I have taught POS 110 at Arizona State University every semester since the Fall of 2008 until this semester. The class in recent years has included a theme that revolved around the evolution of the Republican Party, building from 1948 and the white supremacist southern Dixiecrats walking out of the Democratic convention to Goldwater’s run in 1964, where, yes, he won Arizona, but also became the first Republican since Herbert Hoover to take a bunch of states in the south (and Hoover was an exception to the post-Civil War trend in 1928). But beyond that appeal that we now identify as to the white working class primarily has been a level of dysfunction that is on display with the six failed votes for House Speaker on the first two days of the House session.
The dysfunctional party has been on full display. Only Republicans deny election results and file frivolous lawsuits. Only Republicans pretend Jan. 6, 2021 was just a rally (or an act by the FBI or Antifa).
I told my class last semester Kevin McCarthy would sell his soul to become Speaker of the House. Well, he’s done that. If elected, he’ll be quite beholden to the Freedom Caucus, which might move to unseat him at their first disagreement. Just five members of the Republican caucus will be able to call for a vote for a new Speaker (update: McCarthy has apparently agreed to just one to do so, but will still take five to potentially unseat him. Plus, he’s offered a seat on the House Rules committee).
Three of the 20 Republican House members blocking Kevin McCarthy’s bid hail from Arizona: Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar and the new-nutcase on the block Eli Crane. That means half of the Arizona Republican caucus are blockers, higher than any other state. This is not normal party politics. In the state of Kari Lake and Kelli Ward, one should not be surprised.
How this ends is going to be critically important, as if the Freedom Caucus gets their way, you can count on government shutdowns, going to the edge of debt defaults due to refusals or contingently raising the debt ceiling if their other demands are met, and other hardball tactics designed to force their extreme agenda. This will not just be bad for the country, but it will hurt Republican chances in 2024.
Given that the Freedom Caucus is engaged in power politics here, I expect the next Speaker very likely will not be Kevin McCarthy, so they can show at least one scalp for their intransigence. Whether the eventual winner is Steve Scalise, the current #2, or someone else the Freedom Caucus consents to–the power of five will limit any maneuverability.
So my recommendation to Democrats is tomorrow (Jan.. 5) to switch from Hakeem Jeffries to moderate Republican Fred Upton, who recently retired from the House and seek out six of the Republicans of the 18 Republicans who won Biden districts to join them. That will settle this in short order–the Republicans will line up behind McCarthy (or someone like Scalise) or Upton will become a bipartisan speaker.
Senator Joe McCarthy was a bully, brought down by his excess. In a live televised encounter lawyer Joseph Welch aptly pointed out that McCarthy “had no sense of decency.”
In this case the bullies are folks like Andy Biggs seeking to bring down Kevin McCarthy. One has sold his soul, while the other may not have one.