And the next Speaker is…
Well, now, I have a suggestion.
December 12th 2022
Bryan Zepp Jamieson
The Republicans won the House in the November election, but only barely. In a year when usually the party out of power makes huge gains, the Republicans were only able to secure a six seat majority (one is still being recounted and remains too close to call). It was, by any standard, an underwhelming performance.
Trump’s endorsement was a death kiss. Nearly all his hand-picked candidates lost, and most incumbents that enthusiastically sought his support under-performed. Unfortunately, enough of the lunatics and MAGA cultists squeaked in, which brings us to the current mess the House is going to be in.
The Freedom Caucus doesn’t disclose who its members are (something to keep in mind when they prattle on about transparency in government) but some have come out and admitted that they are members of this secretive and authoritarian group (they have a rule that if 80% of the members support a certain stance, the remainder MUST support it as well; there is zero room for dissent) and include such luminaries as Jim Jordan, Mo Brooks, Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor-Green, Scott Perry, Louis Gohmert, and for the sake of grade-A medical grovelling, Ronny Jackson. There are some on that list who belong in mental institutions, and a few more that are lucky they aren’t in prison. Just the fact that they are in Congress tells you how intellectually and ethically broken the American right is these days. In all, there’s a reputed 53 members, and it’s worth noting that in this past election, they gained no seats.
Since the House did (barely) change hands, a new Speaker has to be elected by a majority of the House. The presumptive candidate is Kevin McCarthy, who is widely disliked both in his own party and nationally. He’s considered too spineless to be a reliable member of the Freedom Caucus, and too spineless to be considered capable of standing up to them, let alone whipping them into line. Elise Stefanik wants the job, but she’s considered too vile for most mainstream Republicans. (She is claiming that $20,000 in donor checks was stolen by USPS, but the one bit of evidence she has shown is a torn envelope on which it clearly states nothing was paid in postage). Some other members of the Freedom Caucus are hoping to shoehorn into the position and be well situated to run what is going to be an absolute clown show.
McCarthy is more than willing to surrender to the Freedom Caucus and help carry out their mad designs, but it’s not clear the saner members of the party will go along with it. They know that it wasn’t just Trump that cost them in this election; the extremism of the MAGA contingent along with the utter madness of some cost them, and they know the public is watching.
So the party is split in three factions: the sane, the weak, and the nuts. The Democrats are not divided, but no Republican would vote for a Democratic speaker no matter how badly fractured their side is.
But I have a modest proposal. Jonathan Swift is my personal guide and mentor, so when I say ‘modest proposal’ it might stir a bit of controversy.
I would nominate for Speaker of the House…Liz Cheney. Yes, I know she’s extremely conservative, and there probably isn’t a single policy point on which she and progressives would agree. But she IS Republican, and that gives Republican members of the House who aren’t in the freedom caucus (130 or so) an ‘out’ – they aren’t betraying their party if they vote for a member of that party, are they? And it’s possible that fifty-some Democrats might support her simply because she would help keep the loons of the Freedom Caucus in line. Keep in mind that in that group, there has been talk of nominating Donald Trump or Elon Musk speaker of the House, or even an active member, such as Marjorie Taylor-Greene (who yesterday said she would have seen to it the crowd that besieged the Capitol on January 6th would be better armed).
Oh, in case you’re wondering, the Constitution doesn’t specify that the Speaker of the House actually has to be a member of the House. In theory, my dog would become Speaker. (He would probably finish up as a middling-good Speaker at that.)
Cheney is both sane, and while her policies suck, she is at least loyal to the Constitution and to her Country. She hasn’t subscribed to the vicious hate-mongering against LGTBQ people or Hispanics or Moslems. She doesn’t think non-Christians should be banned from holding office, or that taxpayers should have to fund churches.
With the Senate under Democratic control and Joe Biden in the White House, the amount of damage a Republican House could do would be limited.
The Freedom Caucus wants endless investigations and revenge impeachments. They want to just defund anything they find inconvenient, such as the Department of Justice or Homeland Security. None of them have ever heard of the phrase “non-discretionary spending,” it would seem. Liz Cheney has. She also knows you can’t impeach private citizens for crimes committed overseas, or retired public servants. She knows that when a whistleblower says there was no sign of government involvement, that doesn’t mean there was government censorship. (Elon Musk is one of the zanier possibilities the Freedom Caucus has mooted about just because he backs their claims that they are being censored by the government that they, um, are part of.)
I’m tempted to just shrug and say, “Let the lunatics do their worst” and watch it bounce back on them. But damn it, I like this country, and want to spare it the humiliation. I think Liz Cheney has what it would take to keep the loonies in check.