Friday, January 6, 2023

The biggest surprise from the Speaker vote that no one is talking about

 The campaign to elect a new Speaker of the House is dragging on in Congress. As surprising as McCarthy’s failure to clinch victory over several days of voting is how the battle lines have been drawn. In particular, the battle pits Donald Trump against some of his most zealous supporters.

The group of 20 Republican dissidents, all but one of whom come from double-digit Republican-leaning districts and who are uniformly MAGA, now find themselves opposing Trump’s endorsed candidate for the speakership.

yellow and brown duck cartoon character
Photo by Shubham Dhage on Unsplash

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An interesting statistic is that, for the 15 members of the dissident group who have a Trump score from FiveThirtyEight (which measures the number of times a congressman voted with Trump), the average was 94 percent. That number is skewed because of Rep. Chip Roy of Texas whose score was 33.3 percent. The remaining 14 rogue Republicans had voted with Trump 100 percent of the time.

Another article from FiveThirtyEight also offers more data on the raucous caucus of 20:

  • 17 come from R+15 districts

  • 14 are members of the Freedom Caucus

  • Five were first elected in the 2022 midterms

  • Four of the five newly-elected members were endorsed by the Freedom Caucus

So why are the mavericks breaking with Trump over the election of Kevin McCarthy? One answer is that McCarthy is a weak figure who isn’t trusted by either his allies or his enemies.

Writing in the New York Daily News, S.E. Cupp points out how McCarthy himself contributed to the rebellion by failing to keep the radical fringe in line as he led the caucus over the past few years. In her devastating critique, she calls McCarthy “an unprincipled sellout who made all the wrong bargains with all the wrong people.”


The bottom line here is that the rebels rightly judge that McCarthy is a weak leader with few core values who wants to be Speaker more than anything else. They know that they can extract a heavy price from such a person and their ultimate goal may be to seize de facto control of the House Republican caucus by making McCarthy their puppet.

A second possibility for the schism between Trump and his MAGA enablers may be even more important to the future of the GOP. After the disappointing (to put it mildly) Republican performance in the midterms, we may be seeing the beginnings of a process in which Trump loses control of MAGA.

The rise of Ron DeSantis as a MAGA darling and an alternative to Trump gives the anti-establishment wing of the party a new champion. At the very least, events have combined to make MAGA Republicans feel safer in flouting Trump’s wishes if maybe not challenging him directly.

Now that Donald Trump is the Republican establishment, politicians who make their name by being anti-establishment have to choose between backing Trump and being outsiders. Trump, now weakened and wounded by legal problems and electoral defeats, is becoming easier to ignore.

Depending on which member of the rebellion we are talking about, the holdouts may fall into both camps. In some cases, they may share both motives at the same time to a certain degree.

Of course, even when flouting Trump’s wishes, some find ways to be obsequious to The Former Guy and his base. Lauren Boebert (R-Col.) recently floated the idea of nominating Trump as Speaker, an idea that would likely be as popular as fecal material floating in a punchbowl.

At this point, it’s impossible to say how the Speaker battle will play out, but as a former Republican who has seen this intraparty trainwreck coming for years, I’m enjoying the spectacle. Only when the radical MAGA faction is brought to heel can the GOP return to being the sane conservative party that the country needs it to be.

The irony now is that the current skirmish puts Trump on the opposite side of his own faction. Regardless of the underlying reason, it seems apparent that The Former Guy is no longer in complete control of the movement that he created. With MAGA off the leash and out of its creator’s control, there are interesting times ahead.

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MIL-SPEC AS UNEXPECTED? If you spend time on social media, you may have seen the meme below over the past few weeks.

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'When you're told something is Military Grade! Civilians Veterans'

I was never in the military and for much of my life, I was like the girl on the left. My assumption was that military gear was highly engineered and state-of-the-art. I wrote a while back about my son, Ethan, joining the Air Force and, while some of the mil-spec hardware is top-of-the-line, I can already tell you based on his experience that quite a bit of it is not.

Even before he left for Basic Military Training, we were becoming disabused of the notion that military gear is the best. He was advised to buy a pair of running shoes to take to Basic along with some other items like workout clothes. The Air Force issued running shoes but the general consensus is that you were better off with civilian ones.

Even more surprising to those of us who have ever seen movies about Basic, the GI haircut came quickly but they weren’t issued uniforms until several days into the process. If I remember correctly from his letters, he wasn’t issued OCPs, the modern camouflage utility uniform, until several weeks after his arrival.

It was a similar story when it came to boots. He was issued boots by the Air Force while in Basic, but, like the running shoes, these were not something that you’d want to wear long. Ethan bought a much better lightweight pair of boots before he even finished Basic.

I can testify to the unworthiness of the issued boots. Ethan was going to throw them away when he finished Basic, but I said that I’d take them home. I wore them through the airport as we returned home from his graduation and for a few days around the house. I even put new inserts in them, but they were killing my feet. I finally set them aside.

Now, Ethan is in tech school. His specialty required steel-toe boots. Again, the Air Force issued a pair, and again, he needed to buy replacements. So now, after less than six months in the Air Force, he’s had to buy two new pairs of boots.

And that’s not all. The issued OCPs are hot and uncomfortable, but private companies make lighter, more breathable alternatives. The training squadron doesn’t issue cold-weather gear, but he still needs a coat.

As a civilian, I was never aware of just how much equipment has to be paid for out of the pockets of military members. We live near Fort Benning and I’ve seen some of the military supply stores selling Ranger School supplies, etc., but I never knew how much basic equipment that even enlisted men (who are definitely not getting rich) had to buy or replace. There is also the cost of drycleaning uniforms and having patches sewn on. We’ve helped Ethan out with a lot of his new gear, both directly and with gift cards, but not all soldiers and airmen have families that can equip them.

I say all that to say this: If you know someone who is going into the military, consider giving them some financial support. Gift cards are available to the Base Exchange and other gift cards are accepted as well. Many of the items that military members need are available on Amazon with free shipping, but uniform items can be very specific so unless you know what you’re doing, it’s best to let them do the shopping. A variety of private companies supply uniform items, often at lower prices than are available on base.

TWEET OF THE DAY: As I write this, the Man Who Would Be Speaker has just lost another vote. I’d say how many losses that is, but I’ve lost count and the number would probably be obsolete shortly anyway. McCarthy did make gains, but it remains to be seen whether the Never Kevins can be won over.

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