Thursday, January 05, 2023

Republican "Freedom Caucus" now more Trumpian than Trump

Pretty much everyone but the 20 far-right Republicans who are part of the MAGA-style pro-Trump "Freedom Caucus", who are holding the whole American country hostage by refusing to elect Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the small Republican majority House of Representatives, find this whole situation pretty embarrassing.

The Republicans have tried 6 times over two days to land a vote that will allow McCarthy to take up the position he has coveted for so long. They say they will keep holding votes for as long as it takes until they get what they want. The "Freedom Caucus" has vowed to keep up its opposition as long as it takes until McCarthy gives up and allows a more right-wing candidate to be voted in to the position, one who supports their demands for, inter alia, rule changes allowing more influence to individual representatives at the expense of party elders, a pledge to balance budgets, a vote on term limits, and a border plan that includes more deportations and the completion of Trump's border wall. This, of course, would lead to even more opposition from a larger number of more moderate Republicans, so the impasse looks insurmountable.

Thing is, even Trump opposes these "pro-Trump" zealots. He has openly called on the Freedom Caucus to "VOTE FOR KEVIN" (in capitals, of course). He's not just being nice -  Trump doesn't do nice - he wants someone he knows he can dominate if/when he gets elected back into power. 

But the likes of Lauren Broebert, Chip Roy, Matt Gaetz, etc (here is a list - most of the names I don't even recognize), are now more Trumpian than Trump. As one commentators put it, Trump has "set in motion forces he can't control any more", and "he can't put the genie back in the lamp".

Interestingly, parallel to these federal shenanigans, the state of Pennsylvania, after a weird, tight, see-saw election, has recently voted a Democrat in as Speaker, despite the Republicans having a very slight majority. More than a dozen Republicans voted across the aisle for the consensus candidate, and the winner promptly vowed to govern as an independent. Kumbaya! Don't expect anything remotely like that to happen at the federal level.


After 14 rounds of unsuccessful votes, McCarthy finally got himself elected Speaker on the 15th vote, having sacrificed any credibility he might ever have had, and after making a bunch of unspecified concessions to the hard-right Freedom Caucus, concessions that moderates say may make it harder for the GOP to effectively govern (including the reinstatement of a rule that would allow any single member to call a vote to oust the Speaker at any time). 

It was not an edifying sight. Apparently, it almost came to fisticuffs in the GOPs ranks at one point, as Mike Rogers and Matt Gaetz had to be pulled apart.

Of course, Trump was behind the scenes, pulling strings, holding meetings, and he will almost certainly take "credit" for it. But all this has really not been a good look for the Republicans, especially given their razor-thin majority in the House. Democrats are vowing to take advantage of this Republican disarray, and to go on the offensive. We'll see what that means in practice.

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