New Orleans – You gotta love this – a total political meltdown in real time, on TV and social media, and on the front pages of every paper in America. There’s a countdown similar to the Iranian hostage crisis where the days Americans were held was calendared daily across the country, but this time it’s the machinations and dysfunction of the Republican Party with a three-day tally – and counting – and eleven votes polled without conclusion as they try to elect a House of Representatives Speaker. This time the hostages are the entire Congress and the Republican radicals get to play the role of the Iranian students who stormed the embassy. Somehow, it’s even symbolically appropriate that this is all happening still on January 6th, the second anniversary of the Trump-let insurrection at the Capitol.
In the last breaking news, Speaker wannabe and previous Republican House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, claims he is closer to a deal with the rump caucus of twenty or so hard right radicals refusing to give him the votes. Reading between the lines, that just means that he has offered the stove and refrigerator now to go with the kitchen sink he already promised the dissidents. Just maybe against all odds and perhaps defying common sense at this point or political acumen, he’ll be elected as speaker, but clearly, even if that evolves, even in winning he is a huge loser, more like the dog that caught the car than someone who will ever get to really drive.
There are other losers in this embarrassing escapade as well.
The Republican Party may find that it has proven on an epic scale that it is unable to govern, given its current divisions, which hugely handicaps their prospects at every level going into 2024. The divisions will persist, because candidates for all federal offices will have to measure whether to run against the radicals or in sympathy with them, as they try to gauge the appetite and attitude of their base. The radicals are largely from safe districts, so they are feeling no pain. Others may not be so lucky. Meanwhile, Democrats, often known as the squabbling crew, can all run as the adults in the room looking out for the American people, not their own pet projects and prejudices.
Former President Trump’s losing streak also continues with this debacle. His endorsements have had little weight and his intercessions have been impotent in either stopping his supporters among the radicals or delivering for McCarthy as his chosen candidate. Rather than coming off as the leader of the party, he comes to the game as the enabler of yet more chaos, which has always been his default.
Thanks to this Republican fiasco, all of us have always known that Congress was a dangerous place, and now we know it’s also crazyville.