New Orleans In the United States, history is made every day, just as it is everywhere the world turns. Recently, we’re seeing history made in bold letters. A one-hundred-year global pandemic would make the list. So would a siege of the US Capitol abetted by a disgruntled, sulking president in his last days in office. Now we have former Speaker of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy saying with a smile that he was “making history” upon being the first ever speaker to be voted out of office. He says it was a personal vendetta, rather than political differences, when eight hard right members of his Republican Party voted with all the Democrats to throw him out. To most of us in the cheap seats, it doesn’t even look particularly like politics, at least as any of us would understand that rare art. It simply looks like a bunch of right-wing recalcitrant acting out because they didn’t get their way.
This little footnote in history was triggered by this small cabal’s outrage that McCarthy, though certainly no hero in this story, refused at the eleventh hour to shut down the government. Ignoring their tantrum, for a change, he put country ahead of party and joined with the Democratic minority and a huge block of his own Republican majority to largely extend government funding until mid-November. The anarchists on his right were spoiling for a shutdown, come hell or high water, led by Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, who can hardly push his way to the microphone to gloat about all of this because of the huge weight of the chip on his shoulder, proposed a procedural vote, similar to a parliamentary vote of confidence. McCarthy called the bluff, saying, “bring it on.” So, they did, and so he went.
They also seemed to have gotten a shutdown of sorts as chaos monkeys. With no real leader and no plan about who might step into the speaker’s job to face the arrows of outrageous fortune and brickbats from their conservative buddies, there’s no real easy way to get legislation through the House. Of course, that presumes that the gang of eight even want to get legislation through the House, which they don’t, although some of their Republican colleagues’ claim, as I heard a Republican member from Ohio say on NPR yesterday, that she and her crew want to do so.
There are many baseball managers who can now claim that they can keep their jobs, which are notoriously short-lived, longer than Speakers of the House can, at least over the last decade, where they have come in and out so quickly that it’s hard to remember their names, unless it was Nancy Pelosi. There’s only the slimmest chance that the moderate Republicans could unite with the Democrats and name one of their number as Speaker, despite the fact that that might be great for government, it would be embarrassing for the Republican Party, especially on the eve of the 2024 elections. In our daily nightmares, as weak and worrying as McCarthy was, it is hard not to fear we will go from bad to even worse, unless the conservative anarchists can finally be brought to heel.
Like I said, the coming weeks are going to be like a shutdown in terms of government for the American people and a continuing Republican circus and civil war only enjoyed by participants and viewers who love horror shows. Halloween is upon us soon, and we may find that Matt Gaetz masks will sell out way before skeletons and werewolves.