On Tuesday, Governor Ron DeSantis enjoyed an orderly ceremony as he was sworn in for the second time in Tallahassee. There he declared that under his reign, Florida “will never surrender to the woke mob.”
Woke or not, a different mob was disrupting the proceedings in Washington, D.C. at the nation’s Capitol. The same lawmakers who plotted to disrupt Joe Biden’s inauguration as president are now training their firepower on Kevin McCarthy.
Right now, no House of Representatives exists. No House speaker exists. No committees have been formed. Nada. To the delight of their political foes, Republicans aren’t battling Democrats; they are battling themselves. Three times McCarthy sent up his name. Three times he was rejected. A perfect whiff. Only George Santos, whom Brazil is now seeking to have extradited for fraudulent checks, enjoyed a lonelier reception than McCarthy.
Santos is a newbie. McCarthy, by contrast, has been plotting to become speaker for years. Denied the post in 2015, he was intent on letting nothing stop him. Of the former self-described Young Guns — Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, and McCarthy — he thought he had enough firepower to ride to victory. Nothing was too extravagant for him. Truckle to Trump? You bet. Dole out millions to Republican candidates? No problem. Promise the moon to the far right? He tried his best, but there the problems began.
McCarthy thought he could appease the Freedom Caucus, but he only whetted its appetite. Churchill’s remark could not be more apposite: “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile hoping it will eat him last.” Ooh la la. The nihilists in the Freedom Caucus are about to munch on McCarthy. No doubt he will continue to try to stave off the inevitable. Pizzas are being delivered to his office. He’ll pull an all-nighter — call his friends and allies, rage about the psychos in the GOP, ponder his future. Perhaps Marjorie Taylor Greene, the firebrand from Georgia, will minister to his psychic wounds, exhorting him to battle her former confreres.
But McCarthy should have enough sense left to realize that when Greene, who was urging her colleagues to take the win and vote for McCarthy, is the voice of rationality in the GOP, then you’re in what George H.W. Bush liked to call deep doo-doo. Put bluntly, McCarthy is a dead man walking. Soon enough, he can retire from Congress and have a go at reopening his old yoghurt shop in Bakersfield, California. The idea that he can become House speaker is simply California Dreamin’.
There are plenty of candidates who will vie to replace him. Jim Jordan would continue in the Dennis Hastert tradition of a former wrestling coach. Elise Stefanik rebranded as a Trumper several years ago and introduced McCarthy on Tuesday morning, bleating about his conservative credentials. Perhaps the most potent among the bunch is Steve Scalise who could probably bridge the divide between the conservative wing of the GOP and the nutjobs — at least for a few months.
But don’t be fooled: the opéra bouffe in the House is merely the overture to what looms over the next two years. There is a GOP majority but only on paper. The party is a study in dysfunction, united only by its inability to accomplish anything of merit. It will stage hearings targeting the Biden administration, pout about government spending, balk at raising the debt ceiling, thunder about cultural depravities in local schools — anything but actually govern.
President Biden and his aides are already delighting in the spectacle. The storyline writes itself: if the GOP can’t even elect a speaker, how can it expect to help run the country? It truly is delivering the greatest show on earth, but a freak show all the same.
Meanwhile, everything is coming up roses for Biden. He will travel to Kentucky on Wednesday to meet with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell to celebrate the infrastructure bill. On Friday, he will deliver a speech at the White House about January 6. Maybe the GOP will have elected a speaker by then. If not, Biden will surely point to the continued chaos on Capitol Hill that Republicans are once more generating as their standard operating procedure.