For all the talk of Trump-backed election deniers losing races across the country, that’s not the whole story.
Shockingly, given the message of voter moderation during the midterm elections, there are 145 election deniers in the new Republican House caucus, six more than the 139 who objected to the 2020 vote count in the current Congress. Their ranks are also higher in the Senate, with Trump courtiers winning in Ohio and North Carolina.
And they are poised to wield undue influence over the GOP in Congress, wreak havoc and use their power as a weapon to make concessions to hapless leaders too weak to hold them back, and to beholden to the former president to stand against the MAGA. invasion.
It was a pretty good election night not to be a MAGA
“Insurgents willing to be insurgents even after the Jan. 6 violence makes you wonder what they want to do with that power if there is another Trump candidate. You have to hope they act responsibly, but maybe not,” said Ned Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University who specializes in US elections.
The lame duck session currently underway could be the last gasp of sanity before the madness hits. Passing the Electoral Reform Count Act of 2022 is critical, Foley says, to avoid another January 6 in 2025 — should Trump or another MAGA-backed candidate be unhappy with the outcome. The reform significantly raises the bar for lawmakers to object, and it takes governors out of the equation, a reform that eliminates the risk of an election denier like Kari Lake taking office.
“Arizonas know BS when they see it,” Lake tweeted after TUSEN declared the gubernatorial race for Democrat Katie Hobbs.
Another critical point is raising the debt ceiling, which Republicans have said they will refuse to do unless the Biden administration agrees to scale back spending on the social safety net, raising the specter of potential default.
Michael Thorning, board director at the Bipartisan Policy Center, says there is a “strong united desire on the Democratic side” to avoid the political goosebumps associated with the unpopular but necessary action to pay the country’s bills. Republicans are reluctant to give up leverage, but some recall that during the Obama years, the crisis caused the downgrade of US credit. “Before that, everything was theoretical. We’re playing with live ammunition here,” says Thorning.
The last time the GOP held the debt ceiling hostage, it cost taxpayers $18 billion, recalls Norm Ornstein, a political scientist at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute (AEI). “Election denier is short for radical. Half have no idea what the consequences are, the rest are eager to blow everything up.”
If the debt ceiling isn’t raised during the lame duck session, it will fall into the hands of the new Congress “and the chances of the right taking us off a massive economic cliff are terrifyingly greater than zero,” said Matt Bennett of Third Way, a moderate Democratic group. “If you play political chicken, you have to make sure that both parties know that a crash is a bad option. It is not clear to me that this group of MAGA Republicans are aware of that when it comes to a default.”
Kevin McCarthy, the likely next Speaker of the House, will have the narrowest margin since 1932, when 17,000 war veterans and their families marched to Washington — as the Bonus Army — to demand the promised aid for their World War I service. Dave Wasserman of the impartial Cook Political Report likened McCarthy’s narrow majority to a “Marjorie” — given how beholden he will be to extremists like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to secure his tenuous grip on power.
Pushing total bullshit disinformation is not “healthy skepticism” from the powerful
McCarthy survived an early test in his caucus but still has weeks of dealmaking to gain the support he needs before the House of Representatives vote in early January. “McCarthy is the weakest, most spineless, and most morally compromised leader I’ve seen in 50 years of being close to this process,” said Ornstein, who has written extensively on Congress, including his 2016 book, It’s even worse than it looks.
Republican Tom Davis represented Northern Virginia in the House from 1995 to 2008 and chaired the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) from 1998 to 2002. He told The Daily Beast that there are “tricks of the trade” McCarthy can use to win on the floor. . If a handful of members — say between five and seven — abstain, that could bring the number needed for a majority to attend below 218, and McCarthy has committee chairs he can promise away, and then there’s “the Trump card,” assuming the former president is willing to twist his arms to appoint the man he’s dubbed “my Kevin” as Speaker.
“Everyone goes with their own self-interest,” says Davis. McCarthy knows where his caucus is. McCarthy needs Trump. If Trump takes the rug off, he’s not a Speaker. None of these guys like Trump. Everyone acts in their own interest. They’re with Trump, not out of loyalty, it’s out of self-interest.”
Donald Trump and Mike Pence are launching the political comebacks no one wants
In an attempt to explain how so many otherwise rational lawmakers have fallen into the grip of Trump and his Big Lie, Davis recalled pleading with members of the Republican House on Jan. 6, telling someone who had a Ph.D. that objecting to the certification of the 2020 election will “brand you for life”, only to be told that if he failed to do so, he would get a primary. Another GOP legislator did the right thing, according to Davis, and when he was home in his district two days later, a woman came up to him, not to praise him, but to say, “Do you think they lesson learned?”
If the past is a prologue, we can expect more of the same from the election deniers. What the midterms have changed is the nature of the response. Republican media elites, primarily Rupert Murdoch and The Wall Street Journal editors, distance themselves from Trump’s desperate attempt to return to the White House. Democrats need not be in a defensive position in 2024.
When voters choose their next president, they will do so after seeing firsthand how Republicans handle power in the new Congress. Voters want more than a clown show.
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