The Local Roots of Marjorie Taylor Greene's "National Divorce" RhetoricRoundup
tags: conservatism, Georgia, Atlanta, taxes, suburban history, Marjorie Taylor Greene
Michan Connor has a PhD in American Studies and has published multiple articles about the history and politics of suburban secession in metro Atlanta. He is the editor of History News Network at the George Washington University.
On Feb. 20, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) tweeted out a call for a “national divorce” of red and blue states. Greene later told conservative commentator Sean Hannity that she wanted to create “safe spaces” for conservatives. The tweet generated both outrage and mockery, particularly because Georgia has turned Democratic in recent national elections — illustrating that American political divides are less between blue and red states than among urban, suburban and rural areas within each state.
But for all the scorn heaped on Greene, one gets a better sense of why she made such a proposal by considering the world in which she came of age: suburban Atlanta in the 1990s and 2000s, particularly north Fulton County.
Fulton County stands at the center of the Atlanta metro area and includes the city of Atlanta and suburban areas to the north and the south. The same county government presides over suburban north Fulton and poorer, majority Black, heavily Democratic areas to the south. These circumstances have made public spending and property taxes flash points of conflict.
As Greene was becoming a parent, homeowner and business executive in north Fulton, White residents were revolting over property taxes and launching a suburban secessionist movement — with considerable success. In this context, Greene’s endorsement of a geographic “divorce” makes more sense. Greene saw how such an idea could forge a political community and spawn a successful brand of politics that protected the interests of conservative White homeowners.
Metro Atlanta’s pattern of racial separation unfolded in two phases. During the 1960s and 1970s, working- and middle-class White Atlantans fled to the suburbs nearest to the city by the tens of thousands, fearing the integration of Atlanta’s schools and its residential neighborhoods. The 1980s and 1990s witnessed a further suburban boom — one that helped Greene’s father’s construction company (which she and her husband later bought) prosper — centered on new residential and commercial development in the northern suburbs.
This suburban surge was fueled by a half-million people, mostly affluent professionals, relocating to the region. The transplants saw themselves as epitomizing the American Dream — moving to leafy suburbs where they had access to large houses, good schools, professional jobs, rising property values and low taxes. Although the newcomers didn’t experience Atlanta’s wrenching period of White flight and school desegregation, their communities were shaped by it; Whiteness was a key — if not always acknowledged — part of their high property values, the prestige of their schools and the quality of infrastructure they enjoyed.
But in 1991, the bill for this suburban dream quite literally came due.
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