The House Speaker battle is a microcosm of the GOP’s national challenge

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Opinion

The Republican Party has come to a place where it has been coming for a long time.

In 2008, Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) admitted he had a problem: The Republican base was not very enthusiastic about his candidacy. McCain paid his political dues and inherited the nomination. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses that year, in part because evangelical Republicans were less enthusiastic about McCain. So when it came time to pick a running mate, McCain chose Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, an unexpected choice seen as a recognition of the party’s growing power center: catering to the whims of ordinary people rather than governing them.

McCain lost; Barack Obama won. An opposition movement soon emerged on the right, focused on attacking Obama and the Democrats. But it was broader than that, certainly an attack on an establishment that Republicans had shown insufficient interest in engaging in precisely this fight — the contours of which changed as Rush Limbaugh worked on his tirades. or on Fox News prime-time shows. Republican leaders were able to harness that energy enough to win the House in 2010.

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The last clear victory for the GOP establishment came two years ago, as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney fended off a number of emerging rivals to become the party’s nominee. Various other candidates did better in competing for support from the grassroots powerhouse, but only briefly, and Romney won. The establishment’s term is over, especially since polls show Romney is likely to win in November. And then it didn’t.

In 2014, the anti-immigration backlash was a leverage point for grassroots comments to target and oust House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-W.Va.) in the primaries. A year later, Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency, directly below the base comment of which he was a shameless member. The establishment and outside observers scoffed, but Trump’s repetition of Breitbart’s right-wing rhetoric to Breitbart readers was effective. Now, this final comment candidate has finally won the nomination. And Trump, thanks in part to energizing the base explanation, outvoted Hillary Clinton in enough states to become president.

Trump’s interest in putting himself at the center of everything has led to the emergence of a concept known as Trumpism, a tactic used by Trump to stay in power. This MAGAism is distinct from Trump’s specific political appeal to simple explanations. Trumpism is all about Trump attacking his opponents and making mean tweets. MAGAism is a canvas of nationalism, racial politics, and contempt for the establishment that Trump has tweeted throughout his tenure. Both are outside of Trump, and both have been deployed by other Republicans and right-wing figures for their own purposes since Trump was ousted from the White House.

We are now in 2023. As of this writing, House Speaker-elect Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — the House Minority Leader until earlier this week — has repeatedly failed to secure his rights. Votes are needed to win an election. The reason for this failure is twofold. First, his party’s majority is so narrow that even a small swing would make it impossible for him to be elected. Second, there is a huge motivation for deviations: praise and attention from the comment base.

The political world after McCarthy’s January is interesting. He was once identified as a “young gun” in the GOP, a vision of the party’s future direction. (So ​​does Eric Cantor.) He is former Speaker Paul D. Along with peers like Ryan (R-Wis.), he was thought to represent the next generation of the GOP establishment. But McCarthy has acknowledged that being seen as a GOP establishment is not the way to survive in the party in its new form, and he has tried to establish a position closer to simple explanations. Last year, when comments and conspiracy theories by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ga.) led to her ouster from Democratic-controlled committees, McCarthy came to her defense, acknowledging that she had called for a modest explanation. Two years ago, when Trump supporters gathered at the Capitol, McCarthy threatened Trump privately, then quickly silenced his critics when he began receiving warnings that those comments were not mainstream. in disorder.

Part of the problem is that McCarthy, trained in the old ways of politics, was looking for a validator with simple explanations who could draw this group into the political fray. But a valid basic explanation; it is not confirmed. It is a source of power that he gives to others (often in a schizophrenic way) and sometimes conflicts with himself. Trump was convinced that his base was his, and to some extent some of the base comments were Trump’s. But Trump fails to direct the main comment as a whole. It’s too nebulous, conflicted and mercurial.

Many of those who voted against McCarthy on Tuesday supported Joe Biden’s voter suppression effort in the hours after the riots at the Capitol, The Washington Post’s Amy Gardner reports. That’s not surprising, since most House Republicans did the same that year. But we can see these votes as a backlash against Biden and his hold on power, not against Trump. These votes were declarations of alliance with the same basic explanation as declarations of loyalty to the incumbent.

Not surprisingly, these anti-McCarthy voices come from a number of established figures in the right-wing media. Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Lauren Bobert (R-Colo.) are all in the middle of the opposition, interspersed with engaging and down-to-earth comments. McCarthy was able to get Green on board, but he was unable to get these allies to agree, given the potential to distract the opposition.

Trump himself endorsed McCarthy ahead of the primary vote and appeared to question whether he would continue that endorsement Tuesday night. On Wednesday morning, she strongly renewed her support in a post on her social media platform, a surprisingly bold statement of ownership of the outcome. It’s an interesting test of the former president’s power against mainstream commentary, and one that may be lost in the present.

McCarthy’s team certainly maintains public optimism. One of the most significant comments came from Rep.-elect Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.). told reporters he expected elements of the mainstream commentary to influence McCarthy.

“We’ll see what happens Tucker [Carlson] and Sean Hannity and Ben Shapiro started beating those guys,” Reschenthaler said of McCarthy’s opponents. “Maybe that will move him.”

On Tuesday night, Fox News hosted Hannity and Carlson. But it is known how they did it.

Hannity, who has been part of the mainstream commentary during Trump’s presidency, was revealed to be part of the pro-Trump faction of the group. His support for Trump came before he stepped up his modest comments, consistent with his long-standing flexibility in his rise to power. While Trump was the establishment — by definition drawing some resistance from the rest of the mainstream commentary — Hannity was with the new establishment. Thus, his show on Tuesday was presented accusation McCarthy’s opponents were expected by Reschenthaler.

That didn’t happen with Carlson. He’s now an ambassador for Fox News’ commentary base, whether Hannity knows it or not. Carlson thus castigated McCarthy as a creature of the establishment that Gaetz was. rapidly increases. Supporting McCarthy is a way to strengthen existing Republican power, but opposing McCarthy is, as the average commentator would expect, a way to oppose an unreliable establishment (Trump’s “swamp”). .

That’s why McCarthy’s challenge is a national issue for the Republican Party. There is no way to fix the main explanation, because it is determined in part by the inability to connect it. Even if Trump had to learn that lesson, McCarthy surely would. He can’t offer much to the right-wing fringes of his party, as their deal trades power for power in the House through key comments, and the former offers far more power. To become president, McCarthy may need the support of moderate Democrats, a deal that is anathema to rank-and-file commentary, if not Republicans in general. Securing a leadership position by working with Democrats would further erode support from the far-right element of his party and threaten his ability to win over other critical votes who need them, given his fragile majority.

It’s the end of the road the GOP has been on for at least a decade and a half. Once the Republican base, which works in symbiosis with the right-wing media, has grown enough to command a majority—a growth thanks to Trump—the prospect of governing a House conference increasingly elected by the base’s interpretation has become more tenuous.

You’ll recall that the third “young gun” along with Cantor and McCarthy was Ryan, who resigned after admitting that Carlson and Twitter were unable to lead the House GOP caucus, which he knew offered more power than him.

There are very few party issues.

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