Destruct And Corrupt
The Republican majority’s remarkable difficulty to elect a Speaker of the House is a logical end point for a party that has no real agenda and whose members are only interested in power for themselves. But it is also emblematic of the destruction and/or corruption of any institutional power that might threaten their privilege or hold them to account. There were no real policy differences between the 20 GOP radical nihilists and McCarthy and the rest of his insurrectionist caucus. The last holdout renegades simply hated McCarthy, a man of no principles who has catered to their every whim in spite of that hatred, and were willing to block him from the job he has coveted apparently for decades in order to take a scalp and illustrate their power.
Few of the nihilists are in any danger electorally. Many are in safe, often gerrymandered, seats, their constituents generally support the idea of burning the h(H)ouse down, and they can rely on grassroots donations. Most are only worried about a challenge from their right. From their point of view, a government unable to govern is a good result, opening up numerous opportunities for their corporate and political, (possibly foreign), sponsors and themselves to exploit. But all of this chaos is a basically result of a party that has declared government both the problem and the enemy for the last forty years.
Of course, what the nihilists, renegades, and the insurrectionist Republican caucus as a whole also really want is the protection of the institutional power of the House. Some of them actively plotted the coup with Trump. Others are what is euphemistically described as “ethically and legally challenged”. Most actually voted to overthrow the legally elected government even after the 1/6 failed coup. That is why the nihilist renegades demanded important committee assignments and changes to the rules, some of which are now apparently “secret”. It is why the new House rules under Republican control propose to gut the power of the Office of Congressional Ethics and prevent the evidence produced by the 1/6 committee from being managed by the National Archives, having it instead remain closely held by the House. It is why the Republicans are also interested in restoring the “Holman rule”, which would allow them to target individual members of the federal workforce by slashing their salary. It is why GOP members want to investigate Garland, the DOJ as a whole, and even defund the FBI. (Interesting how much press focused on “defund the police” which virtually no nationally elected Democrat ever supported compared with calls from elected GOP House members to “defund the FBI” and “defund DHS”. Worse, the GOP wouldn’t even fund the police when they had the chance). It is ultimately why they want the ability to “review ongoing criminal investigations”, a clear separation of powers violation that they will then use as a cudgel to discredit those investigations.
All of these are part and parcel of the typical authoritarian playbook that epitomizes the current Republican party – attack and neuter any institutional power you can’t or don’t control and corrupt the ones you do. In retrospect, it has been a remarkably effective Republican strategy ever since the “Gingrich revolution” in the 1990s and the breadth of its success extends across all levels of government.
The GOP practice of destruct and corrupt has prevented federal agencies from working as intended, even as Republicans use those agencies for their personal corruption. Republicans have refused to fill positions on the Federal Elections Commission with the result that the commission has often been unable to reach a quorum, essentially neutering that agency even as the illegal coordination between candidates and PACs and their acceptance of (or reliance on?) foreign money becomes more open and brazen. They have defunded the IRS so that it doesn’t have the resources to audit the millionaires and billionaires but instead spends its time going after violations of the Earned Income Tax Credit, while violating the explicit law to audit the president’s tax returns while Trump was President.
GOP destruct and corrupt has infected the courts and the judicial process, setting up a system where Republicans can venue-shop jurisdictions where they are almost assured of a decision in their favor. Almost any use of executive authority used by a Democratic president can be stopped by a judge somewhere in the Fifth Circuit. Destruct and corrupt is why Obama couldn’t get even a hearing for Merrick Garland but Amy Comey Barret gets confirmed just days before an election. It is why Trump can institute Title 42 restrictions, but Biden is prevented from cancelling them.
It is why Jim Jordan and Kevin McCarthy will be subpoenaing everyone from Fauci to Mayorkas to the DOJ despite they themselves having blown off valid legal subpoenas from the House itself. It is why we have ended up with a corrupt interpretation of the Second Amendment which has resulted in mass killings and child shooters seen in no other developed country. Ironically, it is the red states who are seeing the highest murder rates, the greatest destruction, because of this corruption. It is why we now have legalized bribery for politicians under the guise of campaign finance and constituent service.
The corrupt and destruct tactic has resulted in Republican state legislators becoming a permanent majority even when they only win the minority of votes via partisan gerrymandering okayed by the corrupt courts they created. That, in turn, leads to an even greater corruption of democracy via massive efforts at voter suppression. Similarly, Democrats who win state-wide offices where gerrymandering is not a factor now see their powers stripped away by those minority legislatures.
The next GOP target is the institutional power of the education system. In Florida, DeSantis has effectively outlawed teaching about our racist history, initiated book bans, and replaced school boards and university boards to enforce his version of ideological purity in education. The entire charter school movement is designed to destroy public education. Doctors are also now not immune from the GOP’s corrupt and destruct policies, with prenatal care being withheld from pregnant women for fear of running afoul of the new abortion restrictions and penalties. Finally, since it is basically a party of Christian white men, the GOP is attacking other sources of power and independence it finds threatening, particularly women, trans people, Muslims, and Jews.
Of course, the prime example of the Republican culture of corrupt and destruct is the entire arc of the Trump presidency, with one of the most corrupt cabinets and the most corrupt president in history. And when voters finally ended it, the administration and its Republican allies did virtually everything to destroy our democracy to stay in power – fake electors, finding Republican votes and/or disqualifying Democratic ones, trying to install an Attorney General who would declare fraud, potentially declaring martial law, and, finally, organizing and executing a violent coup to prevent the transfer of power. And even after the coup failed, the majority of congressional Republicans refused to certify the election.
Because it has occurred slowly over the last two decades, the breadth and success of the Republican culture of corrupt and destruct is vastly underestimated. We appear to have a legal system that is now afraid to go after openly corrupt Republican officials for fear of a destructive backlash, with the result that the coup plotters are now exporting their violent fascism to other countries. The Democratic president is now afraid to talk candidly in front of the Secret Service. The GOP destroys the meaning of words, like “legitimate political discourse”, “green energy”, “critical race theory”, and “woke”. We haven’t even discussed the vast amount of corporate corruption their policies have spawned. And the expectation of Republican corruption, obstruction, and bad faith is fully baked into the media narrative, leaving Democrats as seemingly the only party with real agency.
The spectacle of the GOP squabbling over the speakership made for great theater. But it was no fight over policy or the direction of the party, since virtually the entire caucus is on board with the corrupt and destruct strategy. Instead, it was more like the internal maneuverings of the Soviet Politburo with individuals fighting for personal power and protection, all with the knowledge the Party line will not change. Since, without control of the executive branch and the Senate, the GOP power to corrupt is limited, they will revert to destruct mode – refusing to fund the government, jeopardizing the world economy and the full faith and credit of the US by refusing to pay for previously authorized spending, cutting Social Security and Medicare, wasting resources on phony investigations of faux scandals, etc.
That will be bad enough. But the real danger comes in 2025 if the GOP holds the House and a Democrat (presumably Biden) wins the White House. As Brian Beutler notes, “If it were January 6, 2025 instead of January 6, 2023, and a Republican majority dissolved the House, there would be no way to certify the winner of the presidency”. If you don’t think that’s a real possibility, you haven’t been paying attention to the corrupt and destruct Republican party for the last few decades.