November 15, 2022 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
The GOP will take the House. Let’s get back to work
Enough high-fiving and fist-bumping.
All right. It’s been a week since Election Day. There’s been enough time for high-fiving and fist-bumping.
Time to get back to work.
Sure, the Democrats held the Senate. (By winning the Georgia run-off, they’ll have 51 senators.) Sure, the Republicans failed to trigger a tsunami of overwhelming 30- to 40-seat victories. But while the count continues, it looks like they’re going to take the House by a nose.
There was “supposed” to be a “red wave.” That it didn’t happen is cause for some celebration. But don’t get giddy. Two reasons: The Democratic machine in New York is corrupt and needs purging fast. Republican insurgents took advantage of the rot and turned blue districts red.
Roll Call reported the other reason. “Republicans … held on to their advantage in redrawing congressional maps and got some key rulings from courts,” reporter Michael Macagnone wrote. “Experts said Republicans used the redistricting process after the 2020 census to retain a small, but measurable, advantage over Democrats.”
Sure enough, the US Supreme Court “allowed Alabama to use a map that a lower court ruled had violated the Voting Rights Act for having only one Black [district]. Following that ruling, pending a broader argument over the VRA, the court allowed Louisiana and Georgia to move forward with maps found to similarly violate the VRA.”
“We are now looking at the second election in recent memory where an intervention by the Supreme Court helped put Republicans in power,” tweeted the New Policy Institute’s Simon Rosenberg.
No, yeah, we did good.
But gerrymandering and judges, you know?
Let’s get back to work.
The Republicans are going to have a majority of just one or three seats, but that will be enough for their primary objective (other than grandstanding, fundraising and otherwise beclowning themselves.)
That objective is wounding Joe Biden before Election Day 2024. For others, it will be wounding Biden for Donald Trump’s sake. (The criminal former president is expected to announce a rerun today.)
There will be a joint effort from inside and outside the Congress to put the squeeze on Biden. But to do that, there will have to be a preliminary squeeze play on House speaker hopeful Kevin McCarthy.
McCarthy, according to Businessweek’s Joshua Green, sold his soul to the devil (my words) for a second shot at being speaker. He’s so craven that after blaming Trump for the failed paramilitary takeover of the US government, he flew to Mar-a-Lago to meet with him.
“Kevin came down to kiss my ass,” Trump told Bob Woodward.
At the same time, McCarthy somehow convinced GOP mega-donors (or they convinced themselves, Green suggests) that as speaker he could “keep a lid on the most extreme elements of the House caucus.”
That’ll be tricky, Green writes. Conference members like Marjorie Taylor Greene are not motivated by policy goals that would require unity to achieve. Motivating them is “their celebrity and social media stardom, ambitions that all but necessitate fomenting angry conflict.”
That “angry conflict” is likely to culminate in Biden’s impeachment.
Or attempts at it.
Ten Republicans have already introduced or sponsored articles against Biden. McCarthy has said that “the country doesn’t like impeachment used for political purposes at all.” But “he’s not going to have a choice,” said podcaster Steve Bannon. (Bannon was sentenced last month to four months in prison for contempt of the Congress.)
It’s too soon to say whether McCarthy will be speaker, but it’s not too soon to say that if he is, he’ll be between a rock and a hard place.
On the one hand, he’ll face a vengeful Trump, who’s already asking how many times Biden will be impeached. On the other, he’ll face the odds of asking the Democrats to save his conference from itself, as his predecessor John Boehner did. And like Boehner, that will doom him. McCarthy would be the “Republican Liz Truss,” Green wrote.
The president claims that, in a nearly evenly divided House, he can gain support for his economic agenda from a few reasonable Republicans. That remains to be seen, but in all likelihood, this is the end of the president’s winning streak until the next Congress.
That – and no doubt the prospect of (multiple) impeachments – is why James Bennet, The Economist’s Lexington columnist, said that Biden shouldn’t run for a second term. Too many Republicans bow before the former guy. Meanwhile, Kevin McCarthy, as speaker, will be “preoccupied with placating … the rest of the berserker caucus.”
By saying he would not run again, Mr Biden would not surrender political leverage so much as enhance his chance to reach at least some deals,” he wrote. “And he would make any Republican investigations of him and his family seem like malicious irrelevancies. … By declining to run, Mr Biden would concentrate the public glare on Mr Trump’s egotism and his party’s extremism. (italics mine.)
I don’t know which House GOP he’s referring to, but it’s not the one that wants to impeach Joe Biden for winning the 2020 election. It’s not the one that wants to avenge Trump. It’s not the one that refuses to recognize Biden’s legitimacy. Why would they bargain with an illegitimate president just because he decided not to run again?
Amazingly, Bennet said that by bowing out, Biden can put “the public glare on Mr. Trump’s egotism and this party’s extremism.” It seems to me that the Republicans are capable of doing that all on their own.
Egotism and extremism were magnified by a failed coup. They were magnified by an anticipated “red wave” that didn’t materialize. (They certainly fueled the ferocious gerrymandering and court decisions that enabled a takeover of the House by the barest of margins.)
Most of all, egotism and extremism will be magnified by a House conference bent on impeaching Biden for reasonsreasonsreasons.
But Biden doesn’t have to act. He certainly doesn’t have to bow out of running again. Sure, “the country wants to move forward, to discard the nihilist tenets of Trumpism – election denial in particular – and Mr. Trump, too.” But that doesn’t depend on Biden’s stepping away.
It depends on Biden running for reelection.
It’s time for more democratic politics, not less.
That includes squashing harmful media fictions.
Let’s get back to work.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.