We don’t know how this will end, but nobody can claim this Republican chaos was ‘unexpected’

We don’t know how this will end, but nobody can claim this Republican chaos was ‘unexpected’

“What was expected to be a day of triumph for House Republicans coming into the majority turned into chaos,” says Wednesday’s AP explainer, and it’s not immediately clear whether the nation’s political press was genuinely caught off guard by the current Republican shitshow or are just pretending at it. Was Tuesday expected to be a day of “triumph” for House Republicans? No, it was pretty clear from the get-go that the day was more likely to be a whining, dysfunctional pie fight in which the House Freedom caucus—aka the rank base of the Republican anti-democracy, pro-sedition movement—insisted that they be given the lion’s share of new Republican powers or they’d sabotage the rest of the party, good and hard and forever.

Look, once a sizable chunk of the Republican Party has decided that seditious revolt is better than accepting election results they don’t like, nobody can really claim to be surprised that the same crowd would willingly sabotage their own party’s governing majority unless that majority, too, agreed that Team Sedition would get All The Powers.

These aren’t people who do real well with the concept of “voting.” If you thought they were going to suck it up and vote for Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the soggiest lump of bread to ever want the speaker’s post, after a vote or two to make their displeasure known, you don’t understand Team Sedition. They despise the notion that people other than themselves should be in charge of things.

Here’s a New York Times analysis that gets it right:

“The paralysis underscored the dilemma facing House Republicans: No matter the concessions made to some of those on the far right, they simply will not relent and join their colleagues even if it is for the greater good of their party, and perhaps the nation. They consider themselves conservative purists who cannot be placated unless all their demands are met — and maybe not even then.”

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Right. This is performative, for the would-be rebels. There’s nothing McCarthy can give them that would appease them because the moment he agrees to a thing, the performance requires demanding something else—or the “far-right” no longer has demands to differentiate itself with.

Again, these are people who watched a violent coup unfold and walked away from it without a stitch of remorse—instead making support for the seditionists a new party litmus test. They take glee in embarrassing anyone in the party who expresses the slightest commitment to “governing!”

What’s difficult to predict is how any of this is going to end, because the people sabotaging their party’s votes don’t know what their own end game is either. McCarthy isn’t getting the fan support he expected from the cable news channels, because nobody, anywhere, has ever been impressed with Kevin McCarthy. There’s no apparent downside for the party’s trolls and seditionists in dragging this out for days or even weeks—they’ll be able to fundraise off it as proof that they’re the only “true” conservatives in Congress.

There is no Republican consensus candidate, and any Republican who breaks ranks to bring the shitshow to an end by walking out and letting Democrats win the vote will not be in Congress two years from now. We can imagine a lot of ways this “could” end, but all of it hinges on trying to predict the strategies of a group of angry gerbils who don’t want to do anything but chew the House scenery for a while.

What better way to start the year than by previewing the biggest contests of 2023 on this week’s episode of The Downballot? Progressives will want to focus on a Jan. 10 special election for the Virginia state Senate that would allow them to expand their skinny majority; the April 4 battle for the Wisconsin Supreme Court that could let progressives take control from conservatives; Chicago’s mayoral race; gubernatorial contests in Kentucky and Louisiana; and much, much more.

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