Revenge of the Right Wing

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Spectacle, Not Political Accomplishment

"The definition of insanity is repeating the same actions over and over again and expecting different results. Cliche, yes, but an apt description of Kevin McCarthy’s attempt to be elected Speaker of the House.

About 20 far-right Republicans are determined to focus the 118th Congress on Hunter Biden’s laptop, remembering how well it worked when they held sham Benghazi hearings for months on end to tarnish Hilary Clinton’s reputation. Personal attacks are so much more exciting than policy for the people. 

We are watching right-wing politicians who supported the physical Insurrection at the Capitol in 2021 but this time running their own inside insurrection against the House of Representatives as a legislative body.

McCarthy has been minority leader for several years observing Nancy Pelosi maneuver a slim Democratic majority through to historic legislation on budgets, marriage equality, and national infrastructure improvements.  if McCarthy, on a 13th ballot, wins the job, it will be from having ceded his power to a committee of the most radical members. He has had to circumcise his prerogatives to get elected.

The problem with Kevin Twenty right-wing political dissenters humiliated Kevin McCarthy for being insufficiently MAGA radical. A desperate McCarthy apparently offered to allow a single lawmaker to force a snap vote to oust the speaker, but it wasn’t enough. The so-called Freedom Caucus wants McCarthy replaced, but by whom is a mystery. This is more than a “we hate Kevin” effort. It is a move for more power and control by the right-wing Republicans who believe McCarthy is neither a smart nor tactical politician.

McCarthy did not help himself when he framed those opposing him as unreasonable. He argued that he had “earned” the top post for his work as the minority leader. This merely hardened the resolve of the 20 dissenters.

The American author John Steinbeck  summed it up nearly 75 years ago in Travels With Charley, that, ”I suppose our (American) capacity for self-delusion is boundless.”

Majority control is critical because it determines the composition of committees and the management of financial legislation, which by law must originate in the House of Representatives.

This is a spectacle the House and the nation have not experienced in 100 years. Such an ignominious start by a narrow Republican majority suggests an era of dysfunction and disarray. However, this is a positive outcome for the right-wing leadership, which believes dysfunction is a positive step toward reversing the social and political direction of America.

Democrats are enjoying the chaotic images the Republicans are creating. And pondering ideas similar to this from Robert Reich, a former official in the Obama Administration. He suggests Democrats should unite with moderate Republicans to elect a speaker. In exchange for backing a relatively moderate Republican such as Fred Upton or David Joyce as Speaker, the quid pro quo is that Democrats get equal seats on committees. This has existed for the past two years when membership was 50-50, with Democrats having a tie-breaking vote from the Vice President’s role as presiding officer.

Nancy Pelosi has adroit political skills inherited from her dad, who was both a big city mayor and a Congressman. As House Speaker, she kept her caucus together to pass a slate of legislation unseen since 1968’s Great Society and the Depression-era New Deal.

McCarthy, on the other hand, fits the British expression, couldn’t organize a piss-up in a brewery,  which means that someone is terrible at managing things. A piss-up is a slang word for an occasion where much alcohol is drunk. This has left the USA without a functioning Congress for the first time since 1923.

OPTIMISM FROM THE RIGHT: “Time is on our side,” said Rep. Bob Good of Virginia. “It’s worth taking a few days, or a few weeks, to get the best possible speaker. The country can’t afford to continue what we’ve always done to get what we’ve always gotten.”
PESSIMISM FROM MODERATES:“ There are multiple levels of Dante’s Inferno, and we’re in one of them right now,” said Rep. Jeff Van Drew, Republican (and former Democrat) from New Jersey, adding that his party could not continue to go down the same path after two days of embarrassing votes on the House floor with roughly the same results. “We’ve got to get everybody back in the room and start beating the daylights out of each other.”

The traditional Republican Party believed the government had a role to play in leveling the country’s economic and racial playing fields. The  election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 caused the party to shift away from this philosophy. By President Barrack Obama’s 2008 election the Republicans were in reactionary response to the government doing good things for the bottom third of society. Now the party has been captured by a reactionary right-wing determined to eradicate any notion that government in the 21st century has a responsibility to ALL citizens.

The 20  politicians leading the opposition to McCarthy envision themselves as patriots. Along with other Republicans in Congress, they challenged President Biden’s election. McCarthy himself voted in 2021 to challenge electors from a number of states and abruptly embraced Trump’s Big Lie about fraudulent voting.

Two Republican lawyers whose careers are in jeopardy for their roles in the Big Lie, plus Ginny Thomas, whose husband is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, joined 57 other once prominent Republicans who doubled down this week in support of this Congressional debacle.

Their statement declared they are “disgusted with the business-as-usual, self-interested governance in Washington.”

Rational behavior is obviously optional.

By: Kenneth Tiven

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