The GOP is not a political union of thoughtful philosophers dedicated to a shared vision of how best to realize America’s potential. It is a cesspit of vicious, vainglorious, power-mad political nihilists. And in the stands, the reactionary media’s self-satisfied cognoscenti cheer them on as they scratch and claw each other for primacy in the conservative cage match.
Until 2016, Republicans appeared to march in lockstep. Then Donald Trump exposed the divisions between the establishmentarians and the bomb-throwers. A new generation of anti-social justice warriors took on the pro-business, do not rock the boat traditionalists. And the party lost three election cycles in a row.
This raises the question, when Trump’s influence wanes — today or sometime in the future — will the GOP unify behind a new champion? Or will a civil war lead to their demise? The kvetching of the current members suggests a bloody end.
After their drubbing in the 2022 midterms, the Republican rabble unsheathed their daggers, pointed fingers, and cast blame. The House Speakership is one arena for this internecine conflict. Presumptive office-holder, Kevin McCarthy, anticipated a coronation celebrating a new, unassailable majority. But the political prognosticators were proved as reliable as religious prophets erroneously predicting the end of the world.
The GOP staggered across the finish line with the barest of House majorities, and failure bestowed power on every Andy, Matt, and Margorie who thought they counted for something. Now, these miserable people are using their newfound influence to thrust anarchy into the conservative mix.
Matt Gaetz has been public about his plan to be a pain in the ass. Emboldened perhaps by his seeming escape from statutory rape charges, he told Lou Dobbs he could block Republicans from electing a Speaker of the House for up to two months after they take the majority in January.
"The true question is whether or not Republicans will get into the posture of realizing that this is a process of elimination exercise or if we're going to begin our term in the majority unable to elect a Speaker. And I've got to tell you, Lou, that could be a very real possibility."
"We could go to the floor, no person could be able to achieve 218 votes, and we might have to work that out for a while. And it might not be easy, and it might not be quick."
Gaetz claimed he wanted Republicans to "make the right decision" rather than "have a bunch of handwringing and bedwetting about whether it's going to take us two weeks or two months to figure it out." How accommodating of him. Gaetz is backed in his threat of revolt by the rest of his Gang of Five — Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ.), Bob Good (R-VA.), Ralph Norman (R-SC), and Matt Rosendale (R-MT.).
The one thing lacking in Gaetz’s vision is who — if not the current ringmaster, Kevin McCarthy — the speaker should be. But that is a conservative for you — quick to point out wrongs with no concrete suggestion on how to make them right.
McCarthy is not an intelligent man. But he has a feral sense of self-preservation. He made the pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago and has assiduously courted the ultra-right. It seems to be paying off. He has the support of the Nazi Reinhard Heydrich's sadistic spawn, Stephen Miller. And two of the most notorious crazies, Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) — lusting after powerful positions — have backed the embattled leader.
In addition, the rightwing punditocracy has coalesced behind the establishment and questioned the sanity and aims of the rebels:
- Mark Levin, asks “Who are these five boneheads? How can they be so stupid?”
- Breitbart warns of a “doomsday scenario”
- Charlie Kirk, says "The freedom caucus should be pushing for concessions out of McCarthy, not throwing the speakership to Dems."
- Will Chamberlain, tweets "[Biggs] and the rest of the holdouts really need to stop playing chicken with the future of the House majority."
- Jack Prosobiec asks "Are there seriously people saying it's ok to hand veto power over subpoenas to the Democrats in attempt to stop Kevin McCarthy?"
Greene has played her cards right and is poised to complete her journey from pariah to power. She has embraced her new thin-skinned relevance by casting stones at this week’s second-biggest loser, Herschel Walker, and his Senate backers. Her anger is white hot because she found her teammates in the Senate to be extremely “extremely insulting."
"This is for Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and the rest of the Republican senators; you guys are the reasons why we are losing Republican races all over the country. And this is your third loss in my home state. So, let me inform you on behalf of Georgia, this is your third strike and you're out!"
The Senators have shed the bounds of civility and shredded Reagan’s commandment to speak no ill of fellow Republicans.
Sen. Rick Scott, Chair of the National Republican Senate Committee (NRSC) was responsible for the GOP’s Senate campaign. He had to listen as Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) blamed party management for the abysmal quality of Republican Senate candidates — and their lack of a plan or policy.
"Candidate quality does count. And then you could never have anything that's going to resonate generally if there's not a clear plan of what you're for. We are basically for nothing and we complain about it along the way and then say, well, maybe we'll tell you after elected."
"That's not going to work,"
Sen. Thune (R-SD) brought up the obvious. The GOP’s pathetic showing was due to Trump refusing to move past 2020. When CNN’s Manu Raju asked him “Was Donald Trump a problem this year?” Thune replied,
“Was he a factor? I don’t think there’s any question about that.”
“A lot of the candidates that had problems in these elections were running on the 2020 election being stolen and I don’t think Independent voters were having it,”
Conservative media stars are also assigning blame. Fox News’ Laura Ingraham blamed the Republican National Committee and its Chair, Ronna McDaniel, for the midterm failure. As Fox News announced Walker’s defeat on her show. Ingraham told guest Mollie Hemingway,
“We felt this coming. To me, it never felt like the Senate Republicans wanted this guy in office. He was a Trump pick and they didn’t like that.”
“We don’t change anything.We have the same people in place in leadership, same people in place apparently at the RNC, perhaps that’s not changing. But we just keep doing the same thing over and over again. I’m pissed tonight, frankly. I’m mad.”
McDaniel also suffered incoming unfriendly fire from Lee Zeldin, recently defeated GOP candidate for New York Governor. Zeldin declared he was not running for McDaniel’s position as a new election for the RNC Chair looms, but he still spanked her.
“Chairwoman McDaniel’s re-election appears to already be pre-baked, as if the disappointing results of every election during her tenure, including yesterday in Georgia, do not and should not even matter.”
“Republican voters already believe that Washington, D.C. is an irredeemable swamp. The better path forward would be for Chairwoman McDaniel to listen to and respect the wishes of the actual grassroots voters of our party, and allow the RNC to forge ahead with new leadership. Her greatest service to the Republican Party at this time would be to make room for a new Chair”
No one in Washington can unite these bitter rivals. The GOP has to hope that the 2024 presidential campaign produces a new powerful and charismatic leader that will paper over their divisions.
Are there any candidates? I am hard-pressed to see one. Heir apparent, Ron DeSantis, may have the technocratic political gifts to win the nomination, but the man has the personality of a used fire log. Beyond him, who? A traditional white man — Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, Glen Youngkin. A minority — Nikki Haley, Tim Scott? The Senate contingent — Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley? Is there a chance for an old-time Rockefeller Republican like Chris Sununu?
I do not know. However, I suspect that base will pick another big-mouth loser — and the GOP has no shortage of them.