House Republicans have been previewing their midterm platform and, instead of hailing issues, it's nothing but a sea of threats aimed at their Democratic colleagues over perceived grievances.
No governing, no solutions. Just promises of retribution for Democrats seeking lawful, constitutional forms of accountability over things like death threats made by GOP members and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy made it exceedingly clear on Tuesday that he not only won't hold his caucus accountable for making violent threats against other members of Congress, but he will actively seek revenge against anyone who insists on the accountability he refuses to provide.
Indeed, as the House debated censuring GOP Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona for publicly fantasizing about murdering a Democratic colleague, McCarthy promised it would be "a new standard to be applied in the future." As if any House Democrats would be deranged enough to tweet out animated videos of them executing their GOP colleagues.
"It means that under the Pelosi precedent, all of the members I have mentioned will need approval of the majority to keep those positions in the future," McCarthy said of Gosar ultimately being censured and stripped of his committee assignments on a mostly party-line vote. Only GOP Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois thought Gosar's portrayal of murdering Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York was beyond the pale.
But these GOP threats of retribution are all par for the course now. The party is effectively filled with a bunch of lawless gang members who foment violence, flout the law, and trample the Constitution, and when anyone threatens to rein them in, the GOP's knee-jerk responses are promises of revenge.
Last week, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio pledged to get even with Democrats after the Justice Department indicted Trump henchman Steve Bannon on Friday.
"There are a lot of Republicans eager to hear testimony from Ron Klain and Jake Sullivan when we take back the House," Jordan tweeted, claiming that President Joe Biden had "eviscerated" executive privilege. Just a guess that Ron Klain, White House chief of staff, and Jake Sullivan, Biden's national security adviser, would show up for questioning if they were subpoenaed. Bannon didn't even bother.
But per usual, reality isn't really at issue for Republicans. The game is all about training their voters to believe they have been slighted and disrespected, that Democrats have committed an unforgivable abuse of power, and that Republicans will make them pay for it. That is the GOP platform, and Republicans keep running that play over and over again because their low-information voters aren't capable of seeing past it. In fact, the GOP's politics of revenge are exactly what the base craves—it's among their main reasons for living, breathing, and voting.
And it's not just House Republicans, as The Washington Post's Aaron Blake points out. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been practicing the dark arts of the double standard for over a decade.
As talk began earlier this year of Senate Democrats eliminating the 60-vote procedural hurdle for passing legislation, McConnell promised such a move would invite a "scorched-earth" approach to governing moving forward.
“Let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues: Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin—can even begin to imagine—what a completely scorched earth Senate would look like,” McConnell said in a Senate speech.
Of course, McConnell never thought twice about nuking the filibuster for approving Supreme Court justices when he began packing the high court with conservative ideologues back in 2017. And he won't think twice about nuking it the next time he lacks the 60 votes for any particular thing he’s intent on doing.
Republican threats also aren't confined to their Democratic colleagues in Congress. In August, McCarthy, increasingly emboldened by GOP prospects for retaking the majority, promised his caucus would never forget if telecommunications companies complied with lawfully issued subpoenas from the select committee investigating Jan. 6.
“If these companies comply with the Democrat order to turn over private information, they are in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States,” McCarthy charged in a mind-bending inversion of what's actually true. In fact, the companies were compelled to comply with the congressional subpoenas. Nevertheless, McCarthy persisted, “If companies still choose to violate federal law, a Republican majority will not forget and will stand with Americans to hold them fully accountable under the law.”
This is classic Trumpism, right? Picking winners and losers based entirely on GOP loyalty tests with no regard whatsoever for the rule of law. McCarthy wasn’t standing up for Americans, he was running scared over an investigation that could well implicate multiple members of his caucus.
But this is the kind of punitive and twisted leadership Republicans are promising as they eye a potential takeover of Congress next year. They are putting forward no policy solutions for the American people or aspirational bills they hope to enact. Instead what they’re offering is plain and simple: It is the politics of revenge.
And that is very clearly exactly what GOP base voters want.