The Unlamented Former Speaker

It’s not exactly a surprise that Kevin McCarthy is no longer Speaker of the House, probably most of all to McCarthy himself. As a condition of his ascendance into that position, which took fifteen rounds of rather embarrassing haggling, he had to agree that a motion to vacate the position (i.e., his ability to get fired from the job) could be initiated by a single representative — and then it was, by Matt Gaetz, who was, as I understand it, one of those who demanded that condition in the first place. You can’t hand a dagger to a known and enthusiastic stabber and say “you can cut me any time you like,” and then be surprised when he, in fact, stabs you at his convenience. Don’t give a stabber a knife, a firebug a box of matches, or a sloppy drunk the keys to your car, especially when you’re riding shotgun without a seatbelt. Gaetz is all three of these things, when it comes to the House of Representatives. And he was waiting for his moment.

That said, very little of value has been lost with McCarthy’s demotion. He was, flatly, a terrible Speaker of the House, someone who wanted the position more than he had the capability to work it; a spineless, self-hobbled wretch at the mercy of the worst elements of the House GOP — most notably Gaetz, but, to be sure, not only Gaetz — who had no ability to control his caucus or keep his word to anyone. Incapable and untrustworthy is no way to go through life.

After McCarthy’s unseating, several Republican and/or conservative commentators wondered why the Democrats didn’t hand him a lifeline, and the answer to that was: Why should they have? He’d burned them often and pointedly offered no concessions for their cooperation during the motion to vacate. Anyway, they weren’t the ones who had offered the motion to vacate, that had been from the GOP side. They were under no obligation to save McCarthy from the trap he set for himself, nine months ago.

Which apparently came as a surprise to a number of Republicans! Including Gaetz himself, who noted prior to the vote on the motion to vacate that he expected at least some of the Democrats would vote to save McCarthy’s speakership rather than risk the chaos that would follow. This is the problem with the recent conservative trick of offering things up for a vote without the intention or expectation of winning, and then not having a plan for when you do win. Trump’s 2016 presidential run, the Brexit vote in the UK, this bit of chicanery: They were supposed to be useful bits of messaging, not actual things that were meant to happen. But then they did, and those who offered them for voting was caught flat-footed. We see the mess that Brexit and a Trump presidency have gotten us. This new nonsense is smaller, to be sure, but the dynamic is the same. Modern conservatives can’t govern; they can only signal. That’s the only thing they know how to do any more.

If the GOP actually wanted a speakership that was useful — and to keep itself from looking like a bunch of political dimwits setting fires just to watch things burn — they would offer up whoever in their party could still be considered moderate, which is almost no one, and promise the Democrats that they would stuff the Hastert Rule (i.e., nothing offered to vote that can’t pass with just GOP votes) into a box, put the box in a shredder, light the shreds on fire and throw the ashes into the sea. The chances of the modern GOP doing that, especially when the runaway front-runner for the GOP presidential candidacy is a fraud and a rapist currently indicted on 91 federal and state charges who actively chose to interfere with a peaceful transition of power rather than admit he was a loser, and who holds absolute sway over the party, are pretty slim. So maybe don’t count on that.

As for McCarthy, he’s already said he won’t run for speaker again, and who can blame him? He’s done it and for his pains he’s got stab wounds from one of the worst people in politics (for now; there’s a chance that the marginally-more-sensible members of the House will now vote to expel Gaetz, ostensibly on ethics charges but mostly for being a chaos demon in their midst. We’ll see). Like former speaker John Boehner, McCarthy probably came to the conclusion that trying to wrangle the box of feral weasels that is the modern House GOP is not worth the perks that come with the gig, especially as it is evident that he had neither the skill or spine for the job. That’s fine, and more than that, it’s the most sensible thing McCarthy could do at this point. Be all, “fuck all y’all, I’m going for a bike ride” and take some time for himself before going back to being an unremarkable back-bencher from Bakersfield.

We will eventually get a new Speaker of the House out of the GOP, although at this point I don’t know who there would want the gig, given they would be as susceptible to the whims of Matt Gaetz, or some other nihilistic chud, as McCarthy was. The GOP’s problems remain the same: They can’t govern, don’t know how to govern, and too many of their members in the House honestly have no interest in governing. They don’t have enough numbers to control those among them who just like starting fires. So they are going to burn.

Unfortunately, the rest of us are stuck in the same house they’ve gleefully set on fire. This is where we are in 2023, and with this GOP.

— JS

76 Comments on “The Unlamented Former Speaker”

  1. “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out” sums up my nicest feelings on the matter.

    I’m heartbroken because I’ve been socked in with Covid for a week and a half and ran out of popcorn early on.

  2. I think they should make Marjorie Taylor Greene Speaker. Then, she could license the Jewish space lasers and make us all safe.

  3. One thing I’m not clear on though, that may throw a monkey wrench into the works. Can they expel him before there’s a speaker? If not, there’s still plenty of chaos he can do.

    With Scalise and Gym Jordan being the current front runners that I most recently heard, shudder

  4. The interesting side note is that the Democrats almost did save him. Four of them were absent for the vote, meaning that McCarthy only needed to get to 214 votes to hold onto his speakership. If he’d only lost seven GOP votes and every GOP Rep had voted, he’d have done it. Instead, he lost 8 and three GOP reps didn’t vote.

    I don’t know whether the Dem absences were deliberate (and plausibly deniable) or not, but it was closer than it might have been.

  5. He acquired the position through monumental effort, he did nothing effective with it, he got thrown out in record time, he’s not even interested in returning.

    But from now on, for the rest of history, every list of Speakers of the House of Representatives will have Kevin McCarthy’s name on it.

    Is that all he really wanted?

  6. Are there discussions in America during events like these, that is is – in part – caused by your two party system?

    If the House had a promotional representation it would be harder for political fringes to hold the House and its speaker politically hostage.

  7. My main reason for not lamenting him is that there is only one other trail of lies thicker than his.

    Hakim Jefferies actually did tell him that all he had to do was ask for help and they would. McCarthy rebuffed him on live TV.

    I would kick the door closed on him if I had been there, because he had made a deal with Biden on the budget and tore it up when he got out the door.

  8. I agree that the Dems should not have saved McCarthy–he seemed incapable of keeping his word, so it was only a matter of time before he repaid their help with a stab in the back of his own. I do wonder, however, if it would make sense for them to work with the more moderate elements in the GOP to elect a speaker that the wing nuts can’t hold hostage. It certainly seems that they could get concessions for doing so–more committee representation, for example, votes on clean CRs, and the ability to get their bills to the floor for a vote.

  9. 1) Can the Dems trust “moderate” GOPers? They don’t seem to have evinced much positive control over the GOP at this point, and their constituents might force them to abandon any promises to keep their jobs.
    2) It seems that the GOP is taking their anger out on Dems for not stopping the GOP from humiliating itself in public, so the likelihood for comity seems…small.
    3) Had the Dems stood up for McCarthy, I imagine the GOP would have complained that the Dems were inserting themselves into a political decision that belonged to the GOP. The only thing that the GOP seems good at (well, other than creating sh#$shows) is blaming other people for the consequences of its actions, so I don’t think the Dems had a option that the GOPers wouldn’t have complained about.

  10. Are there discussions in America during events like these, that is is – in part – caused by your two party system?

    Absolutely not. There’s one thing the Democrats and Republicans quietly agree on and that’s to make sure the election laws are engineered such that it’s impossible for a third (or fourth) party to have the remotest chance of viability. They’ve done such a good job that the idea never even comes up in the media or public discussion. I’ll bet some people think the two-party system is part of the constitution like the bicameral legislature.

  11. McCarthy actively lied on TV about the dems wanting the shutdown, immediately after relying on their help to pass a CR. Then he wonders why no one helps him.

  12. at this point, i really dislike the label “conservatives” for republicans. they’re not classic conservatives any more. a lot of what they espouse and do is anything but. not that i’m conservative and feel insulted, but true conservatives should be. they spend as much or more than any liberal or democrat would, just on different things. there’s a reason the deficit goes up more with the republican party is in charge than when the dems are in charge.

    this new republican party is a completely new beast. even reagan would be appalled.

  13. David –

    Democrats were absent because they were attending Feinstein’s funeral in CA. Pelosi asked McCarthy to delay the vote to give them time to get back to DC, and he deliberately scheduled the vote to coincide with the memorial service when he could have postponed by a day.

    So, he may have gained a 5-vote cushion with the Dems who couldn’t get back in time, but his lack of consideration almost certainly solidified the rest of the Dems against him.

  14. This is the problem with the recent conservative trick of offering things up for a vote without the intention or expectation of winning, and then not having a plan for when you do win. Trump’s 2016 presidential run, the Brexit vote in the UK, this bit of chicanery: They were supposed to be useful bits of messaging, not actual things that were meant to happen.

    Bravo! 👏

  15. Yesterday I heard that among the potential candidates for Speaker is Ohio’s beloved “Gym” Jordan.

  16. I have to admit enjoying some of your characterizations of elements in the GOP; “box of feral weasels” and “Chaos demon” are chef’s kiss The description of our former POTUS is one of the most concise yet expressive I have yet encountered.

  17. Yes, I already thought that this debate is the one the USA don’t have, but is actually the most important debate the USA should have: A reform of the rules on whoch your democracy runs.

    For example: Does an electoral college still make sense?
    Should there be a proportional representation in the House?
    Why, if you’ve got two chambers of Congress should you vote both bin by majoritarian representation?
    Why not vote for the president in potentially two ballot (the candidate would only win the first ballot if he or she gets more than 50% of the votes)?
    Shouldn’t it be easier to change the constitution?
    (I mean even Germany changed her constitution 30 times since you amended it the last time)

  18. Melissa –

    So, he may have gained a 5-vote cushion with the Dems who couldn’t get back in time, but his lack of consideration almost certainly solidified the rest of the Dems against him.

    Yep, as has been that weasel’s habit the entire time he’s held the gavel.

    And then he and his boosters immediately blame Dems for not saving him. More pathetic than funny, but utterly predictable.

    It is much less forgivable that the Liberal Media(tm) is boosting that bullshit – they consciously insist on this model of the world where Republicans’ actions are like the weather – nothing you can do, but for some reason Democrats have the responsibility to clean up after them.

    It is like they’ve internalized a dysfunctional 50’s nuclear family model – Democratic Mom’s responsibility is holding the family together and making sure the kids eat even when Republican Dad’s out tying one on after banging a waitress. And you’re also not allowed to talk about Dad’s little problem.

    Happy 2023, everyone!

  19. 1) AOC posted a terrific video on her IG account of what happened & why, much like this set of obsevations.
    2) The GOP is following the path Steve Bannon espouses: burn it all down. Why? To be able to hurt the people they want to hurt and steal from everybody, with nothing & no one to stop them. It’s why so many of them admire Russia & Vlad the Mad: they all want to be oligarchs.

  20. Note that calling Trump “a fraud and a rapist” is not libel, because actual Courts have ruled that indeed both of those words are factually true about him.

  21. There’s also an argument to be made to uncap the House and set representation at one representative per X people. This would potentially mitigate some of the effect of gerrymandering and the electoral college (some, but not all).

  22. @Melissa

    Feinstein’s funeral is tomorrow. Pelosi is there but she could have made the vote and made it back in time if she’d wanted.

    The others range from having no real excuse (Peltola and Sykes) to being in isolation for Covid (Bush — though she’s past the isolation time requirement of the CDC).

  23. thanks JS, had to look it up but learned a word today, ie – CHUD

    Chud is a slang term used online to refer to people who are considered far from socially normal and unpleasant to be around. The term, undergoing slight changes in its meaning over the decades, has maintained its usage as an offensive and negatively connotated word. Starting in 2020, the term spawned the Chudjak, Avatar Chud, and GigaChud memes as it was increasingly connected with the alt-right.

  24. Since they’re apparently not doing anything until Tuesday, though, McCarthy could have waited to have the vote but didn’t.

    There were three missing R’s as well (221-218), and considering the balance of their party, that might be relevant.

  25. @Michael Fuss: “If the House had a promotional representation it would be harder for political fringes to hold the House and its speaker politically hostage.”

    Much as I hate first-past-the-post systems and dislike two-party systems more, I’m not convinced this is completely true. It seems to me that in most places with highly-fractured proportional representation (say, Italy or Israel), the fringe parties very definitely DO hold their parliaments hostage.

    @Scalzi: So, you’ve got rid of a weasel, but what’s the alternative? It’s gonna be another weasel: most likely a wolverine.

    Having lived through Brexit (though fortunately, I’m home in Canada, now, where all we have to worry about is the looming war with India), I’m convinced that rather than “not having a plan for when you do win” the outcome is EXACTLY what its prime supporters wanted. It’s actually a bit the opposite. The man who called the vote didn’t have a plan for losing (PM David Cameron allowed himself to be railroaded into the vote, because he was sure it would fail).

  26. Many countries with parliamentary systems automatically have elections called when certain key votes fail. These can be votes explicitly for that purpose (the classic “vote of no confidence”) but in many countries they can also include votes to approve a budget, recognize a majority leader or coalition, or other basic things necessary for a government to fulfill its essential functions.

    The hope is that voters will then elect folks who can get government working again. It doesn’t always work (some countries have recently gone through multiple elections in quick succession that have failed to result in a prime minister), but it often works as a way to get a sensible government going again when the existing legislative majority is unable or unwilling to govern.

    I realize it would take a constitutional amendment to happen here, but I’m finding the idea more and more appealing the idea to try here. Basically, if Congress persistently fails to pass a budget, guarantee its financial obligations, or elect a chamber presider, after a certain point special elections get automatically called, and everyone in the relevant chamber(s) has to successfully run for re-election, or yield the seat to their opposition.

    It’s been very hard lately to pass any sort of constitutional amendments, given the level of current US political polarization, but I hold out a hope that a basic, nonpartisan, “do your job or get out of the way” amendment might have some chance at attracting enough folks who want some sort of functional government to pass it.

  27. “Since they’re apparently not doing anything until Tuesday, though, McCarthy could have waited to have the vote but didn’t.”

    A motion to vacate has to come up for a vote within two legislative days of being introduced. So it had to be by today at latest (they’re not doing anything now BECAUSE of McCarthy being thrown out).

  28. Looking at pics of Gaetz during this brouhaha, he looks to me like a cartoon villain the only thing missing is mustache to twirl.

  29. I figure that, like Boehner, his attitude is “I don’t need this sh!t.” However, he brought ALL of it on himself, so, serves you right, loser.

    I only wish they had the sense to toss Gaetz, but doubt it.

  30. Neither parliamentary nor multi-party systems are particularly more stable than the Congressional one.

    Israel has had 5 elections in 5 years because it can’t create a lasting parliamentary majority in its multi-party system, for example.

    (In fact, McCarthy losing looks a lot like what could happen in a multi-party coalition when a small party that gives the coalition its majority defects, there’s usually political chaos)

  31. The new acting Speaker (friend of McCarthy) has lost no time punishing Democrats for not saving them. He gave Nancy Pelosi one day to vacate one of her spaces, knowing she couldn’t since she’s in California at her friend Diane Feinstein’s funeral.

  32. Rob, by the rules NOTHING can be done until they elect a Speaker, so no Impeachment or Hunter Biden hearings, etc.

    So, far from all bad.

    cupertino jay: C.H.U.D. = Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers

  33. It was all perfectly predictable, the “Young Guns” of the conservative movement who conserved nothing, made hefty promises to repeal “obamacare” and when they had the full power to do so in 2017 refused to do it, because they never wanted to govern or pass legislation anyway. At this point I assume Gaetz and Trump are popular simply because they do the opposite of Conservative Inc. who fathom the problems of the day and have no incentive to fix anything. At least Democrats are there to pull the fire alarm when it suits them and distract you, or send out test alerts and UFO stories so you’re not alarmed by actual issues.

  34. “They can’t govern, don’t know how to govern, and too many of their members in the House honestly have no interest in governing.” — I’m afraid it’s even a step worse than that; they, and most of their voters, are philosophically opposed to governing.

  35. All the grief given Democrats for not bailing him out misses the fundamental flaw with McCarth: he kept breaking deals. It’s one thing to be an asshole, it is another to be an untrustworthy asshole.

  36. To people saying that the two-party system is at fault…

    Umm. No.

    We don’t HAVE two parties in the House. We have FOUR. We have the Democratic Socialists (aka Progressives), the Democrats (aka Liberals), Conservatives (aka Mainstreet Republicans) and the Feral Weasels (aka Freedom Caucus/MAGAts). The first two have built an effective coalition government and opposition. The latter two have built a circular firing squad.

    To somehow suggest that an inability to LABEL the four segments with different names and offer them up on a ballot is to put your favored solution up as an antidote to a disease caused by small party effects.

    Lest you “Nuh UH” me, consider for a moment, the Knesset. Israeli politics offer up a platonic ideal of your “multiple party solution”. And they are in thrall to the extreme right wing which is about the same proportion as ours?

    (That’s a rhetorical question.)

  37. @Dav1d,

    Wikipedia (page: “Removal of Kevin McCarthy”) has a table listing all members of the House that voted against their party or were absent for one or more of the votes. For absent voters, there are footnotes for all but one of the members indicating why they were absent. All but Gooden and Wilson missed both the vote to table and the vote to vacate; Gooden missed the vacate vote, Wilson the table vote.

    Bush (D-MO 1), medical procedure
    Carter (R-TX 31), health reasons
    Gooden (R-TX 5), no reason listed for missing vote to vacate
    Luna (R-FL 13), maternity leave
    Pelosi (D-CA 11), attending Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s funeral
    Peltola (D-AK at-large), attending her husband’s funeral
    Sykes (D-OH 13), personal family matters
    Wilson (D-FL 24), en route back to the Capitol during vote to table

    You wrote “The others range from having no real excuse (Peltola and Sykes) to being in isolation for Covid (Bush — though she’s past the isolation time requirement of the CDC).”

    I wouldn’t characterize attending your husband’s funeral as “no real excuse”!

  38. Wasn’t LBJ (the consummate politician) who complained about someone who reneged on his word that politicians who get bought should stay bought? Maybe he figured he could pull off the Trump thing of promising to pay, never doing so, and yet having a line of people willing to make another deal with him, but he’s not good at that, either.

    D: Sorry. I assumed if the funeral was a day after the vote (and I thought the vote was pretty quick after the demand to go, 48 h would have given them time to return.

  39. “ I wouldn’t characterize attending your husband’s funeral as “no real excuse”!”

    Peltola’s husband’s funeral was on Sept 17. Google is your friend.

  40. Michael Fuss, “Are there discussions in America during events like these, that is is – in part – caused by your two party system? If the House had a promotional representation it would be harder for political fringes to hold the House and its speaker politically hostage.”

    There are such discussions all the time. There are, in fact, several other small parties, none of which have enough support to make any difference — other than siphon voters from the major party with which they most agree, making it more likely that the party they don’t like will win an election.

  41. I do not really follow Israeli domestic politics so I can not fully comment on this one.
    What I see when I look into is, is a society under siege by the circumstances it lives in. It’s hard for me to imagine what this does to a society but I see a lot of the problems in current Israeli politics as an effect of this.

    When it comes to other examples like Italy: The parliament and the government of Italy are intentionally designed to be unstable.
    But none of this is putting the country in this annual economic threat of government shutdown.

    Other nations with multiparty systems have mechanism in their voting rules that go against giving small parties undue power. That can be percentage hurdles to get seats in parliament (5% in Germany)

    The pointof there being already four parties in the House doesn’t really correspond with a multiparty system. That’s because in a voting district where there’s the coice between a weazle Republican and a far-left Democrat the voters only have this choice.
    On top of that it often seems beyond control of the voters what kind of candidate ‘their’ party presents them and what kind of party ‘their’ party is.
    Apparently, as I’ve read it, the religious right in the GOP draged local meetings out until the moderates left and then voted in their candidates in their absence.

    On top of that my perception, that American society seems mich less polarized than their parties make it seem.
    Maybe I’m wrong, but if there were two centrist parties, one further left, one further right, then they could have always formed a very comfortable grand coalition against the more extreme fringes of the American political spectrum.

  42. DAVID: Peltola’s husband’s funeral was on Sept 17. Google is your friend.

    I dunno, David, given that Peltola’s husband died in a plane crash and she hasn’t been back to DC since, I’d still could this as a “real” excuse. Apparently, she was willing to return if her vote had been needed–but since the Democrats were not going to save McCarthy, it wasn’t.

    Personally, I find Melissa’s original point–that if McCarthy had shown a bit more consideration for the Democrats, they might have been more interested in at least trying to save him–to be more-or-less valid, whatever the situation with specific individuals . . . YMMV, of course, but I do think that McCarthy’s attitude towards the Democrats in general wasn’t particularly helpful to his cause.

    https://alaskapublic.org/2023/10/03/dramatic-day-in-u-s-house-as-members-oust-the-speaker/

  43. Yes, that’s why the term radical centrism got coined in American political debate.

    To get to a different system the voters would have to find a way to convince either the Democrats or the Republicans to do this constitutional reform which would go in this moment against the momentary interests of the party.

    Btw. what really exasperated me was, that I got this term (radical centrism) thrown at in German political debate where it, due to a different set circumstances that are defined by the voting system, makes no sense.

  44. “Apparently, she was willing to return if her vote had been needed–but since the Democrats were not going to save McCarthy, it wasn’t.”

    You’re misunderstanding the situation — Peltola’s absence made it easier for McCarthy, not harder. If she’d been there and voted against him, he would have needed even more GOP votes. She helped him by being gone.*

    “Personally, I find Melissa’s original point–that if McCarthy had shown a bit more consideration for the Democrats, they might have been more interested in at least trying to save him–to be more-or-less valid, whatever the situation with specific individuals . . .”

    Again, you’re misunderstanding my point. I think it’s possible that the Democrats actually gave McCarthy a window for survival and he couldn’t take advantage of it. I’m not talking about whether they should have or not; I’m talking about whether they did. I’ll repeat the point: enough Democrats were absent that McCarthy needed to hold onto substantially fewer GOP members to survive than he would have if they’d all been there. I don’t know if Minority Leader Jeffries was doing that deliberately or not (and he’d never admit it now) but the fact that Pelosi was absent is interesting.

    “but if there were two centrist parties, one further left, one further right, then they could have always formed a very comfortable grand coalition against the more extreme fringes of the American political spectrum.”

    I can’t think of a historical moment when that’s happened in a non-existential crisis situation in modern history.**

    *Peltola already has a terrible attendance record in the House.
    **noting that I have a Ph.D in modern history, so assume that I’ve looked.

  45. “Modern conservatives can’t govern; they can only signal. That’s the only thing they know how to do any more.”

    My concerns about this are threefold:

    1) We still suffer the consequences, with very little capacity to really do anything about it;

    2) They never get punished for it or suffer setbacks, really. For the most part every time the GOP fails at something stupid, they then just double-down on getting stupider. The voters don’t really seem to turn against them meaningfully.

    3) And eventually, they will have a plan for when they get what they want. They’ll get good at and used to causing these chaos moments and finally take the next steps.

    For instance, much of Trump’s flailing around was figuring out that running an administration is not the same as running a private company, and there are lifelong staffers (‘deep state’ if you will) who will provide guardrails. So, in response to that lesson, conservative groups have been devising plans on how to wholesale fire and replace civil service workers or keep their chairs vacant. Trump’s term was “holy shit we didn’t think we’d do it, what now?” but literally any GOP POTUS we have next, whether it’s Trump or anyone else, will likely decimate state capacity on day one.

    It’s frustrating. All of these events would be actually informative and bear some political lessons if either the GOP showed even marginal interest in reversing course, or their voters got burnt out and the GOP gained permanent minority status. Neither ever happens, so I never feel I learn anything from these events either. The analysis always remains the same.

  46. The root cause of the problem is the gerrymandered districts. In those uber-conservative districts you can only can lose in the primary, so there is no incentive to work with the Dem’s or be moderate in any way. It’s created a generation of wing-nut babies with no reason grow up.

  47. @DAVID
    I was speculating about a hypothetical American multiparty system.

    Maybe you misunderstood that as the moderate parts of the Dems and Reps forming coalitions against the fringes of their parties.
    This is really something I wouldn’t expect to happen in situations other than existential ones.

  48. “I was speculating about a hypothetical American multiparty system.”

    And I was asking for actual historical evidence that your speculation is even remotely plausible.

  49. There may be four ideological clusters in Congress these days, but they exist in a legal framework of two major party organizations. What’s noteworthy about this is that there is not one word in the Constitution that grants party organizations any sort of political power whatsoever.

    I am therefore of the opinion that the way to break the current partisan logjam is not via Constitutional amendment, but rather by carefully crafted lawsuits that force the existing major parties to conform to the structures and limitations of traditional membership-based nonprofits, and disconnect party membership entirely from voter registration data. I would also argue that such Congressional rules of order that delegate explicit institutional power to extra-Congressional party officials or entities are unconstitutional on their face; Congress doesn’t and shouldn’t have the power to delegate its legislative authority to an outside entity.

    Will the parties howl and do their best to derail such lawsuits? Of course. But I think the underlying logic is sound, and with the right backing going that route would be easier than attempting a Constitutional change, whether via amendment or (more likely) convention.

  50. Almost totally unrelated but important question:

    Do you pronounce it “gee oh pee” or gop as in “pop go the (extremist) weasels”?

  51. Somebody should setup a web cam on an empty chair and a head of cabbage. We’ll see – a la Liz Truss – which rots first.

  52. Their problems are systemic and can’t be fixed by rearranging the chairs and petty acts of revenge.

    And I think they brough it on themselves through their addiction to extreme gerrymandering. The more safe districts you create, the more in which the only election that matters is the primary. And you win that by running as far to the right as possible, and so the more extremists you end up electing.

    They could cure the party’s problems through redistricting reform but they aren’t smart enough to figure that out. McCarthy couldn’t even figure out that when you lie to people they won’t help you when you need it.

  53. One of those things I really (really!) hate about better writers is their ability to articulate my thoughts better than I can… Stross, Scalzi, Mcmaster-Bujold, Heinlein, Doctorow, et al

    John Scalzi just did that to me… again…

    “… This is the problem with the recent conservative trick of offering things up for a vote without the intention or expectation of winning, and then not having a plan for when you do win. …” [ [ etc ] ]

    So here’s my extension upon another, better writer…

    Traits traditionally viewed as masculine in Western society include: assertiveness, courage, independence, leadership, strength and vigor.

    Feeling pressured by long standing issues, too long unresolved, the men of the GOP have had to act in modes of what could be seen as hyper-masculine to the degree of being self-parodying.

    Ted Cruz drinking beer is as plausible as me (or John Scalzi or a zillion others) wearing camo and carrying a carbon-fiber bow ‘n arrow into the forest during deer season to bag the legal limit and ‘get me a buck’.

    (Whereas walking alongside a couple dozen others in a modern version of a ‘Mongol harvest’, beating the underbrush for flushing out enough meat-on-the-hooves to stock the pantry against winter, yeah, that I’ve done. Would do again. And if it was the only way a struggling father and husband in midst a global depression in some alternate timeline could feed his daughter and wife, yeah, John Scalzi would do it alongside us. Because he’s a practical fella, him. No matter which timeline.)

    Ever stupider moments across America, during which Republicans are performatively loud rather than effectively successful. Confusing “assertiveness” with rude and vocal and impatient. “Independence” becoming refusal to coordinate, never to cooperate, abhorring to ever compromise. “Leadership” is not what they are doing; if anyone mistook their behavior as being a leader, its because they’ve been watching too much bang-bang teevee and reading too few articles from the Harvard Business Review. “Vigor” despite what T(he)rump insists, is not having five kids by way of three different women nor in raping a dozen others (or more if you include what was hushed up by Fordham Univ. administrators).

    For so many Ivy League bookworms, lawyers and dweebs amongst the Republicans to attempt at this late stage of their lives such hyper-masculine behaviors simply gets laughable. As well as making themselves suspected as being not only a bit too artificially butch, there’s been backlash as ever more mutterings about this or that guy being ‘you-know-nudge-nudge’ little light on his feet. The sort of guy who really enjoys the artistry of idealized male figures by Tom of Finland rather than Pinup Girls by Vargas. The way ‘proper men’ ought to do.

    (Yet one more instance of paranoia amongst revolutionaries ‘n fanatics; no wonder these moral majority social reformers had a reputation of internal abuses verging upon cannibalism.)

    Bottom line?

    They’ve lost. Not just at the federal level, but almost at every level of elected government. Just gotta keep ‘em from tipping over the board and declaring marital law the way T(he)rump failed to achieve in January, 2021. There will be a better, improved version of President-For-Life. Mike Pence? Ron DeSantis? Maybe someone new and unknown claws their way up the greasy flagpole to become king of the trolls?

    We just have to keep reminding them. They’ve lost.

    As a reminder from Covid lockdown, here’s something in way of nature, red of claw, quite possibly will soon happen at the GOP convention. Be fun to watch.

    “CDC warns of aggressive cannibal rats facing shortage of garbage to eat; officials say rats have resorted to open warfare and eating their young as closures reduce edible waste”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/25/us-city-lockdowns-rat-aggression-lack-food-waste

  54. @DAV1D
    You’re looking for evidence that grand coalition governments would be historically plausible?

    You’d have to look outside the USA.

    The governments of Angela Merkel from 2005 to 2009 and then again from 2013 to 2021.

  55. Sorry to be all editorially nit-picky, but this keeps bothering me –

    It’s not exactly a surprise that Kevin McCarthy is no longer Speaker of the House, probably most of all to McCarthy himself.

    Shouldn’t that be least of all, to match the negative?

  56. @HowardNYC

    I think it’s interesting how the imagine of what if means to be a conservative changed. In my youth I the caricature of a stereotypical conservative would have been a man who meets with his conservative colleagues in a smokers salon, reads classics, is fluent in Latin and plots how to keep the lower tiers of society in their place.

  57. When it comes to being fluent in Latin and reading classics:
    It seems that the conservatives fell victim to their own educational policies.

  58. But Brexit was and is a rip-roaring success. It must be – our press repeatedly tells us so.

    Just ignore that our economy tanked, the conservatives have been on a 13 year thieving spree, funnelling the state’s money into their pals’ pockets, the oil companies can charge what they want, the housing stock has been eaten by rentier landlords, the supermarket shelves are a shadow of what they were …

    Utter, utter bastards.

  59. @WaveyDavey: Not ALL the press. The Guardian seems to have chosen to stand out from the crowd. But it thoroughly annoyed me how the BBC which, alone amongst British media, is expected to be neutral, has been one of the biggest Brexit flag wavers.

    It WAS a success from the point of view of most of its proponents: it allowed them to short sell the whole country.

  60. @ Michael Fuss:

    “I think it’s interesting how the imagine of what if means to be a conservative changed.”

    The definition and meaning of “conservative” has not changed.

    What has changed is the widespread acceptance of the term “conservative” to define openly white supremacist, clerofascist radicals, inimical to a modern, secular society. I.e. the exact opposite of “conservative” – “conserve” and “disrupt” are virtual antonyms.

    (Oddly, this does not seem to bother many (allegedly) “real” conservatives.)

  61. There are two changes that do not require constitutional amendments, only legislative changes, and that would help reduce (but not eliminate) issues with the conservatives’ over-representation in the House and in the Electoral College.

    Uncap the House. 435 is not written into the Constitution (although I’m sure many people think that it is). It was frozen at 435 by a corrupt bargain over a century ago. It significantly over-represents the smaller-population states. There’s already one chamber of the legislature that over-represents the small states; why should both of them be so?

    I favor increasing the size of the house so that it broadly follows the “cube-root rule,” an observation of how legislative size relates to populations across “western” democracies. If applied today, it would increase the House to about 690 members (the last time I looked). If we had followed this from 1920, the jump would not seem so large. It would more closely represent both the House and the Electoral College.

