Members Only | January 6, 2023 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

Only the Republicans can save themselves from the Republicans

Let’s hope the House Democrats continue resisting calls to intervene in Kevin McCarthy’s humiliating fight with the chaos caucus.

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Thursday was another bad day for Kevin McCarthy, the third one in a row for the woeful California congressman. On Tuesday, he lost three rounds of voting to become the next speaker. On Wednesday, he lost three. Another five losses came yesterday. There seems to be no end in sight. 

What hasn’t been said? Perhaps the obvious – that no amount of public humiliation will deter the Republican majority speaker from achieving his life-long goal. McCarthy is so bent on power that he’s literally trading away that power to appease the chaos caucus

McCarthy has lost 11 times so far. He set a new record.

What kind of House speaker would debase himself to the point of giving away all the power he has worked a lifetime to get? Well, the kind whose ambition and arrogance has made him a hollow shell of a man who can’t see what his ambition and arrogance has done to him.

What kind of House speaker would debase himself to the point of giving away all the power he has worked a lifetime to get? Well, the kind whose ambition and arrogance has made him a hollow shell of a man who can’t see what his ambition and arrogance have done to him.

What happens when you encourage irresponsible behavior?

More irresponsible behavior.

Signals from the ether
Expect the Democrats to feel pressure to act.

They have been vulnerable historically to the unfair but widespread expectation in Washington that they, as the party of democratic politics and republican governance, are the grown-ups in the room. The Republicans act badly, to be sure. But the Democrats let them.

So the press and pundits corps often look to the Democrats to save America, and the Republicans, from the Republicans. The peerless Charles Pierce said Thursday: “Jesus, the CNN panel, led by [David] Axelrod [Barack Obama’s 2008 political advisor], is swinging toward asking the Democrats to compromise for the good of the country.”


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That CNN panel is hearing signals from the ether. 

Here’s former Republican Governor of Ohio John Kasich:

Wouldn’t it be great for America if a block of Republicans and Democrats work together to pick a speaker to run a coalition-style government? A coalition allows the House to create policy from the middle out rather than the extremes in.

Benjamin Wittes of the nonpartisan Brookings Institution:

Why do the Dems not nominate Liz Cheney or Adam Kinzinger? It would be a really powerful statement of nonpartisan commitment to shared Democratic values.

Progressive California Democrat Ro Khanna:

“I would consider the right Republican. Someone I could trust … But there needs to be two conditions. You can’t have debt ceiling debate or [government] shut down … that takes the country hostage. There’d have to be an “agreement on subpoena power.”

Response No. 1: Coalition-style government? Pure make-believe. 

Response No. 2: Cheney or Kinzinger? The GOP would never.

Response No. 3: Conditions? The chaos caucus holds itself above democratic politics. You can’t put conditions on God’s chosen.

A problem of their own making
The Democrats know this.

Fortunately, they have so far resisted calls to intervene. Let’s hope that resolve lasts. They appear united against encouraging the Republicans’ irresponsible behavior by taking responsibility for the Republicans’ irresponsible behavior. What’s more is that calls to intervene on the country’s behalf are more scattered. They sound more impotent, too.

The Democrats, on the other hand, sound strong.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday: “This is a problem of their own making. This is called leadership. They should be able to work it out. Don’t put this at the Democrats’ doorstep.”

Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries was blunter.

“No,” he said.

“All we are asking the Republicans to do is figure out a way for themselves to organize so the Congress can get together and do the business of the American people,” Jeffries said on Thursday.

Tip O’Neil got along with Ronald Reagan. Ted Kennedy got along with Orrin Hatch. Joe Biden got along with John McCain. Nancy Pelosi got along with John Boehner. Ruth Bader Ginsburg got along with Antonin Scalia. All we are asking for is the House Republicans to get along with each other.

Free themselves
In the past, self-fulfilling prophecy jammed the Democrats. 

The Republicans behaved badly. People called on the Democrats to act. The Democrat acted. The GOP would keep on keeping on. The prophecy moreover conditioned everyone to expect the Democrats to save America, and the Republicans, from the Republicans.

Only the Democrats could free themselves of that burden.

“No,” Jeffries said.

Freedom at last.

Only the Republicans can free themselves.


John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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