In recent days, House Republicans displayed the chaos for which the party’s MAGA wing became notorious during the past eight years.
The week began with Majority Whip Tom Emmer winning the conference’s nomination as Speaker. The five-term representative from central Minnesota has the conservative bona fides, leadership credentials, affability, and sensibilities members frequently seek in a nominee to become the face of Congress. Emmer also properly voted to certify Joe Biden’s victory on January 6, 2021.
Electing Emmer would have been rational for House Republicans to do, yet when more than 25 of his rogue colleagues indicated they wouldn’t support him on the floor, the conference adjourned to give Emmer time to negotiate.
Enter Donald Trump, who was AWOL when all Democrats and eight GOP nihilists ousted Kevin McCarthy earlier this month, and the party needed him most before another of his endorsements (Jim Jordan) failed. Trump did what he does best: hurt his party by making a serious decision into a loyalty litmus test to a man who lost the 2020 presidential election and, by pushing unelectable populists, made certain Democrats reclaimed the U.S. Senate in years that followed.
Trump’s untimely intervention gave Emmer’s opponents cover to undeniably scare some Emmer supporters into switching to “no” if Republicans had insisted on a full vote. Trump used his usual vacuous ad hominem attacks, and Emmer withdrew from the race.
Cowardice won the day.
If Emmer was unacceptable to him, Trump could have said so at any juncture between Friday and Tuesday morning. This would spare us the ordeal of nominating a candidate who was dead on arrival. Instead, because Trump is Trump, he waited for his nonsense until after Emmer had been chosen as the nominee, sending Republicans back to the drawing board and, as importantly, handing legacy media another day to promote embarrassing coverage about the GOP at a time when congressional Democrats are supporting anti-Semitism and the current president is a disaster.
Supposedly, the final straw for Trump came when Emmer, like any responsible leader not named Elise Stefanik, refused to say who he would support in the ongoing presidential primary. I suspect Trump held. I suspect Trump held his fire over the weekend to prolong Emmer’s agony and make the eventual destruction even more annoying. That is stone-cold narcissism.
But there’s a caveat.
On Tuesday, News broke that nobody except execrable Matt Gaetz was quietly whipping votes for the Minnesotan. Bedfellows don’t get odder than a “Globalist RINO” who opposed the January 6 insurrection and MAGA media’s favorite asinine imbecile working together. But maybe it makes sense if you assume Gaetz, like many on the so-called New Right, is driven by personal vendettas rather than substantive politics. He abhorred McCarthy, but Emmer hadn’t antagonized Gaetz and, therefore, was acceptable.
McCarthy, Steve Scalise, and Emmer were all victims of personal grudges, not ideology or competence, as they aimed to ascend to Washington’s most thankless and challenging post.
Is the Speaker’s foremost requirement now being loyal to Donald J. Trump, of all people?
Newly minted Speaker of the House Mike Johnson — a former lawyer who joined the U.S. Congress in 2017 — is an erudite conservative and superior to a prior option like Jordan.
A lower profile figure, Johnson quickly became acceptable to everyone — for now. And he pushed a few of Trump’s conspiracies. That probably helped him, too.