SAY WHAT? - Lesson from the clusterfuck that was the "once-in-a-century humiliation" of "Titan of Mediocrity" Kevin McCarthy bumbling through 15 votes to become Speaker of a shambolic House held hostage by a rabid band of insurrectionist wingnuts: Elect clowns, get a circus. The tragicomedy, years in the gerrymandering, confirms there is no GOP normal; this was MAGA eating its own. After days of concessions - he'll teach Boebert to read! - Kevin is now the feckless "mayor of Crazytown." Mazel tov, dude.
Shown on live TV for all to see, the unprecedented spectacle of the Trump-toadying, election-denying McCarthy selling out the House and last remaining shares of his soul and dignity to what's been dubbed the Angry Children's Crusade - a half-dozen inept, ill-informed, power-hungry far-right poseurs of a far-right party led by a slimy, smash-mouth punk under investigation for sex trafficking - was both hilarious and deeply dispiriting. To Jamie Raskin and many others, it represented a predictable insurrectionist "chickens coming home to roost" moment for McCarthy, who has persistently whitewashed and pandered to extremist election deniers to win the job he'd long craved; his ambition, noted one observer, "has been so obvious and all-consuming that no act of self-abnegation seems beneath him anymore." Including, it seems, conceding himself into a corner - on floor rules, budgets, committee appointments, the right to be ousted by just one mini-me fascist if, for instance, "he looks at Lauren Boebert cross-eyed" - without getting anything in return, on the anniversary of Jan. 6 yet. This wasn't a cave; it was a deep, sick dive into criminal complicity. Talk about Karma: By guaranteeing two years of ongoing "festivals of fools" starring a stymied, shackled, utterly dysfunctional House, said one pundit, "Thus did McCarthy sell out the future to lose the present, over and over again."
The People's House, run by the party of chaos, will now be headed by a dim ceremonial Speaker in thrall to the noble likes of shrieky Lauren Boebert, who spent much of the Debacle gladly babbling on TV about their stunt closing Congress and stopping money to Ukraine because she doesn't know how government works. And right-wing, uber-Christian mad-dog Paul Gosar, hated by his own family, who's eager to okay killing drug dealers and starting a "real" investigation of Jan. 6 to expose "the effort to attempt a coup between traitor Gen. Mark Milley and Pelosi." (God give us strength.) And "harlot" MTG, who dutifully supported Kevin like her fave president said but still thinks Q will end the “global *cable*" of Satanist pedophiles trying to take over. And obstructionist lynching fan and enemy of the "swamp cartel" Chip Roy, who once tried to shut down Congress until they de-funded Obamacare and in the Kevin havoc nominated unheard-of Florida Rep. and self-described "politically incorrect Black man" Byron Donalds, a let's-pretend-we're-diverse move Cori Bush slammed as a cheap "prop." And of course leering Matt Gaetz, who nominated Trump and Gym Jordan (who voted for Kevin) but is "thrilled with where the House is" 'cause now he's puffed up with undue power and all out of ludicrous demands. John Fugelsang: "Remember - Kevin McCarthy, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert & Paul Gosar all share the same pre-existing sedition." Also, "Ask your doctor if indictment is right for them."
Despite their best efforts to portray the pandemonium as cherished, messy democracy at work, the mayhem of the Republican Party trying to get it together was universally deemed "a flaming hot mess." The hashtags said it all: #RepublicanHouseClownShow, #GOPDomesticTerrorists, #RepublicansInDisarray, #McCarthyDisaster. So did the Burning-Down-the-House memes, snark, queries and literary quests, from Jamie Raskin's, "We never had to deal with this much chaos when George Santos was Speaker" to Michael Fanone stopping by the office of "this fucking weasel bitch" who's so grovelly he once collected a jar of Trump's favorite Starburst flavors: "I heard he was having some trouble - I just came here to rub it in." Online sages suggested the race be decided by penalty kicks, Rock/Paper/Scissors, Sesame Street's The Count, how many diaper changes Dem Reps with babies went through, and if they'd be walking when it was done. People wondered: Would Kevin outlast a head of lettuce? Should they bring back Herschel Walker, who was Speaker before? Would Iron Sheik beat Hulk Hogan for the job? Should ABC offer Kevin his Dancing With the Stars contract now so he can leave with some dignity? Did the concessions include Kevin baby-sitting Gaetz' girlfriends or finding Gosar a family that doesn't hate him? If ever elected, how many Scaramuccis will Kevin last? Etc. James Madison:"The difficulty of uniting the minds of men accustomed to think and act differently can only be conceived by those who have witnessed it."
For his trouble and abject degradation, McCarthy will "lead" the least unified House in modern American history; given his own incompetence and the boiling cauldron of rage and petty grievance he's inherited, little will get done - though, remarkably, Nancy Pelosi got much done with the same slim margin. After the painful vote, the estimable Hakeem Jeffries, who at moments had more votes than Kevin, gave a barn-burning speech about an America for all Americans. In lame contrast, McCarthy outlined his witless priorities: removing metal detectors, slashing social services, cutting ethics funding, blocking access to abortion, investigating "the Chinese Communist Party" and don't forget Hunter's laptop. What a falling off was there. Most vitally, writes Jan-Werner Müller, the "political performance art" of the Speaker debacle and a broken GOP itself is about "a refusal to accept a loss - the very core of the Trumpist playbook. This is not what democracy looks like; this is what acting out a belief in minority rule looks like..." Missing, along with values, policies, principles, is "a stance crucial for democracy, in which opponents must be treated as legitimate adversaries, not as existential enemies" - per the totalitarian notion that "sharing power is equal to betrayal." Above all, the "unseemly spectacle" revealed, in an eerily timely fashion, "just how little has changed since the original January 6." Below, Bad Lip Reading finds, "Democracy dies in Cinnamon Toast Crunch."
Alexandra Petri on the mayhem born of electing thugs in a morally bankrupt, power-for-power's-sake party - "power enough to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women": "Wow, this is embarrassing! What's embarrassing is that you were expecting anything else...This is like electing a bunch of clowns to office and being disappointed when they put on an a magnificent clown show for you. Here is precisely the clown show you ordered!...It is like ordering a decorative salad made entirely from Legos and being mad that you can't eat it. I'm sorry, what did you think you were getting?"
(Abby Zimet has written CommonDream's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: [email protected]) This article was originally featured in CommonDreams.org.