If Republicans hope to accomplish anything in the next legislative session, they will definitely need to cater to the more extreme elements, the most outlandish members of their party, if they hope to have any measure of success. Without their support, any efforts at election reform, border security or even instituting a national abortion ban is doomed to failure.
Of course, Republicans would rather do nothing, other than conduct multiple hearings aimed at weakening President Biden’s reelection chances. They’d be content to sit on their hands for the next two years and then label the Biden administration a failure. However, since this would undoubtedly reflect poorly on them to their constituents, they will be all too happy to create chaos.
But to what end?
For years they have been screaming about the need to “fix immigration”, but have done nothing, other than the multi-billion dollar, never to be completed, boondoggle of a border wall that would do little to prevent the flood of illegal immigrants, but would serve as a monument to Donald Trump’s vanity.
So, a push to pass legislation, or hold other important bills hostage unless funding for some sort of immigration reform is attached, is entirely likely. But to get this bill passed, GOP centrists would need the support of the lunatic fringe MAGA Republicans. Ironically, since they are supposed to be the ones that Evangelicals support, Republicans would have to make a Devil’s Bargain that would likely include some very radical demands.
The Midterm Effect
The midterm elections saw many Republicans who opposed the Big Lie either retiring or being defeated. The hope was that their replacements would inevitably support Donald Trump’s triumphant return as the country fell deeper into an authoritarian abyss. The oft-predicted Storm that conspiracy theorists envisioned would have finally arrived and the dreams of a Christian nation would be achieved.
But that didn’t happen. Instead, the ultra-MAGA candidates were defeated. Yet, many of those who still supported the Big Lie were re-elected, some just barely, leaving the Republicans with a slim majority in the House. This means giving these naysayers a much larger voice in a Republican-controlled House.
House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy anticipated an easy path toward becoming Speaker. He joked about resisting the urge to hit current Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the head with the Speaker’s gavel when there was a transfer of power. Of course this was before the attack on Pelosi’s husband, but such was his confidence prior to the midterms.
With only a slim majority, it’s likely McCarthy will face opposition from the MAGA wing, which means he will need to make good on his promises to place some of them in powerful committee posts while simultaneously excluding prominent Democrats as a punishment for banning House Republicans for egregious behavior the prior two years.
This could be McCarthy’s only path to the position he’s long coveted. McCarthy needs the support of 218 Republicans to be named Speaker. They are projected to hold 222 seats once all the dust has settled, meaning he can only afford to lose four House Republicans. Five Republicans already have indicated they will not support him, leaving McCarthy one vote shy of the necessary 218 needed.
By promising a committee post to Marjorie Taylor Greene, he assured her support. What other deals will he have to make to gain the support of others? How far to the right will he have to go?
President Marjorie Taylor Greene?
While McCarthy has promised QAnon kook Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) a prominent position now that Republicans have regained the majority in the House, she may have far greater aspirations. With Donald Trump announcing yet another bid for the White House, he will definitely be looking to change his running mate. Due to his actions on January 6th, former Vice President Mike Pence is certainly out of the running.
What Greene lacks in common sense she more than makes up for in ambition because she has offered her name as a possible running mate in 2024. The conspiracy theory spewing representative from Georgia would certainly be a welcome addition to the ticket by the base of MAGA supporters, but since Trump already has their support, the selection of Greene would not expand his support, which is usually the typical reason for choosing someone different from the candidate.
But, Trump being Trump, he could likely ignore tradition, as he had in the past, and choose someone that appeals to his base. So, it would be premature to write off Greene just yet. With Trump currently being the likely Republican nominee, the party would be forced to embrace Greene and her insane rhetoric.
This sets up a true nightmare scenario.
While Trump is currently lagging in the polls, they have been wrong before. If he were to win in 2024, with Greene as his running mate, he would be 78 years old. The possibility of him not completing his term, either due to expiring because of his age, or finally being held accountable through the impeachment process, would elevate Greene to the most powerful position on the planet.
This is not out of the realm of possibility.
Trump could choose Greene as his running mate to appeal to his base, but also as a safeguard against being impeached once again. Democrats would be fearful of trying to remove him from office due to the prospect of having Greene in charge. Her hateful rhetoric and general ignorance of the actual workings of the Constitution make her equally, if not more, dangerous as Trump.
So, while many would no doubt call Trump’s choice of running mate foolhardy, others might see it as a shrewd move that would provide him with a shield against being held accountable for what would likely be an administration built upon punishing those who opposed him. If he were threatened with impeachment again, he would likely use the threat of a President Greene as a means of support, and he’d likely get it from both sides of the aisle, guaranteeing him almost unlimited power.
A Party in Transition
Taking one look at the make-up of the current Republican Party, one thing is for certain; this ain’t your daddy’s Republican Party. And the transition didn’t happen overnight. Republicans like to remind us that they are The Party of Lincoln. They use this fact to hide the reality that they are currently the party that has a base compromised of White supremacists.
Looking back into history, something Republicans are loathe to do lest they be accused of being “woke”, the downward spiral of the Republican Party the origins of the current party make-up can be traced to the Conservative Movement that originated with Arizonan Barry Goldwater. It evolved during the Reagan era when poor White males, disillusioned by the Civil Rights era, supported Reagan’s reelection. These “Dixie-crats”, Democrats who voted for Republicans, switched their allegiances over the years resulting in a deeply Red South.
Republicans, including Mick Mulvaney and Mark Meadows, who later became Chiefs-of-Staff during the Trump administration, formed the far right Freedom Caucus to oppose the popular Obama administration. At the time they were considered the extreme of the Republican Party.
Religious leaders, spouting a return to “family values” also comprised a large part of the Republican base. The Moral Majority movement that sought to end a woman’s right to choose, opposing same-sex marriage and claiming, incorrectly, that America was a Christian nation, ironically met its downfall when its leaders marital infidelities were exposed.
They were replaced by today’s Evangelical movement which, despite his many infidelities, strongly supports Donald Trump, going as far as claiming he was “chosen by God” to rule. Their steadfast support, along with their willingness to believe conspiracy theories over facts, form the basis of the far right agenda.
It’s against this backdrop that Republicans face their opposition. In order to claim any accomplishments that they can use to bolster their inevitable reelection bids, mainstream members of the party must allow the most extreme representatives a louder and louder voice. Taking this hard right turn might just drive the party off the cliff into oblivion.