Crime, Nihilism and Sad Entertainment
On this second anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, GOP extremists are reveling in blocking Kevin McCarthy and the functioning of Congress
As you watch the spectacle on the House floor—round after round of humiliating failure for GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy to attract 218 votes and become Speaker of the House—keep in mind where this is heading. This is not the majority party battling over the best man for the job in order to serve the country’s interest. They are not seeking constructive solutions to inflation or immigration or climate change. They are not battling to strengthen democracy or better lives. Nope.
McCarthy and his merry band of saboteurs have already made clear they are determined to investigate Hunter Biden and the contents of his laptop. They want to pursue impeachment hearings against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and possibly President Joe Biden. They want to investigate the supposed criminality of now-retired Anthony Fauci during the pandemic and the presumed bias of Merrick Garland and his Justice Department for the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago to retrieve stolen government documents. The mind reels when imagining how this anti-government bunch will behave when asked to pass a budget, raise the debt limit and keep the government open.
Two years ago exactly, on January 6, 2021, 139 House Republicans (and eight Senate Republicans) voted against certifying the victory of Joseph R. Biden as President of the United States. This traitorous collection of election deniers and insurrectionists rejected the peaceful transfer of power just hours after the U.S. Capitol had become a violent, deadly crime scene. Never forget what we saw with our own eyes, what I detailed last year on the first anniversary of the January 6 Capitol attack:
The smashing of windows. The head blows and bone-crunching with flagpoles, baseball bats, crutches, metal pipes, skateboards and a fire extinguisher. The punching and trampling. The use of lasers, stun guns and toxic sprays. The presence of a makeshift gallows, the invasion of the Senate chambers, the chanting to hang Mike Pence, the waving of Confederate flags. Later we learned of the lacerations and concussions, the fractures and burns, the heart attack and the deaths, including several suicides. Later we learned that 140 police officers were injured and at least five people died.
On that day, speaking to Fox News, California Congressman and the-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the attacks “un-American” and “unacceptable,” adding that “I’ve never seen anything like this.” The next day, on the House floor, he said, “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.”
Two weeks later, McCarthy traveled to Mar-a-Lago to kowtow to Trump and walk back his comments. In a mind-blowing display of naked ambition and moral bankruptcy, he said afterwards, “I don’t believe he provoked it if you listen to what he said at the rally.”
There are plenty of pundits and other observers of the narcissistic, nihilistic show by “Never Kevin” House Republicans who are enjoying popcorn and laughter. I get their glee in the craven McCarthy’s humiliation. The last time it took more than nine ballots to elect a House Speaker was 1859 when Republican William Pennington secured 117 votes on the 44th ballot. (At this writing, McCarthy has failed 11 times.)
But I take no delight in this sad spectacle, playing out in a building that two years ago was a crime scene. While that violent episode ended on Jan. 6, 2021, some of that day’s elected insurrectionists are still free, still mouthing off, still convinced their true president’s divine right was stolen (forget the facts), still trying their damnedest to destroy the government. The insurrection is still underway, just without the face paint, the Confederate flags, the bone crunching and the eye-gouging, the broken glass or the makeshift gallows.
Every time I look at the 20-odd nihilists in the House chamber, who crave attention and care not one whit about serving the public and real governance, my mind drifts to 2021. Where is the yellow crime tape? Where is justice?
And when I hear these future laptop investigators speak, I don’t hear the echo of Donald Trump, even if he ignited this sorry charade, this empty drama bent on anarchy and destruction.
While Ronald Reagan may have rejected Trump’s vulgarity and naked demagoguery, he is the forefather who laid the foundation for America’s current reality show cast with an island of misfit toys. It was during his first inaugural speech 41 years ago that he memorably declared his war on government: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
As we subsequently learned, that didn’t mean he would cut deficits—in fact they grew—or the government workforce, which also grew. But it did mean that he was determined to feed the rich with lower taxes, starve the poor by railing against social welfare programs, exploit thinly veiled racism to feed the anger of poor whites and convince them that Blacks and other minorities were taking their benefits, and stick up for unbridled capitalism and laissez-faire economics by stripping away business regulations.
Four decades later, that hatred of government is peaking in a Republican party that Reagan maybe wouldn’t recognize but which he surely couldn’t deny he helped shape. Reagan offspring like Reps. Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert are relishing their moment to tear it all down—all in the name of economic individualism, rejecting “Marxism” and communism, and providing freedom for white America.
As for Kevin McCarthy, no one knows whether he will eventually find his way to the Speaker’s office (where he’s already, hubristically, moved in his things). Maybe he’ll win on the 45th ballot to beat the record from 1859, or even on the 133rd ballot like the anti-slavery, mustachioed Nathaniel Banks did in 1856. Or perhaps the current Know Nothing wing of the Republican Party will ensure he never takes the gavel.
But have no doubt, whenever the sabotage finally comes to an end, it will not be a happy day for America—or in any way the end of the tragic unraveling of what was once a governing party. “None of us has seen anything like this disrespect for the institution in a most cavalier, frivolous way. It’s quite sad,” said former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who then attempted a note of optimism. “But let’s be hopeful that in the next day or so as they find their purpose and their unity, they understand why they are here.”
Truth is, the Republicans have already been telling us who they are, and revealing their purpose. However long it takes for them to land on a new speaker, we can be sure that the worst among them will continue to misuse and lust for power, sow chaos, showcase their hatred of democracy and government, and savor their grim version of fame and celebrity.
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