As the Republican drama over Representative Kevin McCarthy’s bid to become House speaker persists for round after round of negotiations and roll-call votes, a puzzling question is what the rebels really want.
To the endless frustration of McCarthy and his allies, the rebels’ demands hinged heavily on two factors: internal procedural rules meant to expand far-right power within the House, and the rebels’ positioning of themselves as uncompromising enemies of the Democrats. wish to present. ‘ Agenda. But more than anything, McCarthy’s most staunch detractors are determined to bring him down.
“This is not about policies, this is about fighting,” said Doug Hay, a former aide to Representative Eric Cantor, the one-time majority leader who in 2014 defeated far-right challenger David Bratt. Was upset and lost his seat. “The more you hear the word ‘fight’ or ‘fighter,’ the less you hear about the strategy for winning that fight.”
The longer the battle for speakership has lasted, the more displeased McCarthy’s supporters have been at the situation. Representative Dan Crenshaw of Texas accused holdouts Mouthing “silly platitudes that some consultant told you to say on the campaign trail.” Representative Don Bacon, who holds a swing seat in Nebraska, has taken calling them “Anarchy Caucus” and “Taliban 20.”
Such harsh language is nothing new: Representative John Boehner, who was ousted from speaking by the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus in 2015, later called one of its co-founders, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a “political terrorist.” and a “blow.” (Jordan is now endorsing McCarthy, and is ready to run the powerful Judiciary Committee if and when the speakership battle is resolved.)
One of the highlights of this speaker vote has been to see McCarthy’s team trying to marshal the conservative-industrial media complex that helped elevate political outsiders like Donald Trump and party leaders to keep backbenchers in line. Capacity has steadily declined.
“We’ll see what happens when Tucker and Sean Hannity and Ben Shapiro start beating those guys up,” enthused Representative Guy Ressenthaler of Pennsylvania. told reporters This week at the Capitol. “Maybe he’ll move it.”
But Tucker Carlson didn’t bash those, instead celebrating the speaking debate as “very refreshing”. Nor is it clear that Fox News can command the exclusive loyalties of the right wing. During the Republican primary for Senate in Pennsylvania last year, a network of conservative blogs and podcasts noticed the sudden rise of Cathy Barnett, a little-known conservative media personality who was able to intimidate Trump and Hannity at the last minute. Preferred candidate Mehmet Oz.
“Is this a game show?” A frustrated Hannity pressed one of the House holdouts, Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado, on his Fox News show Wednesday night. She didn’t back down.
Chris Stirewalt, a former Fox News editor, said that “what happens online has been and will continue to be a precursor to what House Republicans will do on talk radio and on Fox prime time.” He said the representatives and congressional aides he was speaking with “were all talking about how their position is playing out with different hosts and sites.”
Frequently Asked Questions: Speakership Impasse in the House
a historic impasse. Representative Kevin McCarthy of California is vying to become House speaker, but a group of right-wing Republicans is blocking his bid and crippling the start of a new Congress. Here’s what to know:
So far, major Fox hosts have stuck with McCarthy. But “there could be a land rush,” Stiervelt said, if “some hosts or outlets are seen to benefit from being more extreme.”
These types of incentives have helped destroy Republican leaders’ usual means of maintaining discipline. Most committee assignments promise the lifeblood of Congress, especially when your political ideology is oriented toward stalling government action.
Some of the most vociferously conservative lawmakers now find it more attractive to become instant celebrities, and may reject McCarthy’s offers of congressional perks and K Street-linked money spigots and instead anger grassroots Republican donors. can tap.
Remember Madison Cawthorne? Before his fall from grace, the North Carolina congressman rocked the national political scene by throwing out red meat and racking up hits on Trump-friendly news outlets. time magazine Reported in 2021 Cawthorne had informed aides, “I’ve built my staff around com rather than law.”
boehner once circle described As in “getting elected, making a lot of noise, drawing a lot of attention to yourself, raising a lot of money, which means you’re going to make more noise, raise more money.”
This week, a non-aggression pact Between the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC close to McCarthy that spent more than $200 million to elect Republicans to House seats this year, and the Club for Growth, a conservative outsider group that seeks to vote for incumbents considered too squishy. Adept at trying to remove.
That agreement served as an equally emphatic statement of where the real power lies in the Republican Party: outside its formal structures.
‘I didn’t know what a conservative was’
A New York Times review of 20 lawmakers who voted consistently against McCarthy found that 12 of them had voted against the results of the 2020 election; 19 were affiliated with the Freedom Caucus; And 17 were endorsed by Trump in last year’s midterms.
Most of the rebels come from deep red districts. But not all of them.
Representative-elect Josh Bretchen, who was elected last year in Oklahoma, won his race by 49 percentage points. Three others won by at least 40, four of them by 30 or more, and three carried their districts by margins in the 20s. Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona ran unopposed.
But that doesn’t explain the actions of someone like Boebert, who survived a surprisingly vigorous challenge by nearly 500 votes. Three others – Ally Crane, Anna Paulina Luna and Scott Perry – won their races by only eight points.
More than any other trait, what defines the rebels is personality-driven politics. For these bomb-throwers, winning acclaim in the alternative conservative news ecosystem is the point.
Alice Stewart, a Republican communications consultant, said, “A lot of these people get into Congress and get drunk at camera red lights.”
“Conservative media stars need to recognize that our opposition is Biden and the Democrats, not our fellow Republicans,” he said.
Paulina Luna, a newly elected Air Force veteran and Instagram Influencer with nearly 500,000 followers, once confessed on his podcast“I know it sounds weird, but I didn’t know what a stereotype was.”
Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida, who has practically turned his opposition to McCarthy into a reality show, clearly enjoys the attention. The introductory montage of his podcast, “Firebrand,” The clip included Fox News host Tucker Carlson praising him as “one of the very few members of Congress who bothered to stand up against permanent Washington” and Trump saying: “Never let this man See on television? He’s like a machine.
on Wednesday, as McCarthy scrambled to cut new deals that could win over his adversary Gaetz sent an appeal to raise funds, The text message said he was “leading the fight to elect a true Conservative” as speaker.
“I’m fighting for you,” it continued, “and I need you to have my back like never before.”
Then, on Thursday, when Steve Bannon didn’t propose Trump as the consensus candidate on his podcast, Gaetz proudly announced his choice for speaker on the House floor: Donald John Trump.
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