Henry Clay could be Speaker of the House, bring great gravitas to the position — and still only garner a few oversight checks and a major spending battle or two.
Marjorie Taylor could be speaker of the Green House (at this rate, no one should be counting her out), use the position as a platform for teen trolling — and still get some oversight checks and a big spending fight. Collect two.
So this episode will not change the momentum of Washington politics or the priorities of the GOP. This is important primarily as another sign that the GOP lacks any coherent center of authority, and is a party that is somewhat loathed by itself.
Larger dissonant trends in American life – in particular, the rise of the Internet and social media – have undermined the power of party establishments. Politicians can easily establish their own fundraising bases and their own brands, outside the control of party bigwigs. But, Pace Will Rogers, it is the Republicans who have been most disrupted; The Democrats, in relative terms, look like a well-oiled machine.
After the early Democratic nomination contests nearly destroyed Joe Biden in 2020, Democrats saw him as the safest and most familiar and traditional option. Other candidates dropped out on the sign like that and even Bernie Sanders — who isn’t technically a Democrat — played ball.
In short, the party stood on its head on Bill Clinton’s old adage that Democrats fall in love and Republicans toe the line.
In the House over the past few years, Nancy Pelosi had a slim majority in the form of Kevin McCarthy and her own faction of obstinate hardliners known as the Squad. He had some difficult legislative moments, but he always maintained his sense of authority, and no one dared to offend him intentionally. After the loss of the midterms, she managed an orderly transition to the next generation.
House Republicans, by contrast, can barely organize themselves to take the power they won in November.
The GOP has torn itself apart over the past few years. First, George W. Bush left office on a low note, a disillusioning experience for the party that cast a layer of skepticism over anyone associated with that era. Then, the Tea Party infused new blood with only a tenuous relationship with the party and an often hostile attitude toward it—it was the Tea Party members who made Chairman John Boehner’s life miserable, and its left-wing caucus. Making -B Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s life miserable. Finally, Donald Trump blew away whatever was left of the party’s establishment in 2016.
Significantly, Trump became the leader of the party instead of being a party man. He was barely a Republican when he started, and it seems likely that if he is denied the Republican nomination in 2024, he will do everything to sabotage his chances. It’s hard to think of a former president who is less invested in the interests of his party, and many Republicans are fine with that.
no one is in charge. Mitch McConnell is closest to an establishment’s ballast, but he hates Maga Bass. Trump’s bid to build his own counter-establishment faltered badly with his midterm debacle. Even the voices on the right with the biggest media megaphones haven’t been able to intimidate the anti-McCarthy rebels.
The truth is that there is an anti-establishment sentiment in a section of the party, and the authority it opposes is from its own side.
Kevin McCarthy is not a visionary or inspirational leader, and has been around Washington for a long time, but his fundamental offense to his enemies is wanting to be the speaker. By normal calculation, the absence of a clear alternative to McCarthy would count against opposing him. But, given the attitude of many rebels, this makes it an even more pure exercise – an act of defiance by a core agenda or a different candidate.
Typically, threatening a leadership bid by a member of one’s own party is a means to an end. It is true that the anti-McCarthy faction has made procedural demands and achieved many of them. But, at the end of the day, opposing it seems more like an end than a means.
The old GOP “obstructionism” was directed at the other party’s agenda for deep-seated ideological reasons; The new GOP obstructionism is directed at itself as it tries to perform the most basic function of governance — and, for now, fails. Welcome to the Will Rogers Republican Party.
#opinion #GOP #SelfLoathing #Party