Republicans Completely Incapable Of Governing

[ Posted Thursday, October 19th, 2023 – 14:37 UTC ]

We're all currently experiencing the punchline of an old political joke -- the one that says Republicans really should be honest in their campaign slogans, by running on: "Government doesn't work -- elect us and we'll prove it!" Here we are, living that proof.

The House of Representatives does not have an elected Republican leader. Republicans control a majority of the seats, but it is such a slim majority that any five of them deciding to throw a monkey wrench into the works paralyzes the entire party. At the beginning of this month, a giant monkey wrench was indeed thrown, as eight Republicans managed to dethrone their own speaker. Since that point, chaos has reigned in the House, and it doesn't seem like sanity is going to prevail any time soon.

Jim Jordan, following in Donald Trump's footsteps, is attempting to use what can only be called thuggery to terrorize all the members of his party into supporting his bid to lead the chamber. This is today's Republican Party, folks. If you don't do what the loudest and most deranged members want you to do, then an army of ugliness will be unleashed upon you. Trump has been using this tactic all along, and it has worked in a number of cases. Either congressional Republicans do what Trump wanted or he backed some hothead to primary them in their own district. Trump's record of actually accomplishing anything with these strongarm tactics was never all that great, but his track record of driving GOP politicians into retirement or defeat is a lot more impressive. The anger of the MAGA movement, amplified by the rightwing media echo chamber, is indeed a powerful thing.

But in a new twist, the GOP middle is now pushing back against the extremists. The threats and intimidation seem to be stiffening the holdouts' resolve instead of weakening it. These Republicans realized that it's not just the extreme right fringe that can use the slim majority to their advantage, and they are refusing to let an out-and-out bully lead the House. The only problem seems to be that nobody has any viable plan for what to do next.

At the start of the day, Jordan seemed to be facing the reality that he wasn't going to become speaker. He called off the vote scheduled for midday, and the Republicans retreated to their own enclave to try to figure out a path forward. There was a proposal to officially expand the powers of the speaker pro tempore, which would have allowed legislation (such as the unfinished budget or military aid to Israel and/or Ukraine) to move to the floor for votes. These powers would be temporary, only extended until (perhaps) January 3rd of next year.

But as with everything else, this plan can't pass the House with just Republican votes -- they'd need some Democrats on board. And Democrats won't do that unless changes are made which will allow them to have more input to the legislative process and will allow bills with big bipartisan support to move to the floor.

This would have been a backdoor method of returning the House to functioning status, but apparently it didn't go down well with the Republicans in their closed-door meeting. Allowing for any tiny hint of bipartisanship is seen as open treason to many Republicans. Even though the speaker pro tempore is a Republican and even though they'd still have a majority of the votes, here is how some were characterizing the plan after their meeting:

"It's a giant mistake to give the Democrats control of a Republican majority," said Representative Jim Banks of Indiana, who backs Mr. Jordan. He added: "What they're doing right now is walking the Republicans off the plank. We don't deserve the majority if we go along with a plan to give the Democrats control over the House of Representatives. It's a giant betrayal to Republicans."

One other Republican voice stood out, at least for me. Representative Don Bacon, who has voted against Jim Jordan twice now, had the following observation about members of his own party last week (before the Jordan voting even began):

I find a lot of them don't realize how our government really works. They think they can actually force the Senate to do their bidding, and we all know that this place operates on consensus and middle ground. When it's all said and done, especially when you're talking about negotiating the Senate version, versus the House version, you're going to get something in the middle. I've talked to some of them; they do not accept that premise. Their feet are not on the ground.

I think a lot of these guys play to the clicks. If you live in an echo chamber and you're only talking to people that agree with you, I think, well, you have an unrealistic view of what's going on, then.

This is the GOP's problem in a nutshell: some of them are absolutely divorced from reality. They have an outsized opinion of their own importance. They think they can effectively bludgeon everyone else in Washington into doing exactly what they want, when that is simply not the way things work. But they refuse to admit any of this, which makes it impossible to deal reasonably with them.

