'Marjorie Taylor Greene Is White Trash' Is Bad And James Carville Should Feel Bad
For the last several years (at least) James Carville has been making the rounds on cable news talking about how very damaging the activist Left is to the Democratic brand, how bad "defund the police" is as a slogan and concept, how bad "wokeness" is, because of course many Republicans would vote Democratic if we all just disappeared one day. He is, of course, entitled to his not-especially-original opinion. It's hardly surprising coming from the guy who was the architect of Bill Clinton's famous "Sister Souljah" moment, in which he needlessly dragged a Black woman who was making an entirely reasonable point using hyperbole, for the purpose of winning the trust of racist Americans. That's his whole deal.
Last night, during an appearance on "The Beat with Ari Melber" on MSNBC, Carville went on a bit of a rant about how Marjorie Taylor Greene is "white trash."
"I have a PhD in white trashology, and you saw real white trash on display," Carville said to Melber while looking like who did it and ran himself. "And let me say something about Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, she dresses like white trash. She really needs a fashion consultant. I recommend George Santos. He could do a good job of dressin' up where she doesn't announce her white trashdom with her own clothes and her attitude."
It was strikingly reminiscent of the comments he made about Paula Jones in 1994 when she accused Bill Clinton of sexual harassment. "You drag $100 bills through trailer parks — there's no tellin' what you'll find," he said at the time. "I know these people [the accusers]. I went to school with 'em. I necked with 'em in backseats. I spent nights with 'em."
Separately, in an appearance on MSNBC's "Deadline: White House," former Bush/Cheney strategist Matthew Dowd chatted with host Nicolle Wallace, the former Bush White House communications director, about how MTG looked like "Tonya Harding in a fur coat."
\u201c"It underlines the idea that [Republicans] don't care about leading the American public. They have given up on that... most of the Republican Party has decided to jettison that traditional idea that you're supposed to lead everyone" - @matthewjdowd w/ @NicolleDWallace\u201d— Deadline White House (@Deadline White House) 1675900838
I will admit — I feel incredibly defensive of Tonya Harding and always have. She was an absolutely incredible talent who just seemed to get screwed at every turn in life. She was physically, sexually, and psychologically abused by practically everyone in her life and when she tried to divorce the abusive husband who would later orchestrate the attack against Nancy Kerrigan, she was told by a rep for the United States Figure Skating Association that she would have to stay with him if she wanted to get on the Olympics team. Because of how that would provide "stability." Frankly, comparing Marjorie Taylor Greene to Tonya Harding is a compliment Greene doesn't deserve.
Except we know what this was about, don't we? Dowd was basically saying the same thing as James Carville. He was calling her "white trash." Because Tonya Harding was supposed to have been "trashy," right? She wasn't the American Princess that figure skating champions were supposed to be. She was poor, she didn't have the right costumes or the right manners or the right song choices — and even worse, she had the absolute gall to be better than most of the girls who did fit that mold.
It's not an apt comparison. Marjorie Taylor Greene is not some incredibly talented underdog whose life has been gallingly unfair, who made a mistake one time and had to pay for it the rest of her life. She's a well-off blonde lady who owned a gym and made it to Congress on the strength of her QAnon Facebook posts — which took far less skill than completing a triple axel.
I hear these comments and there is a part of me, in my gut, that really wants to tell Carville and Dowd to fuck right off into the sea, along with all the people on social media cheering them for these utterly exquisite burns. I don't want to feel that way about Marjorie Taylor Greene. Ever. She is a despicable human and I don't ever want to be in the business of defending her. But it's even more gross to call people "white trash" or to insult poor people for the purposes of dragging some rich lady who owned a gym.
The problem with Marjorie Taylor Greene is not that she is tacky. The problem with her is that she is an asshole who says and believes asshole things, wants to do things that will hurt people, and has the power to make that happen. You can be tacky and have great politics, you can be "classy" and be a full-on fascist ... lest we forget Richard "Dapper Nazi" Spencer.
I am a big believer in targeted attacks. I don't like attacks that blast uninvolved people with shrapnel — it's why I hate it when people think it's somehow okay to mock Donald Trump for being overweight because he's a bad person or that a woman having bad politics is an excuse to let their misogynistic freak flag fly. There are so many things for which one could go after Marjorie Taylor Greene that do not hurt any innocent class war bystanders, that to go for something like "Oh, she's white trash, she's Tonya Harding" is just lazy as hell.
For all the talk these sorts of men do about what is and is not "a good look" for the Democratic Party, you would think it would occur to them that calling people "white trash" is not an especially appealing thing to do. You think these brilliant strategists would realize that the GOP has made a lot more hay out of calling liberals "elitist" than they ever have out of "defund the police." It has a much longer shelf-life and packs a far bigger gut punch — and worst of all, it gives them a point. It makes them seem like the good guys. No one likes snobs, no one likes elitists, no one likes people who look down on others for those sorts of reasons. It's grotesque. It fuels resentment like nothing else in the world, to the point where it can push people to take sides they might not otherwise take.
There is no question that the Right is going to dine out on this "criticism" of Greene for some time — which will only serve to normalize her further within the party, the same way the alt-Right was, to some degree, normalized by Hillary Clinton's "deplorable" comments (which, in her defense, was taken extraordinarily out of context). It's a gut-punch that creates solidarity that would not be there otherwise and bad actors are going to be there to take advantage of it.
I understand that people want to pretend that classism doesn't exist in America, they want to say things like "white trash has nothing to do with how much money you have" without realizing that such a statement, in and of itself, proves that we very much do have a class system. Not all class systems are about money, thus the existence of "impoverished nobility," thus why no matter how much people who were raised middle or upper middle class actually make, they always consider themselves part of the middle class. We also have a whole lot of hierarchy, which is ultimately what respectability politics like this is all about.
Additionally, no one is ever going to separate the concept of "white trash" from the aesthetics of poverty — particularly given that it is so frequently used interchangeably with "trailer trash." We all know what it means and what it insinuates and pretending otherwise is beyond ridiculous. When you cheer for anyone being called "white trash," you are making fun of poor people.
Democrats are supposed to be the party that wants to make things better for the poor, for the working class. This kind of commentary makes it seem like that is all bullshit. There is no case to be made for it outside of the fact that it makes some people already in the "in group" feel a bit of catharsis. Carville and others may criticize the Left over "defund the police," single payer health care, publicly funded college, general "wokeness" and what have you — but at least those things have a point beyond just being mean. Let Republicans have that. Let cruelty be the point for them. I'd like to believe we all, even the mealy-mouthed centrists, have more to offer than that.
The irony is, the actual visual of Marjorie Taylor Greene heckling during the State of the Union in a fur trimmed coat reminds me a whole lot more of some horrible, ignorant rich lady yelling at her staff or sniping at a server at a restaurant who didn't fetch her white wine spritzer quickly enough or trying to murder a large brood of dalmations in order to make a more glamorous coat (as many have pointed out). Perhaps someday these "strategists" will figure out that this is a far more universally repulsive image than the image of a poor white woman living in a trailer they had hoped to evoke.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse