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The House is burning down under the GOP


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    The “burn it all down” caucus has set itself on fire, a hazard of playing with matches. Even for today’s Republican Party, there were some especially low moments lately, like Sean Spicer, of Trump White House and Dancing With the Stars fame, telling a group in New Hampshire that “If we don’t get our act together, George Santos will be the nominee [for Speaker].” Which I guess was meant to be a warning, but if we’re being honest, the differences between George Santos and Jim Jordan are not so huge. Speaking of Santos, he was walking around with a baby in the hallway of the Longworth building, and at one point, screaming at a protester he claimed was anti-Israel. Santos must be particularly offended by antisemitism because he has a long history of pretending to be Jewish and related to Holocaust survivors.

    Santos wasn’t the only Republican congressperson who went Real Congresspeople of the Longworth Building. This past week featured other reality-television-style antics, demonstrating the perverse incentive of today’s Republican Party. Wacky stunts, costumes, and just saying outrageous things on television—things that might’ve ended a political career 20 years ago—are what keep politicians in the headlines and raking in donations.

    Congresswoman Nancy Mace, fresh off shivving Kevin McCarthy, did her best Hester Prynne impression by wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a scarlet A. This got her a swarm of reporters, and the attention she seems to crave. We also saw a giddy Harriet Hageman—the one who knocked out the very serious Liz Cheneycarrying a lasso rope to a GOP candidate forum. But none of these Republican congresspeople had been able to work the Israel conflict into their costume wearing, until Florida congressman Brian Mast attempted the most ambitious crossover ever, donning his Israel Defence Forces uniform to Congress and somehow blaming a Democrat for it. “Tlaib’s got her flag. I got my uniform,” he wrote on X, referring to Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian American member of Congress.

    Maybe this behavior is inevitable when a political party spends eight years beholden to former reality-TV game show host Donald Trump. Whatever the case, it’s silly season for the House Republicans, and this silliness is no longer confined to just holding hearings about gas stoves and trying to impeach Joe Biden for no good reason. It’s devolved into an actual clown show, which might be entertaining if the American people weren’t reliant on these people to fund the federal government in a little more than a month.

    Now, area arsonist Jim Jordan is revving up the GOP-media outrage machine to try and bully his fellow House Republicans to vote for him. But the problem with being a pyromaniac is that fire is exceedingly hard to control. Axios’s Juliegrace Brufke posted a note from an apparent producer on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show that asked an unnamed congressperson if they supported Speaker Jordan, and if not, why? “Moderates are growing increasingly irritated with the tactics Jordan allies are using to pressure them into voting for him, with one member noting the Hannity show has gotten involved in the efforts sending potential defectors the email below,” Brufke wrote. “One lawmaker said the push is counterproductive to swaying Jordan skeptics.”

    There has been plenty of skepticism in recent days, as 55 Republicans last week wouldn’t commit to Jordan. As veteran congressional reporter Jamie Dupree posted Friday: “One Republican told me Jordan can use the weekend to win over votes. Then I turned off my recorder, and asked again about Jordan's chances. No, he can’t win - was the quick answer.”

    But “Jordan’s team has the knives out,” as one House Republican who represents a swing district put it to The Washington Post. “I’ll vote my conscience, which is a ‘no,’ but I don’t want to be a punching bag for the next three days,” the member added. “Right now, Jordan is woefully short on votes, and his team wants to beat folks into submission.”

    Jordan, like Trump, appears more interested in his own personal success than that of his party, which makes sense because the ethos of Trumpism is self-promotion. Jordan is not only a frequent guest on Fox News, but as Media Matters’ Matt Gertz writes, “operationalizes its content,” turning “Fox talking points into letters to government agencies, bring[ing] its smears into committee rooms, and fold[ing] its conspiracy theories into impeachment efforts.” The election-denying Jordan unsurprisingly got the endorsement of Trump, who questioned the health of Steve Scalise the same day he beat Jordan for the GOP Speaker nomination—and shortly before he withdrew from the race.

    Republicans who are put up as potential challengers are immediately attacked by pro-Trump accounts like Elon Musk’s favorite @EndWokeness, who posted a photo of Representative Mike Rogers and his apparent phone number. The thinking here is that Jordan, his allies, and supporters, can do a kind of French Revolution–style schtick to get him the gavel. By Monday morning, it appeared to work on Rogers who X-ed his support for Jordan, perhaps in the hopes that the online bullying would stop. Jordan appears to be making serious inroads to getting the 217 votes to become speaker, with presumed Republican opponents falling like dominoes on Monday. 

    Can Jordan steamroll reluctant Republicans into becoming Speaker? Maybe? Jordan can still only afford to lose five votes in order to get to the magic number of 217. But remember that means that at least 13 of the 18 vulnerable House republicans will have to vote for his Speakership. 

    Could voting for right-wing bomb-thrower like Jordan scare off potential GOP voters in swing districts and risk the House in 2024? It’s hard to see a Jordan Speakership not leading to more Fox-friendly stunts and impeachment hearings. And my guess is Republicans would be better off politically in 2024 by not getting what they want here. But then again, pyromaniacs like to watch the world burn.

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