Thursday, June 01, 2023


As the United States government approached the debt limit, it appeared as if Republicans in Congress might be willing to burn the global economy to the ground so the GOP could rule over America's ashes. As it turned out, many of the best-known people identified with the radical right were easily bought off, and were more interested in their own careers than in burning anything down:
Jim Jordan and other key conservative firebrands have caused a fair share of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy‘s biggest headaches. But instead of leading the rebellion this time, they helped him quash it.

As the House Freedom Caucus was preparing to discuss whether to officially oppose the speaker’s bipartisan debt deal — a move that would potentially galvanize conservative opposition — Jordan (R-Ohio) phoned several fellow members with a request, according to a person familiar with the calls. The former chair of the group urged them to hold back, effectively giving conservatives who wanted to vote with McCarthy license to do so.

Jordan, a longtime McCarthy antagonist turned ally, almost got his wish. The group took no official position until hours before the vote, when most members had already made up their minds.

... The Ohio lawmaker spoke up in favor of the deal in private calls and meetings, including taking the mic at a closed-door huddle on Tuesday night, just hours after many of his fellow conservatives had spent the day trashing the deal.

... The backing from Jordan, along with other once unlikely conservative allies with virtually no record of supporting past budget deals like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), has proven to be a lifeline for McCarthy. He’s spent months, and in some cases years, taking steps to win them over, with a plum committee assignment here, a desired debt provision there.
They play at radicalism, but they're careerists more than they are radicals. (Their radicalism now looks like mostly a career move.) I'm not saying that they won't hurt people with their radicalism, but there are limits. They stopped short of upending the economic order that their party's plutocrat donors rely on.


This relates to one of the myths Donald Trump's supporters believe: that he really wanted to burn it all down when he was president (and should have!), but he was thwarted by appointees who weren't on board with his burn-everything-down program. And that wasn't his fault! He was an innocent outsider in Washington and didn't know who would be genuine MAGA and who would be a saboteur or a sellout! If he's returned to power, he'll appoint only true believers.

I think this might be true to some extent, but it also might be hard for Trump to find true believers, especially when he's not a true believer -- he mostly follows the ideological lead of Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and the right-wing media. While he seems like a standard-issue right-wing lout, he doesn't seem viscerally radical himself, except about breaking rules to protect or aggrandize himself.

During his presidency he also listened to old-school Republicans and to Jared and Ivanka. I assume Javanka will keep their distance if he's president again, but he's likely to go back to taking the advice of people who are less-than-absolute extremists. So who knows how many norms he'll toss in the trash? I don't think he knows.

By contrast, Ron DeSantis knows exactly how many norms he wants to discard, and he has an eye for subordinates (Joseph Ladapo, Christina Pushaw) who are as radical as he is. There are probably limits to how many norms he can discard if he's president -- he'd probably make some mainstream appointments, too -- but I think he's more likely to leave America a constitutional smoking ruin than Trump.

We can disgree on that. But in any case, the ambition of Jordan, Greene, Massie, and others meant that the start of the revolution has been postponed, at least for a while.

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