Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Crossing The Jordan


The world is waiting for the Israeli counteroffensive to kick off in Gaza, but the rest of the world is also moving on its own schedule. One of the chains of events that can’t stop is the search for a new Speaker of the House of Representatives. As I write this on Monday, a vote is scheduled to take place on Tuesday to test support for Jim Jordan in the role. 

Please, no. 

I was definitely not a fan of Kevin McCarthy, but I opposed his ouster. I wasn’t particularly fond of Steve Scalise, but I thought he would have made a decent Speaker. 

By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America - Jim Jordan, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=78173844

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I’m not a fan of Jim Jordan and I am definitely rooting for him to go down in flames in the upcoming vote. Jordan, a founding member of the Freedom Caucus, is one of the most divisive members of the Republican Party and the last thing the country needs right now. 

The Ohio congressman represents a small, shrill faction within the Republican Party. They call themselves “conservatives,” but in reality, the Freedom Caucus abandoned conservatism (as defined as a limited government, free market, shared national defense, and constitutional philosophy) for political theater and Trumpism long ago. 

The nomination of Jim Jordan is a case of the tail wagging the dog. The Freedom Caucus is made up of 45 congressmen out of 435. MAGA Republicans are an amorphous assortment, but they don’t represent a majority of the House either. Republicans currently hold a seven-seat majority over the Democrats, but the Republican Governance Group, a collection of moderate Republicans, boasts more than 40 members. 

Of course, “moderate” is a vague term. One of the listed members of the group of so-called moderates is Elise Stefanik, who has become one of the most obnoxious MAGA voices in the House. 

The point, however, is that the Freedom Caucus and the MAGA faction are not a majority of the House. They do, however, wield an outsized influence thanks to the power of Republican media. On the other hand, they don’t have a lock on Republican votes.

The reason that Republicans are having a problem electing (and keeping) a Speaker is that the Republican Party is bedeviled by a schism. The traditional Republicans are on one side of the split and the MAGA Republicans are on the other. Just who is on which side can vary from day to day, but the important thing to remember is that neither side has a natural majority. 

The Freedom Caucus and MAGA faction don’t understand this, however. The two groups have delusions of grandeur and act like they have a majority of the House. This attitude is especially prevalent in some of the worst members of both groups such as Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert. 

The rub is that while these fringe-right members of Congress don’t have a majority, they do have the heckler’s veto. This is due to the facts that the Republican majority is so slim and that moderate Republicans refuse to try to build a working coalition with moderate Democrats. Partisanship and factionalism are crippling Congress. 

In more sane times, wingnuts like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz (neither of whom is in the Freedom Caucus but both of which are part of the MAGA faction) could be marginalized by reaching across the aisle to work with Democrats. The one time that has been tried on an important bill in recent history, it worked to keep the government open but it also cost Kevin McCarthy his speakership in what I consider to be a short-sighted FU move by congressional Democrats. 

As I write this, I’ve seen reports that Jordan has managed to pick up some additional votes, but in his nomination vote last week, he fell more than 50 votes short of the number he would likely need for a majority of the House. I find it hard to believe that he will overcome enough doubters to eke out a victory when Democrats collectively vote nay. 

And Democrats really have no reason to support Jordan. The Ohio congressman has not only been a very partisan actor in Congress, he has been a dishonest one as well. Jordan has been one of the loudest voices in the attempted impeachment of Joe Biden, repeatedly making false claims about the president and his son, Hunter. Jordan has promised to work with the Biden Administration, but those of us familiar with his history are skeptical that that he could be trusted to carry out the business of the country in good faith. 

Take the looming government shutdown, for instance. In the most recent shutdown, Jordan seemed to follow McCarthy’s lead, but he was an architect of the 2013 “Defund Obamacare” shutdown. More recently, he told Punchbowl News that he would use the fiscal crisis as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the Biden Administration for border funding. 

In other words, McCarthy lost his position because he was beholden to the bomb-throwers in the Republican caucus. Jim Jordan is a bomb-thrower. 

The smart move would be for sane Republicans to negotiate with moderate Democrats on a consensus candidate. There are some Republicans who are respected by both sides and who could be good, effective Speakers leading a bipartisan coalition. That may sound radical, but it’s a popular idea. A recent YouGov Blue poll found that 63 percent said the two parties should work together to form a governing coalition. 

The problem is that moderates are an endangered species on both sides. In today’s hyperpartisan era, crossing the aisle can be hazardous to your political future. It’s often better to keep your head down and do nothing than to do the right thing and deviate from the party line and be skewered by pundits on Fox News and MSNBC. Let’s face it, most members of Congress are more interested in getting re-elected than in solving problems. 

Yet hope springs eternal. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) said over the weekend on “Face the Nation” that a deal might be necessary. 

“I think Jim Jordan will be an excellent Speaker,” Turner said. “I think he’ll be able to get to 217. If not, we have other leaders in the House. And certainly, if there is a need if the radical, you know, almost just handful of people in the Republican side, make it unable… to be able to return to general work on the House, then I think obviously, there will be a deal [that] will have to be done.”

Given the context, it seems that Turner’s consideration of a bipartisan deal is more of a threat than a sincere acceptance of a moderate course of action, but we have to take what we can get. 

The irony is that in marginalizing the radical wing of their party, Republicans would be helping themselves. A Jim Jordan House would be a disaster that would probably impact Republicans at the polls next year. The flip side is that polling has shown for years that voters want the parties to work together.

Salvation may come from the Republican schism. Republicans are almost evenly spliton whether they should shut down the government. Likewise, the GOP is closely divided on aid to Ukraine with a bare 50 percent of the party in favor. We can hope that moderate Republicans and fiscal and national security conservatives will be able to stem the MAGA tide and send Jordan to the back bench. 

The country and the Congress are closely divided. It’s time to act like it and stop kowtowing to the demands of the kamikaze caucus. The way to do that is for moderate and sane members of Congress to reach across party lines and meet in the middle. 

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PALESTINIAN BOY MURDERED IN CHICAGO: Sadly, it’s not news when a Palestinian six-year-old dies these days, but it is when it happens in Chicago. 

The six-year-old boy and his mother were attacked by their 71-year-old landlord who stabbed the boy 26 times. His mother, stabbed more than a dozen times, survived but was too severely injured to attend her son’s funeral. 

Police told CNN that the victims were “targeted by the suspect due to them being Muslim and the ongoing Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis.”

It is not only reprehensible to attack a mother and son who have nothing at all to do with Hamas’s actions half a world away, but the murderer was actually doing exactly what Hamas was doing: Attacking and killing innocents based solely on their ethnicity. 

Wadea Al Fayoume, the murdered six-year-old, was an American by the way. Wadea was born in the United States after his parents immigrated from the West Bank. 

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BIDEN GOES TO ISRAEL: President Biden will visit Israel on Wednesday in a show of support for war torn nation. It is rare that such a state visit is announced in advance when it involves a country at war and the president will be in a potential danger zone. The visit underscores Biden’s commitment to Israel.

WHEN IS A JEW NOT A JEW? I recently saw the mention of a conspiracy theory that I became aware of more than a decade ago. The Khazar conspiracy theorizes that modern Israelis are not descended from ancient Jews but are instead heirs to the ancient kingdom of Khazaria, which converted to Judaism around AD 740. 

Modern genetics disproves the theory that Khazars replaced the Jews, but the story in an interesting one. I wrote about it in my blog back in 2010: http://www.captainkudzu.com/2010/06/khazar-conspiracy.html

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