On The Flight 93 Caucus And The House Speaker Contest

This week’s Courier Herald column:

It’s the first week of the New Year, and I’m already breaking one of my resolutions.  Instead of sharpening the focus here on state and local political issues based on policy, the spectacle of trying to select a Speaker of the House in Washington has stolen all of our political attention.

The House, and thus Congress, is currently being held hostage by 20 or so members of the Republican Party who believe they are leading.  This is despite their inability to pick a leader nor provide the other roughly 200 members of their party who have also chosen their preferred leader with coherent actions that will garner their votes.

But they have our attention.  Attention, after all, is what narcissists crave. 

It’s not relevant that these 20 have no plan to actually lead, because they have no plan to govern.  They, and those who elect them, have long since decided they would prefer Washington to just stop working altogether. 

They feel they’ve waited patiently for Grover Norquist’s dream of getting the federal government small enough to fit in bathtub so they can drown it.  They’ve now decided that homicide by starvation is the preferred method of execution.

They’re currently winning, so long as you define the battle on their terms.  They feed off the complaints that they have ground the work of Congress to a halt.  To them, that is a feature, not a bug.

Among the many problems with this view is that, while showing Congress to be largely irrelevant in our day to day lives, it inherently strengthens the power of the Executive branch.

Much like conservatives who patted themselves on the back for eliminating earmarks, the result was that government continued to grow.  The decisions on how and where money were spent, however, was left up to the President and the appointed bureaucrats who run federal agencies.

The House is the only part of the Federal government (allegedly) under Republican control.  By ensuring that the Speaker has the weakest hand possible, there can be no effective check on the Biden Administration, nor a Senate that has strengthened its Democratic majority after Republicans failed to capitalize during mid-term elections.

That would be the rational view, but reality is not a currency that is accepted by the House grifting caucus. These are the people who believe they speak for the majority – mostly because they have insulated themselves in an air-tight echo chamber. 

(Sourced by a trusted friend, the speed of the grift is intensifying on the morning of 1-6-23)

In their world, everyone who disagrees with them is either a RINO – Republican In Name Only – or a Democrat/Progressive/Socialist.  You can tell that math doesn’t factor into their calculations when you consider that more than 200 members of Congress elected as Republicans are supporting (again, as of this writing) Kevin McCarthy and the twenty that supposedly aren’t RINOs aren’t. 

They and their supporters are the ones who internalized the 2016 elections as the “Flight 93” election.  Yes, there were truly heroic actions taken on the real flight 93, and I loathe this comparison.  But the Freedom Caucus seems at this point totally transfixed on the fact that the bad guys died – while skipping over the part that everyone else on the plane did as well.

For my friends on the left, I would encourage you not to gloat too much over these Republicans on a steady diet of self-inflicted wounds.  The gas lighting of this faction within the GOP intensified when too many on the left decided that the pandemic flight we were “all in together” never had to land.  Too many acted as if the emergency spending levels could last forever, with both law and science bent in favor of politics.

If we’re going to extend this “flight” analogy further, we need someone to actually land the plane.  We would all love a Sully Sullenberger, but we honestly just need someone who is competent with the controls. 

Whether your view is a crisis or not, we all just want to get where we’re going, safely and as comfortably as possible.  We don’t generally care what the people across the aisle from us want to do next.  We don’t take votes mid-flight on who should be flying the plane.

I hope by the time you’ve read this we have a Speaker and can move on to the next “crisis of leadership” that I’m sure we’ll repeat often over the next two years.  We’re now officially in a Presidential cycle, which means every action can be politicized with even more hyperbole than last week.

In the meantime, please remain seated with your seat belts fastened.  There’s likely to be more turbulence ahead.

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