The nation and much of the world is reeling from the horrific and unsettling events that have occurred between Israel and Hamas. There’s also a war still going on in Ukraine, and looming overhead is the possibility the federal government may shut down in about a month.
Amid it all, the House Republican majority is making a mockery of effective governance.
As I’m writing this column, two weeks out from the removal of Kevin McCarthy, Republicans have yet to elect Speaker to succeed him. Clown show doesn’t even seem the perfect term to describe such an inept debacle. It’s true the GOP House caucus has engaged in some admittedly clownish behavior, but even clowns are trained and skilled performers who perform such antics as part of their stock and trade.
This sordid saga initially began in January when it took the Republican majority 15 rounds of voting to finally elect McCarthy as Speaker, long a goal of his political career. But his victory was a pyrrhic one. His nine-month tenure was the briefest for any speaker since Michael Kerr, who died in office in 1876. His ousting was engineered by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz and seven other far-right Republicans, motivated by a confluence of factors but most notably to curry favor with their right-wing constituents.
South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace, one of the “gang of eight” who were instrumental in removing McCarthy, claimed she was being targeted and castigated for her vote. Determined not to be ignored, Mace strolled into the caucus meeting with a big red “A” decal on her T-shirt reminiscent of 17th century adulteress Hester Prynne. But Prynne never gave out any of the salacious details of the man who had impregnated her. So Mace either decided to provide a revisionist version of “The Scarlet Letter,” or she has never read or properly comprehended Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel.
North Carolina Rep. Greg Murphy was so put off by his fellow colleague that he wrote on social media: “#GetADamnLife.”
As if this level of chaos wasn’t already surreal enough, New York Rep. George Santos made a frantic effort to leverage his vote in return for a promise he would not be expelled, despite his 23 felony indictments for various kinds of fraud. That being said, it appears his fellow New York GOP colleagues have reached the breaking point with him and want to see him ousted sooner rather than later. As the old saying goes, real life politics is sometimes stranger than fiction.
Initially, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise was reassured he would likely garner strong support and be able to secure the crucial endorsements needed to be elected as the next House Speaker. Later in the week, he withdrew from consideration once it looked as if he would be unable to secure the necessary votes from his colleagues. Opposition against Scalise ranged from his ties to right-wing groups and most notably his comment “I am David Duke without the baggage.” Others cited his recent and current health issues. In reality, it was likely a combination of both factors that eventually sank his candidacy.
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, Donald Trump’s buddy and confidante, is being touted as the next possibility. This closeness with the former president gave his supporters assurance he could prevail in amassing enough votes to be elevated to the speakership. Nonetheless, like Scalise, he has his share of detractors within the fragmented caucus and has so far fallen short of the backing needed to be elected to the position.
No astute political observer is likely under the misguided impression there is a considerable level of ideological balkanization among the current caucus. With few exceptions aside, the majority of the bickering House members agree, virtually without exception, that the overwhelming majority of members in the Republican caucus are solid right, with a few centrists mixed in. Most members share a commonality of right-wing, authoritarian governance. Whatever divisions are currently on display and being hashed out in the open, they pale in regard to the right-wing value system they support and embrace. They are the 21st century version of the White Citizens’ Councils of the 1950s and 1960s.
There are certainly some conservatives who have denounced the tactics of their more extreme brethren, but these individuals seem to be voices in the wilderness rather than being taken seriously as rational voices of reason. When this current madness will end is anyone’s guess. Nonetheless, Republicans and other conservatives may want to do some real soul-searching about what is happening in their party.
Currently, the right-wing lunatics are running the political asylum.