I must be feeling better if I can blog about politics again.
Republicans “won” control of the U.S. House of Representatives in November with 222 seats to 213 for Democrats, a nine seat gain. It was an unusually anemic midterm performance for the party out of power, particularly since a round of redistricting was completed before it which largely favored Republicans as they largely controlled state legislatures drawing House district maps.
As I noted in this post, the Supreme Court’s Dodd decision, basically revoking Roe v. Wade, was going to be politically costly to Republicans. And so it was, overall. Most of the election analysis concluded the ruling and red states working overtime to outlaw abortion was a key factor in the slim Republican House gains. As a result, Republicans hold of the House is tenuous. With such a slim majority, it doesn’t take much to upend the caucus.
And so it proved with the House unable to summon a majority to elect a new speaker. Wannabee new speaker Kevin McCarthy was expected to narrowly miss election by five or 6 votes; instead he lost by twenty to 21 depending on the vote.
The basic problem is that there are just enough Republicans in the House to keep McCarthy from becoming speaker. So far no other serious candidates have emerged. At the moment it looks like there could be weeks or more where Republicans try to find someone they can agree on to be speaker.
The odds are it will be a very long wait. Essentially, Republicans are trapped in a trap of their own making. It’s not news that the party is highly polarized. What’s less obvious is how so many members are so polarized they are unable to compromise with each other. McCarthy has already agreed to a rule that just five representatives could bring forward a motion to unseat him. But that’s still not good enough for the twenty or so Republicans voting against him. Pretty much all Republicans are now of the opinion that any form of compromise is unacceptable; it shows they are weak.
It’s not hard to see how this has happened. For twelve years Republicans have eschewed moderation and have moved the needle ever further to the right. It started with the Tea Party in the 2010 election and it’s just gotten weirder since then. The 2010 election was something of a high water mark for the party. Since then, the further right the party went, to poorer they did in federal elections.
In reality, there’s not much ideologically that separates most House Republicans. The differences in political philosophy are trivial at best. Moreover, they all want to “own the libs”, make Democrats pay and destroy the social safety net. There seems to be no Republican House agenda other than endless investigations into Hunter Biden’s laptop and refusing to raise the debt limit when it is likely to be breached in the summer.
Democrats knew this was going to happen, which is why the lame duck Congress passed an omnibus spending bill that keeps the government open through the end of the fiscal year. So essentially if Republicans can’t pick a speaker, there’s nothing that has to be done until the debt limit crisis arrives, and they seem hell bent on making sure the country defaults on that. So they might as well stay home and collect their inflated salaries in the meantime.
It seems many don’t see or don’t care about the optics of this. Do they think independent voters will find what they are doing is admirable? It sets them up for losing their slim majority in 2024, and likely will have broad impact on the Senate and presidential race as well. Today’s Republican Party strongly resembles a bunch of racist hooligans, for whom reality has no meaning. Expressing anger and (if they can get organized) wreaking political vengeance is all they now care about.
America is coloring up, getting more liberal and waking up to the crises already underway, like climate change. The Republican non-response to all this seems likely to diminish and ultimately kill the party. The rest of us just want government to act rationally to address real problems. The Republican Party just wants a long, rage-infused shit show.
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