Kevin McCarthy Will Be Structurally Incapable Of Succeeding As Speaker
I have to admit that I have no sympathy for the horrific situation— illustrated above— Kevin McCarthy is stepping into now. We’ve gone over his conundrum with the fascist wing of his party ad nauseam but now the mainstream conservatives are threatening make life hell for him as well— and with a majority as narrow as his (likely 4 or 5 seats) any bunch of disgruntled members can screw up anything he tries to do… and will. Yesterday, Olivia Beavers, Jordain Carney and Sarah Ferris reported that “Even as Washington’s attention after the midterm turns to the Freedom Caucus, members of the Main Street Caucus and the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus are talking among themselves about it.” Ohio conservative David Joyce, not a huge fan of the fascist-wing, said “Kevin’s not stupid. He’s trying to add to his numbers, not destroy his base. And so I count on his political acumen to know what’s acceptable to the rank and file inside the conference.”
Republicans in the Main Street Caucus met last week as they grow their own ranks ahead of next year. Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), who co-leads the group, said they were nearing 90 members, adding that after years of the Freedom Caucus throwing its weight around: “It’s time we flex our muscles.”
The first real test of the power of the House GOP’s different wings— and McCarthy’s support from them— will be the chamber-wide vote for speaker on Jan. 3. Virtually every Republican group is already looking to exhibit its leverage in a threadbare majority that gives McCarthy a cushion expected to be no larger than five votes. And in some cases, the GOP factions’ priorities will clash.
McCarthy’s speakership bid looked on shaky ground last week after 31 GOP members [all from the fascist wing of the party] voted for his hardline conservative challenger in a closed-door conference election and five more put down write-in names. Not all of those Republicans are expected to oppose him come January, but it served as a warning to the GOP leader.
To many rank-and-file members, it was also an opportunity.
Since that secret ballot race, a trickle of lawmakers have publicly announced their plans to vote against the California Republican. Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a long-time “no” vote, and Andy Biggs (R-AZ) have stated emphatically they won’t support McCarthy for speaker; first-term Reps. Matt Rosendale (R-MT and Bob Good (R-VA) have strongly signaled that they are likely to oppose him.
McCarthy probably can’t afford to lose all 4 of them. Yesterday, David Frum devoted his Atlantic column to explaining why McCarthy is leading the House Republicans down the road to ruin. “In 2006 and 2018,” he wrote, “Democrats won control of the U.S. House of Representatives on the way to winning the presidency two years later. In 1994 and 2010, Republicans won control of the U.S. House of Representatives. They then lost the presidency two years later. The difference? Discipline.”
The leader of the Democratic majority elected in 2006 and 2018 was Nancy Pelosi. She restrained emotions in her caucus. After 2006, many Democrats burned with anger against the Bush administration— some even talked of impeaching George W. Bush over the Iraq War. Speaker Pelosi would not allow it. Her vision was to use control of the House to prepare the way for the impending presidential election so that Democrats could then legislate. The passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 rewarded her strategy.
By contrast, the Republican majority elected in 1994 and 2010 lunged immediately into total war. In 1994, the leaders, Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, wanted and led the total war. In 2010, Speaker John Boehner opposed the lunge and tried, largely in vain, to control it. In both cases, the result was the same: a government shutdown in 1995, a near default on U.S. debt obligations in 2011, and a conspiratorial extremism that frightened mainstream voters back to the party of the president.
The signs strongly indicate that the next Republican House majority will follow the pattern of its predecessors.
The most urgent of those warning signs is Republicans’ urge to base their program for the next Congress on an investigation of President Joe Biden’s son Hunter. On November 18, the next chair of the House Oversight Committee, James Comer of Kentucky, and his colleague due to chair the House Judiciary Committee, Jim Jordan of Ohio, held a press conference to offer their theory of what they would find: corrupt business dealings that implicate the president himself.
Why Republicans would want to believe this holds little mystery. From 2017 to 2021, Republicans supported and defended a strikingly corrupt president whose children disregarded nepotism rules to enrich themselves and their businesses. The administration opened with a special favor from the government of Japan to Donald Trump’s daughter and closed with a $2 billion investment by the government of Saudi Arabia for the president’s son-in-law— despite written warnings from the Saudi government’s outside advisers about excessive fees, inexperienced management, and operations that were “unsatisfactory in all aspects.”
How do partisans try to neutralize four years of nonstop genuine scandals? By ginning up an equal and opposite scandal against the other team. The Trump family may have been the most crooked ever to occupy the White House, and on a scale impossible to deny or ignore. During Trump’s administration, his hotel business exacted payments on Pennsylvania Avenue from corporations, individuals, and foreign governments as a condition of presidential favor and charged the Secret Service fees simply so that it could do its job of protecting the president. Trump himself elevated his son-in-law to de facto positions as a chief of staff and a national security adviser. Meanwhile, the president’s other children headed family businesses that profited from the presidency.
If that record cannot be denied, then maybe it can be diminished or rendered somehow acceptable by alleging that Trump’s successor is doing the same thing. But in their whataboutism, Republicans are forgetting a lesson they should have learned in 1995–96: Don’t oversell, and even more important, don’t talk yourself into believing the false narrative you hope to sell to others.
…Republicans are more and more isolated in their ideological information networks and seem even less connected to mainstream America today than they were a generation ago. They so passionately believe the stories they hear that they forget who confected those stories: themselves.
There are real questions for a Republican majority to investigate in the coming session of Congress: Why was the Biden administration caught so by surprise at the collapse of the Afghan government and military? What can actually be determined about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic? How did immigration controls at the southern border fail, and why haven’t those controls been fixed yet? But all of those questions lead to issues of policy, and policy is notoriously tangled, complicated, and difficult.
What Republicans want instead is an excuse for their enabling of Trump. They yearn to spread their fantasy narrative that Biden’s attempts to be a supportive father to an errant son are the moral equivalent of the Trump family’s looting of the U.S. government. Fantasies don’t survive contact with reality, including the democratic reality of elections.
Unfortunately, fantasies can be generated faster than reality can puncture them. So off we go with a repeat of an old show—written, directed, and performed by a production company oblivious that it is chasing box-office success by remaking a three-decade-old flop.
Pelosi was always an independent operator as Democratic leader. She didn't have to cow-tow the way Denny Hastert did to Tom DeLay or the way McCarthy already is to Traitor Greene and Gym Jordan. The mainstream Republicans' gambit won't work because they're unwilling to flush the government down the toilet in a stand-off with the fascists. The fascists and Russo-Republicans are not only willing to do just that, it's what they are eager to do. Being walled off from objective reality has made it a goal in itself.