With the plan to expand Patrick McHenry's powers to something approaching full speakership now apparently dead in the water, Jordan announced he was shifting tactics and now would call for a third speaker vote. He would not be abandoning his bid, even though he actually lost votes on his second try. This could lead to further embarrassment for him, as more and more Republicans abandon him.

So far (as of this writing), the third speaker vote has not been scheduled. Nobody knows if it will take place today or tomorrow, or maybe next week. At this point, my money is on this vote happening later, if at all.

As a welcome counterweight to all of this chaos, President Joe Biden will be addressing the country at 8:00 this evening, on the war in the Middle East. He will have the chance to look presidential and very serious while discussing a war. That will be a stark contrast to what is going on in the House, which is why I kind of doubt a third speaker vote is going to happen at any time tonight (unless Jordan surprises me and holds a vote within the next hour or so). The contrast would just be too stark, politically. And Jordan is savvy enough to realize this, I think.

Congress usually scarpers off home for the weekend, beginning on Thursday and not returning until Tuesday. Perhaps the House will stay in Washington and vote tomorrow or in the next few days, but it's more likely that they won't even convene again until next Tuesday -- which would be three weeks to the day since they ousted Kevin McCarthy.

Please remember that all of this is eating up some valuable time. The next budgetary deadline is in mid-November. Some sort of agreement is going to have to be hashed out between Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate, or else the government will shut down. There aren't a whole lot of days between then and now, and Republicans in the House have already wasted three weeks' worth of them.

The irony is that whatever happens in the speaker race, when such a compromise is forged and voted on in the House, the unlucky holder of the speaker's gavel will probably be in danger of being deposed just like McCarthy was (after all, the temporary budget deal McCarthy agreed to was the reason he was kicked out). So we may all have to go through all of this all over again, just in time for Thanksgiving and the end-of-year holidays.

Republicans, obviously, can't govern. They can't even govern themselves, and they sure as heck can't govern the rest of the country. Their own incompetence and lack of leadership is on full display. Republicans do a dandy job of being the minority party, when all they have to do is kick and scream about everything the dastardly Democrats are doing, but they simply cannot handle actually being in control of anything.

Elect them, and they will prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


10 Comments on “Republicans Completely Incapable Of Governing”

  1. [1] 
    andygaus wrote:

    I have to believe that there are at least some voters who would otherwise align with supposedly Republican positions but who can also scarcely avoid seeing how the crew of Representatives they've elected not only cannot turn their positions into reality, but also cannot tie their shoes.

  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    it's all the democrats' fault. don't ask me how, but i'm sure that's how the right-wing universe will spin it. reality rarely intrudes.

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    the other thing is, i think there are enough non-crazy republicans, even in the House, to nominate someone who twenty or so conservative democrats could support.

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    it's all the democrats' fault. don't ask me how, but i'm sure that's how the right-wing universe will spin it. reality rarely intrudes.

    The problem is that most voters will believe the "spin". And, Dems have more than enough of their own problems, anyways.

  5. [5] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    as they say, nobody ever went broke underestimating the voting public's intelligence.

  6. [6] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    oof, jordan got six fewer votes than jeffries this round.

  7. [7] 
    dsws wrote:

    I say it's the Democrats' fault. There's a golden opportunity for a Democratic win, where we would have a voice in choosing the speaker despite being the minority, and more importantly we would keep the Republicans divided all the way through next November. But we're the Democratic party. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is what we do.

    It will be long and acrimonious, but the Republicans will settle their differences, with their center of gravity further to the right. Same as every other odd-numbered year in living memory.

  8. [8] 
    dsws wrote:

    to primary them in their own district

    Wouldn't it be nice to have a system where the representative belongs to the district, instead of the other way 'round? Being a representative shouldn't come with reelection as a lifetime entitlement, and the primary shouldn't be the whole election.

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    as they say, nobody ever went broke underestimating the voting public's intelligence.

    Biden has never thought that way.

    At least, he has always said the opposite in public. And, he is usually right. The American people, he would say, usually get things right when it comes right down to the nitty gritty of a political issue. Until Trump came along, that was pretty much spot on.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Do you think it is still possible for the Dems to take advantage of that golden opportunity?

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