The song ‘Stuck in the Middle with You’ by the now-defunct and relatively obscure Scottish punk rock band Stealers Wheel contains the lyrics: “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am – stuck in the middle with you.” The song comes to mind when observing the motley crew (with notable exceptions) that comprises our current Congress, but in that case it’s nitwits to the left of me and rubes to the right.
Let’s begin with the nitwits on the left. For years now, they’ve trampled upon the values of their liberal Democrat forebears. They – far more so than Republicans – believed that government is often the best solution to the problem. They had faith in the government’s ability to create great societies and thought high taxes are just a necessary consequence to make that happen. They also believed the way to end poverty is simply to give money to the poor. And they had the integrity to disagree with each other and to put country ahead of wacky longshot schemes to attain power. Sadly, what has morphed from that bastion of liberalism is a mutation of intolerant fascistic groupthink coupled with shameless self-serving political survivalism. On to the rubes on the right…
Just like other political labels, ‘conservative’ means different things to different people. To President Reagan it meant small government and military might (which explains why his penchant for less government didn’t apply to the Department of Defense). Not only did Reagan’s ‘Eleventh Commandment’ implore not to speak ill of any fellow Republican, but Reagan, along with then-House Speaker Tip O’Neill, a liberal lion for decades, went out as friends for beers after work, even as they had battled all day over ideological differences.
Presidents didn’t get impeached or indicted back then; House Speakers didn’t get ousted.
Speaking of which, on October 3 a rogue band of eight of the aforementioned rightwing rubes entered an unholy alliance with Democrats to oust (Republican) House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. For the first time in history, a House Speaker was removed from office. Sadly, there are a lot of political firsts happening nowadays: presidents being impeached multiple times, former presidents being indicted, etc.
Florida Representative Matt Gaetz’ personal feud with McCarthy has been festering for months. Gaetz led the Republican insurgents to vote McCarthy out on flimsy accusations that McCarthy was an ineffective ‘RINO’. (Note: one’s political IQ is inversely proportional to the frequency with which s/he uses the term RINO.)
Fully aware that if he didn’t back the Gang of Eight’s demands to shut down the government he’d be voted out as Speaker, McCarthy nonetheless put country first and got a deal done. It used to be that politicians got points for working with the other side; these days, it’s political suicide.
Some may recall that McCarthy’s political troubles started last year, when he was nominated as Speaker in the first place. Failed ballot after ballot aired the GOP’s dirty laundry nationwide, exposing their weakness as a party, and McCarthy acquiesced to the rubes’ demands that any House Member could call for a vote to remove the Speaker. Just like that. Once that measure passed, did anyone not see Gaetz would loom and scheme to topple his nemesis the first viable chance he got?
Back to the leftist nitwits. In one monolithic voice, every last one of them voted to remove McCarthy. Really? Not one of them thought McCarthy was up to the job? This further confirms that they’re buffoons, because the next Speaker is far less likely to be as reasonable as McCarthy in terms of reaching across the aisle. But the Democrats are so cynical, they salivate at the prospect of embarrassing the Republicans so intensely that they don’t stop to think how it will hurt them in the long run.
That’s if a new Republican Speaker can tame the party’s yahoos. While we can justifiably admonish Democrats for choosing chaos over country, at least they sabotaged their political opponents. Gaetz and Co. did it to their own; it doesn’t get any lower than that.
Though they are diametrically opposed to one another politically, few can argue that the two most successful House Speakers over the past quarter century in terms of accomplishments (for better or for worse, depending on one’s perspective) have been Republican Newt Gingrich and Democrat Nancy Pelosi.
Following McCarthy’s removal, an outraged Gingrich said: “ninety-six percent of the Republicans voted for McCarthy; 4 percent voted against him. From my position as a longtime Republican activist, they’re traitors. All eight of them should, in fact, be primaried. They should all be driven out of public life.”
Gingrich added: “we ought to be focusing on Biden, we ought to be focusing on the economy, we ought to be focusing on the border. Instead, you’re going to get a week or 10 days of the media focusing on Republican disarray. It’s an astonishingly destructive behavior by a handful of egocentric people who think they’re superior to 96 percent of the conference,”
The other seven Republicans who joined Gaetz in achieving their petulant coup are: Andy Biggs (CO), Ken Buck (TN), Tim Burchett (TN), Eli Crane (AZ), Bob Good (VA), Nancy Mace (SC), and Matt Rosendale (MT).
When I first learned about the vote, I worried that my representative, who’s a Republican, was one of the dastardly eight. I would’ve been ashamed to live in her district if that’d been the case. Thankfully, she wasn’t. Neither is my Representative, also a Republican, in the district where I spend my summers. Thankfully, they’re Republicans of the grown-up variety.