan, had the backing of nearly all establishment Republicans in the district.
Her win is another example of a gatekeeping failure by the Republican party in recent years. Gatekeeping is defined as the processes by which party officials keep undemocratic or extreme candidates from getting their party’s nomination.  In 2016, gatekeeping was unsuccessfully attempted by Republicans to block the nomination of Donald Trump, whose future presidency would further undermine the power of institutions in America.
Marjorie Taylor Greene has made national headlines since the beginning of this year for her islamophobic and racist statements against Muslim and Black people and her support of conspiracies like QAnon. For these reasons, prominent GOP members tended to stay away from making any public statements in support of her candidacy. Republican officials in her district instead worked hard to support her primary opponent — a watered-down version of Greene — and denounced her as a threat to the party and its values. In the past, this lack of party legitimacy would have prevented Greene from making the ticket. However, since the rise of social media and loosened campaign finance laws, candidates like Greene have successfully used their access to cash and extreme rhetoric to gain recognition and support from voters without the help of party officials. 
Another significant but newer reason for Greene’s success seems to be her similarity to Donald Trump. Since his election, many Republicans have become more enamored with his outsider status and his “authenticity” in speech. The bar for presidential power has been lowered on purpose and many people scoff at candidates who try to raise it. This was true for Greene’s run. Both she and Cowan had similar policy platforms and expressed great enthusiasm for the president. However, it was Greene’s loud personality and unpolished language that was a talking point for her supporters. They labeled her “Donald Trump in heels,” and expressed excitement at her strong convictions around issues like ridding America of socialism and “draining the swamp.” On the other hand, Cowan struggled to gain ground using his “All the conservative, none of the embarrassment” slogan. The fact that some voters have become even more attracted to extreme candidates since Trump came into office, signals the end of Republican party incentives to block extreme candidates from taking up the ticket.
Greene’s rise also represents a threat to political norms, which are important to maintaining stability in politics and protecting institutional checks on power. These norms include mutual tolerance between parties, acceptance of electoral legitimacy, and respect for institutional checks and balances. Since he took office, President Trump has strayed from many of these norms and for the most part, congressional Republicans have distanced themselves from or denied the seriousness of Trump’s particularly extreme actions, which include his refusal to accept the results of this election if he loses. Candidates like Greene, however, have used his unprecedented ideas as part of their main platform and gone even further to stir the pot. Greene views and treats Democrats as an existential threat, going as far as posting a threatening photo of herself on Twitter holding an assault rifle next to images of three Democratic congresswomen. She has also suggested that mail-in-ballots are fraudulent and questioned the legitimacy of institutions in part by promoting conspiracies that there is a “deep state” within the government that Trump is saving Americans from. By attacking free and fair elections and spreading misinformation to elevate the purpose of a single leader, Greene is undermining the requirements for democracy. However, these serious, anti-democratic beliefs have not had any significant negative impact on her polling numbers to date which suggests that her behavior either does not warrant a break from party lines or it is somehow acceptable to voters.
While Marjorie Taylor Greene herself may not become a powerful figure in American politics, the implications of her breakthrough into mainstream politics represent a dangerous shift for our democracy. With misinformation and distrust of news media and academia on the rise, the ability for a candidate like Greene to weaponize or get away with telling lies or spreading harmful information has increased. Meanwhile, hyperpolarization has meant that many people who might not be keen on Greene’s rhetoric are willing to overlook her threat to democracy due to her support of their partisan interests.  With the barrier to entry lowered and polarization on the rise, candidates like Greene can gain power by sowing distrust in political institutions and the opposition, thereby eroding the democratic checks that keep one party or candidate from grabbing all the power.
Works Cited Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2018).  Robert Lieberman, Suzanne Mettler, Thomas Pepinsky, Kenneth Roberts and Richard Valelly, “The Trump Presidency and American Democracy: A Historical and Comparative Analysis,” Perspectives on Politics (October 2018): 1-10.  Graham, Michael H. and Milan W. Svolik. “Democracy in America? Partisanship, Polarization, and the Robustness of Support for Democracy in the United States,” American Political Science Review, 2020, p. 392-409.