At first it was just aberrant behavior. One can argue it began with Richard Nixon and his 1972 re-election campaign’s “dirty tricks.” Their success by bending the rules is best described by Mark Felt (aka Deep Throat) in the film All the President’s Men. based on Bob Woodward’s and Carl Bernstein’s book of the same title.
Nationwide–my God, they were frightened of Muskie and look who got destroyed–they wanted to run against McGovern, and look who they’re running against. They bugged, they followed people, false press leaks, fake letters, they canceled Democratic campaign rallies, they investigated Democratic private lives, they planted spies, stole documents, on and on– don’t tell me you think this was all the work of little Don Segretti.
Fast forward to October 3, 2023, the day House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was voted out of office by eight members of the Freedom Caucus, a subset of the larger group which forced 15 floor votes before McCarthy obtained the speakership. As early as January 3, 2023, more pragmatic members of the GOP caucus referred to the dissenters as the “Taliban 19.” This was nothing new. Former Speaker John Boehner once referred to the Freedom Caucus as “legislative terrorists.” After the chaotic attempts to replace McCarthy, it is hard to disagree.
More importantly, the self-proclaimed leader of the MAGA wing of the GOP House considered these descriptors a call to arms. According to POLITICO.COM, “Rep. Mat Gaetz (R-FL) called the comments ‘hurtful’ and ‘false,’ though he added, ‘I too am prepared for an extended battle I will ultimately win.'” On October 24, 2023, win he did with the ascension of Mike Johnson (R-LA) to Speaker of the House. Neither Gaetz or Marjorie Taylor Greene could ever dream the House gavel would be wielded by such a Trumpy, election denying, America First, homophobic Christian nationalist who explains his guiding principle as follows.
Someone asked me today in the media, “People are curious, what does Mike Johnson think about any issue under the sun?” I said, ‘Well, go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That’s my worldview.”
Imagine the response by every one of the 220 GOP members of Congress who voted for Johnson if an Irani Ayatollah said, “What do I think about any issue under the sun? Go pick up the Koran and read it. That’s my worldview.”
Now that Gaetz, et. al., have demonstrated terrorism works, you can bet the farm this is not the last time they will use it.
If you think the 2020 “Big Lie” was a one-off or it only applies to inter-party contests, look no farther than the eventual choice of Mike Johnson as Speaker of the House. Until last Tuesday, the rule which governed GOP caucus votes, named after former Speaker and convicted pedophile Dennis Hastert, though not specifically stating such, implies that the members of the party will abide by the wishes of a majority of the total GOP conference.
On October 11, the conference nominated Majority Leader Steve Scalise as the party’s choice for speaker. The secret ballot vote was 113 for Scalise and 99 for Jim Jordan. The MAGA wing of the GOP conference, however, refused to accept the outcome. When Scalise withdrew his nomination two days later, the conference nominated Jim Jordan over seven other contenders using (drum roll) ranked voting, something the RNC opposes for national elections. Again the losers failed to fall in line, denying Jordan the 217 votes on the House floor to secure the gavel. The conference then nominated Tom Emmer by a vote of 117 to 97. Within four hours (what one pundit referred to as a tenth of a Scaramucci), Donald Trump torpedoed Emmer’s nomination because he refused to go along with the Big Lie.
Only after Johnson received 128 votes in last Tuesday’s secret ballot, just 57.9 percent of the 221 GOP conference members, his supporters declared victory and demanded the entire GOP membership get behind him. One more example the GOP continues to believe the only legitimate elections are those in which their candidates prevail.
For what it’s worth.