Two things that I love are schadenfreude and pointing out magical thinking. Tuesday was a banner day for both.
For the last few years, in the hands of the Democrats, the first day of a new Congress had been a simple vote, the swearing in of the new Congress, and then it was on to the celebrations. In the hands of the GOP, it was a slog of a shit show with nothing accomplished and no path to move forward.
Our Fearless Leader covered the voting progress and outcomes. I’ll be honest: I’m only here for the schadenfreude. Let me get this out of my system–I was giddy on Tuesday as things got worse and worse for Kevin McCarthy. And I wasn’t alone—I had the House Democratic Caucus for company:
— Congressman Jamaal Bowman (@RepBowman) January 3, 2023
There were several tweets from Democrats bringing popcorn to the proceedings—here’s one of many:
About to go to the House Floor. pic.twitter.com/81QVxmbHBb
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) January 3, 2023
I’ll let Brendan Boyle close out the schadenfreude section:
The only thing more fun than watching GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy lose a vote for Speaker is watching it happen three times.
— US Rep Brendan Boyle (@RepBrendanBoyle) January 3, 2023
You probably saw the reports about the meeting the House GOP caucus had on Tuesday morning which included both yelling and profanity, but it turns out that the magical thinking began then, too. One branch of it was centered on the belief that the Democrats were going to get bored and leave, and by doing so, lower the vote threshold for McCarthy to win the speakership.
Here’s a sampling:
Some Democrats might not show up for future rounds, I’m told, by several sources… some are just bored by the House GOP drama, others think it’s better than voting present
— Robert Costa (@costareports) January 3, 2023
The political director for ABC didn’t even bother with a source—he just started his own rumor:
I do wonder how long Democrats are willing to all stick around and keep the magic number where it is.
Most are enjoying this. But many have friends and family in town and would like to resume their lives at some point.
— Rick Klein (@rickklein) January 3, 2023
Remember: actual reporting on policies is hard work and tedious. Covering a circus is more fun, so why not try to sway the narrative to your favored outcome?
I didn’t buy any of that, and my skepticism was validated:
Let me put this to rest for the media reporting this: there is no House Democrat who is going to help Kevin McCarthy today.
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) January 3, 2023
I was curious about where that fake news came from, and we were all curious about why Paul Gosar and Matt Gaetz were huddling with AOC. As it turned out, the rumor came from McCarthy, who told people at the morning meeting that he knew the Democrats would eventually leave the chamber and reduce the number of votes he needed. But you and I know that was never going to happen because of this:
People saying that Dems are going to get *tired* and leave to make McCarthy speaker really don't know about the recuperative powers of watching a guy who threw his hat in with people who came to your office to kill you suffer repeated humiliations.
— Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC) January 3, 2023
There was a second avenue of magical thinking at work—the belief that the prime time FOX News anchors would shame the recalcitrant Circus Caucus members back into line:
Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, who’s poised to be chief deputy whip, on what could possibly swing the 19 Jordan voters: “We’ll see what happens when Tucker and Sean Hannity and Ben Shapiro start beating up on these guys. Maybe that'll move it.”
— Max Cohen (@maxpcohen) January 3, 2023
I watched Tucker last night. He threw McCarthy under the bus. Magical thinking doesn’t work.
Other Republicans had reached the bargaining step in their grieving process. They had a different angle on magical thinking:
A block of House Republicans should get together with Democrats to pick a speaker to run a coalition government, which will moderate the House and marginalize the extremists.
— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) January 3, 2023
From House source: 2 very plugged-in Dem leadership aides say they are already talking about “coalition leadership” to divide the House evenly between Republicans and Democrats.
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) January 3, 2023
Ah, the fabled coalition government. And the weird thing is that that’s actually not entirely magical thinking—if the GOP is willing to vote for Hakeem Jeffries. Otherwise, there is zero chance the Democrats are going to save the GOP’s bacon—nor should they.
McCarthy is done in GOP leadership. He cozied up to the people who tried to overthrow the government even as his initial reaction was to condemn it and TFG, and fully expected them to follow along behind him simply because he felt he’d earned the position. Even seeing them up close and personal for years, he still believed they’d be loyal to him.
But if they couldn’t be loyal to the country which paid their salaries, why would they be loyal to him? He knows their only goal is destruction—they are radicals, and the Latin root of the word is, well, “root”. Radicals are people who want to pull things up by the roots. He couldn’t give them committee chairs and hold the rest of the caucus, and he can’t be Speaker without the Circus Caucus.
McCarthy knew they were scorpions when he took them in. I have no sympathy for him. I’ll be over here with my popcorn.
Here’s a musical version of the title story that’s worth your time: