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Relax, The GOP Fight Over House Speaker Doesn’t Really Matter

It’s just a vote about management.

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After three rounds of voting on Tuesday, Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy failed to secure the 218 needed to become speaker of the House. It was the first time in a century that the vote has gone to multiple ballots. Now, the “fight spills into a second chaotic day,” notes ABC News. There’s a lot of excitement in Washington.  

Of course, somewhere in the vicinity of zero voters will change their worldview or political affiliation because the GOP is taking a few extra days to grind out their leadership vote. Nor is there anything particularly “dysfunctional” about disagreeing on the question. McCarthy isn’t an admiral or preordained by the Lord to be speaker, so this isn’t “mutiny,” it’s just a vote. Indeed, a battle over leadership shows a more democratic dynamic than the typical lockstepping on the matter. In most other democratic nations this kind of parliamentary fight would be considered tame and completely expected.

However the vote ends up, though, it won’t matter much because neither side in this battle has anything special or particularly consequential to offer.

“This is about saving the country and getting somebody that’s going to cut and get us on a financial path of solvency,” claims McCarthy supporter Ralph Norman. Guess what? Kevin McCarthy isn’t Henry Clay. He possesses no extraordinary skill or vision that makes him uniquely qualified to stop the Democrats’ next spending bill, much less “save” the country. The conceit and sanctimony of politicians who believe the world is in desperate need of their talents is endlessly insufferable. If you want to venerate middling House members, become a Democrat and throw your hosannas at Nancy Pelosi.

Republicans need competency more than anything else these days. The American people voted to split government power — again. The governing mandate of House Republicans is to check the executive branch. With a slim House majority, and the Senate and presidency in the hands of Democrats, the only requisite skill needed in a speaker is the ability to corral the party’s factions to stop the opposition. If you are unable to gain consensus during a partisan vote for leadership, how will you do it during your term?

“You can’t accommodate a small group that essentially has you hostage, and that’s what’s going on here — we’re not going to do it,” says McCarthy booster Don Bacon. Sure you can. This isn’t the papacy. Is there no other conservative in the House with some basic aptitude who can bring together the party? McCarthy can go back to being a plain-old congressman or head for the lobbying job, and the country would remain exactly as he found it. McCarthy is certainly as good as anyone else in Congress. But also, he is only as good as almost anyone else in Congress.

That said, what is the point? Not much that I can see. Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert have no competing legislative agenda to offer, much less any coherent philosophical positions. McCarthy has gone out of his way to placate the nuts in his party. Why any sane person would want the job of dealing with Paul Gosar or Marjorie Taylor Greene is beyond my comprehension.

Others among the 20 holding up the coronation probably have some personal gripes against McCarthy — which is a completely legitimate reason to oppose electing him boss, by the way. Others are intent to fight the “establishment” for its own sake, which is a vacuous and nonsensical position. Someone is going to be in charge. McCarthy isn’t Fred Upton. And if you’re constantly opposing that person because you can’t do everything you want, you will get nothing. Though this seems to be a state in which many Republicans seem quite content.

It’s true that the two-party system creates stability by building left-right consensus before elections. But this particular fight, though largely senseless, is over the future of management, not about some big ideological schism.


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