    If you say, “But there isn’t enough room in the House chamber!” I say, “1. That doesn’t stop the British Parliament, which also has fewer seats than members,” and “2. Rebuild the chamber. It’s been done before, and we can afford it.”

    Instant Runoff Voting (i.e. the “Hugo Award voting” system). Ranked-Choice Voting (another name for IRV) and not voting by parties means less opportunity for extremists getting elected.

    Additionally, there is nothing in the Constitution that requires that electoral votes be allocated winner-take-all. Two states already split their votes up by congressional district. The currently system means that significant numbers of people effectively have no voice in the presidential elections.

    IRV and EV allocation are not national issues. They can be adopted by individual states.

  62. I liked Jake Tapper’s comment: McCarthy gave them a box of matches and hoped they’d only burn down part of the house. But that’s not how fire works.

  63. The problem with the GOP is that when power is all that matters, you get people for whom power is all that matters. If you’re interested in better government or a set of principles, you haven’t been interested in the GOP for at least 20 years, and likely more. So no one interested in saving the party is actually around.

    Gerrymandering gets them power – changing it (to save the party) is not in the best interest of either their members (some of whom will lose their jobs) or their voters (who have consistently rewarded them for getting power and abandoning (any remaining) principle). It may end if courts force them to, or general election voters maybe, but likely in spite of them, not because.

  64. I do not really believe that the GOP could improve the system. If there is a helpful constitutional reform, than I might expect this to come from the Democrats.

    Perhaps they should start speaking about their plans on what they would do if the voters in America would ever hand them enough power to amend or change the constitution at will.
    As unlikely as this scenario seems at the moment – if they can make enough of the GOP base believe that this is nothing to fear maybe they would hand them this power.

    Maybe they would need to refrain from changing the 2nd amendment and leave that issue to administrations elected according to the new constitution…

  65. “Perhaps they should start speaking about their plans on what they would do if the voters in America would ever hand them enough power to amend or change the constitution at will.”

    Alas, Michael, amending the Constitution doesn’t work that way. An amendment does have to be voted on in Congress, true, but afterwards -assuming it passes that first hurdle – the Amendment must also be passed by 2/3 of the states.

    Every “Red” state has thoroughly corrupted its elections, election administration, and state legislature to the point that the odds of passing any Constitutional Amendment that makes voting easier, better, and more representative of what the states’ residents actually want is essentially zero.

    (Ohio voters recently, by an impressive margin, voted down an attempt by the GOP-controlled legislature to make passing initiatives almost impossible; if the abortion rights initiative does pass, the state GOP will try whatever it can to nullify that outcome….As GOP-controlled states have done previously regarding restoration of voting rights, expansion of Medicaid, and other issues their citizens voted to approve.)

    IOW, Constitutional Amendments offered and even passed by a Democratic-controlled Congress have very little chance of passing in 2/3 of the states, when 22 states currently have GOP trifectas (i.e., GOP control of the entire state government).

  66. @CaseyL: Actually, it’s even harder to amend the Constitution. It requires 2/3rds of each House of Congress to submit the amendment to the states (or a Constitutional Convention that has never been held) but needs 3/4ths of the states to ratify (not 2/3rds) – which has been 38 states since 1959.

    One approach to minor parties that doesn’t require a (federal) constitutional amendment is fusion voting, which is still practiced in New York and Connecticut, and to a degree in certain other states. This allows candidates to be endorsed by multiple political parties, whose votes are then combined to find out who won. A bunch of states have banned fusion voting that used to allow it, but presumably could re-allow it again if they were so inclined.

    Fusion voting allows minor parties to maintain a separate identity while remaining relevant to big races by endorsing some but not all of the candidates of one of the bigger parties. By making it clear how many votes their endorsement gained the winning candidate, they position themselves to influence that person’s policies later. Back when there were liberal Republicans in New York, such as Jacob Javits, the Liberal party would sometimes cross-endorse such Republicans over the Democrat. You can see the effect of those endorsements in his election results at the end of the article – both when the Liberal party endorsed him and when they didn’t. They did wind up acting as a spoiler in his last election in 1980 when he lost the Republican nomination due to his illness but then ran on the Liberal line alone, which led to the election of conservative Republican Al D’Amato over Democrat Elizabeth Holtzman (though D’Amato’s winning margin came from fusion votes from two of the smaller parties who endorsed him). So both good and bad effects of fusion voting, but it does lead to multiple viable parties in New York elections.

  67. As an aside, you don’t need a constitutional amendment to allow a real multi-party system for the House and Senate. You need only change the state election laws to something other than first-past-the-post, such that coming in second (and third, etc.) has some value.

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