Okay, let’s recap.
John Boehner has resigned from both the House and the Speakership at the end of October, driven out, one presumes, by the lunatic intransigence of the 40 or so hard core tea partiers in the house (members of the hilariously named Freedom Caucus).
In the race to succeed him, the house majority Whip, Kevin McCarthy was looking good to win the speakership. Except of course he just dropped out of the race. Jason Chaffetz, apparently unashamed of Cecile Richards handing him his head in the Planned Parenthood hearings, announced he wants to be the Speaker. The House’s hardcore conservatives have endorsed Daniel Webster for the role.
Politico describes the situation among House Republicans as chaos:
Pandemonium broke out in the Longworth Office Building, where Republicans had been expected to nominate McCarthy, as lawmakers and aides reacted to the news with astonishment.
“If we’re going to be strong, we need to be united,” McCarthy said at a news conference after his announcement, a reference to opposition from conservatives to elevating the centrist Californian to the top leadership post. He said the GOP needs a “new face” and added that he did not want to win the job by squeaking by with “220 votes”; he would have needed 218 votes on the House floor.
The House Republican Conference is now in crisis. McCarthy, the current majority leader, is one of the only lawmakers in the chamber seen as capable of winning a floor vote to become speaker who actually wanted the job. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who could likely be elected speaker if he were interested, repeated after McCarthy’s announcement that he won’t run: “While I am grateful for the encouragement I’ve received, I will not be a candidate.”
The whole story is worth a read.
Chris Cillizza wrote a fascinating article that summed up the situation extraordinarily well:
The tendency in the after-action reporting on McCarthy’s stunning collapse — and, make no mistake, it is stunning — will be to pinpoint a single reason for it. Among the popular ones: rumors of personal problems, an inability to win over the more conservative members of his conference, and his recent flub when talking about the Benghazi select committee.
But, those single-issue theories all miss the broader point here: There is a revolution happening within the Republican party right now. The establishment’s hold on power is more tenuous than it has been at any time in recent memory. There is no one currently in office that can claim with any credibility that he or she speaks “for” the party as a whole.
The Republican party created the tea party, they created this revanchist, radical, revolutionary movement and now it is consuming them:
If you are Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or John Kasich, what happened on Thursday in Washington should put a lump in your throat. The Republican establishment has been operating for months — really since the rise of Trump — under a belief that, eventually, things will return to “normal” and that the party will put forward an establishment candidate for president. That was the same wrong-headed thinking I heard constantly in the run-up to today’s speaker vote: Yeah, sure, conservatives weren’t sold on McCarthy, but the alternatives weren’t any good or serious, and so he would win. Nope.
This threat to the establishment from the conservative activist base is real.
The disagreement among Republicans isn’t over their goals – it’s almost entirely about tactics and about the belief that the party’s elected officials have been insufficiently hostile to Barack Obama. For god’s sake, there are Republicans who are accusing Orrin Hatch of being a Republican in Name Only. Orrin fucking Hatch – whose voting records is as near to perfect as any conservative could hope for.
A party unable to govern, actively hostile to both government and governance (as Nancy Pelosi aptly observed) is operating with too many internal ideological stresses to function forever. And so as the Republican party tears itself apart in public, government staggers from crisis to crisis. Paradoxically, conservative activists get what they want, which is ineffective government. The rest of us, however, who expect government to actually function, need to figure out some way to quarantine the crazies who have dedicated themselves to ruining government.