Former Speaker of the House frontrunner, Kevin McCarthy.
By now everybody is surely familiar with the ongoing presence of the Tea Party in American politics. These neo-Confederate hacks have rejected parliamentary democracy and the rule of law in favour of libertarian and anarchist ideals, and wish to turn the United States into a nation of lawless bigots who are free to carry assault rifles and segregate ethnic and sexual minorities by force. All in the name of equality and prosperity, rest assured.
Armed gangs of thugs roam the streets of rural America to protect what they call “Constitutional values”, while their political counterparts in Washington threaten to usurp the already shaky ability to find common ground between parties and resolve pressing issues, with disastrous results for the poor, the middle class, women, and just about anybody who isn’t disproportionately wealthy. Not to mention the concept of armed vigilantes implementing their version of the Constitution is a severely frightening thought.
For the Establishment Republicans, the ongoing insurgency by the Tea Party is exceptionally bad news. Unlike in the UK, where a far-right insurgency in the Conservative Party was avoided by the formulation of UKIP, Tea Partiers have remained in the GOP because they cannot hope to form their own party – the anti-democratic nature of the electoral system forbids any hopes of even small success. Instead, they are inadvertently destroying an already besieged party from the inside out, as evidenced by how excruciatingly difficult it is to be a sane Republican, since any sign of compromise or bipartisanship sends the base into a drastic rage.
Even John Boehner, himself a far-right radial ideologue, was repeatedly branded a coward and Washington sell-out for his measly attempts to negotiate with The Democrats in Congress. In essence, “the conservative base [takes] a punishing attitude towards any Republican politician who dares show a glimmer of common sense or restraint”, to quote Salon’s Amanda Marcotte
On the media side of things, Fox News probably bears some responsibility for fuelling the sectarianism in the Republican Party too, as is evidenced by the ongoing scandal involving Kevin McCarthy, a once-powerful figure who was tipped to be the next Speaker of the House of Representatives before abruptly resigning. Sean Hannity interviewed McCarthy before his resignation to find out why so many Republican voters feel so betrayed by the party – a clear nod to the ultraconservative base. McCarthy, in a rare moment of truthfulness, had this to say as a defense:
“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s un-trustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen”
In short, nearly 1,000* days of investigation and millions of taxpayers’ dollars have been wasted on a prolonged attack ad on Clinton’s 2016 Presidential bid. After he dun goof’d, McCarthy “unexpectedly” resigned from the Speaker election, despite being the most popular candidate in a list of unpopular candidates. He faced criticism from fellow Clinton lynch mobber Trey Gowdy after the Fox News revela, and there are rumours he resigned under pressure from a wealthy Republican donor who threatened to leak details of an affair if he didn’t stand down. All this for having the audacity to tell the truth.
It’s not that the base and Tea Partiers like Trey Gowdy are annoyed with the prolonged investigation – they too reject parliamentary democracy in favour of witch hunts and, in the case of Gowdy, are spearheading the Clinton witch hunt. But what annoys them is that this has been revealed to the general public. The far-right among them already viewed McCarthy as an Establishment Republican who couldn’t be trusted to keep a lid on what’s really going on and couldn’t satisfy the rabidness of the base, but he was at least able to dance the fine line between moderate conservatism and unhinged extremism when he needed to. As I said, he was the most popular choice in a line of unpopular choices.
And that’s just the problem – nobody left in the Speakership race remotely has the ability to unite the two warring factions. Paul Ryan somewhat has that ability, being viewed both as a radical outsider and a guy who can work the system at the same time, but he’s already ruled out joining the race, and, apparently, is also too much of a cooky liberal (seriously, Paul Ryan, a liberal). The two candidates remaining, Daniel Webster and Jason Chaffetz, have neither the credentials, the public profile not the unifying abilities of McCarthy or Ryan, and probably couldn’t secure the 218 votes needed to win. With no clear line of succession, a second government shut-down and a debt crisis could be looming.
In the end, this is laughable irony within the Republican Party. For years, and especially since 2008, the Republicans in Congress have been stirring up animosity and rage in their constituencies in order to divide the country and garner votes. In a Frankensteinian twist of fate, the Tea Party was created and turned on is creator, creating an ocean wide split between the Establishment candidates and their nationalistic ultraconservative creation. Couple that with the rise of unqualified non-politicians like Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina infesting the Presidential race, and you have a discordant and disunified party. With McCarthy gone, the likelihood of unifying the party looks more and more unpromising.