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Marjorie Taylor Greene's Behavior at the State of the Union

On March 7, 2024, President Biden gave his State of the Union speech, receiving positive feedback from many. US presidents deliver a State of the Union, whether written or spoken, annually. Article II of the Constitution mandates that the president must update Congress and the people about the state of our nation as well as the policies proposed to address any issue that may exist. The United States prides itself on transparency and open government, making itself unique to other nations that hide corruption behind closed doors. The State of the Union is an important manifestation of government transparency, making this a tradition deserving of respect. 

However, Marjorie Taylor Greene’s outlandish behavior threatens to undermine the legitimacy of the State of the Union. As I’ve described, the State of the Union is an important facet of our democracy, namely including the people of the United States in the decisions and actions of our government. Greene, a Republican representing Georgia in the House of Representatives, took this tradition as an opportunity to further her own conservative agenda. House rules indicate that the House floor should not be “used for the conduct of campaign or political activities.” Greene took the State of the Union as an opportunity to sport a MAGA hat to indicate her support for Trump’s upcoming campaign for the 2024 Presidential Election. Her hat was in direct violation of the expected conduct on the House floor, and according to Rep. Jamie Gaskin (D-MD), she will likely face an ethics complaint. 

Aside from her bold hat choice, Greene disrupted the address by heckling Biden, demanding him to “say her name.” The ‘her’ in question is Laken Riley, a nursing student who was allegedly killed by an undocumented Venezuelan immigrant near the University of Georgia campus in February 2024. Her death is being heavily politicized and used as a talking point for the Republican party, which wants to impose limitations on immigration. Greene was also wearing a shirt that read “Say Her Name,” a term originally coined by civil rights activist and law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw after the death of Sandra Bland. This phrase has been widely used to bring attention to Black women who disproportionately experience and are affected by police violence. 

Greene co-opted a phrase popularly used in the Black Lives Matter movement, a movement she is actively against, to demonize undocumented migrants. To me, it is clear that she does not care about the life or death of Laken Riley. She used Riley’s tragic death in a failed attempt to “own” Biden during his speech. For some reason, conservatives tend to think a white person dying at the hands of a person of color, documented or undocumented, holds the same weight as the structurally supported murder and abuse of Black people at the hands of the police. Not to say that the death of Laken Riley doesn’t matter, because it does. I just don’t believe it carries the same political significance that conservatives choose to believe it does. 

Biden did eventually reply to Greene’s obnoxious shouts by addressing Laken Riley’s death. He acknowledged the tragic nature of her death and wished her family well, as he has also endured the trauma of losing a child. In my opinion, Greene’s disruption backfired because it allowed Biden to deliver well-received comments on the situation. 

I am a staunch supporter of free speech and the ability to support and advocate for political candidates and policies. However, I believe that Greene’s inappropriate conduct at the State of the Union points to the degradation of the integrity of our government. While some rules are antiquated, I believe there should be a certain level of conduct upheld, especially on the House floor and at an event that is so crucial to preserving openness and transparency in our government. 

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poli sci and history major who chronically rewatches movies/tv shows that were popular in middle school to feel something