Two Events in Congress Answer the Question- How Bad Could It Get?
A Congressman from Arizona Shows There is No Bottom
A few days ago Rep Paul Gosar ran a little video on Twitter, depicting a cartoon in which he murdered another member of Congress, someone who has already had frequent death threats. This at a time of high levels of political violence here and around the world. Here it ranges from assaults on the Capitol to menacing crowds outside a school board member’s home.
Gosar thought his cartoon was funny. No harm or threat or insult intended. Just a joke. Gosar has long been known as one of the crazies in Congress. His own family routinely calls for him to be expelled and question both his judgment and his sanity. I think they are on to something.
But his Republican colleagues? They are fine with what he did. Only two Republicans voted to censure him, two (Cheney and Kinzinger) who are considered outsiders by their party colleagues. But a dozen of those colleagues – 12 of them – chose to stand with Gosar in the House Well while his censure was read aloud. They chose to stand with Gosar, to say they saw no harm in what he did. It was a gesture that will live in infamy.
Gosar retweeted the offending cartoon again after the censure. Because his party said he was OK, why not do it again? Proving yet again that there is no bottom to this pit of House Republicans.
Thirteen Republicans in Congress Voted in Conscience. That Was Unacceptable
On the other hand, 13 members of the House Republicans voted for the president’s infrastructure bill, for two reasons, maybe three. One, the country desperately needed everything in that legislation and more. We have neglected infrastructure almost totally for decades. The neglect is almost criminal. Biden laid out what it would take to get it right.
These 13 agreed. Two, it was for at least some of them an opportunity to have good things happen in their districts. They chose to take care of those they represent. Three, many thought the retail politics made sense. This legislation is almost universally popular across America. Here was a chance for a politician to do something that was good AND popular.
But in McCarty’s Republican House, they committed a moral sin. They voted for something Democrats proposed. No matter that it was needed, everywhere. Who cares that people wanted it? No matter that economists and business leaders said this was exactly what the country and the economy need.
So, one member of the House depicts murder of another member and gets a solidarity hug from his peers. Thirteen others do what may reasonably be termed the right thing, and they are being threatened with loss of committee assignments and other matters of standing.
Isn’t This Just Politics?
No, its not. This is something uglier and more destructive.
There is a long-standing tradition in democratic legislatures of members having the option to exercise a vote of conscience, rather than only voting a party line, when its important enough for them to do so. There is also an understanding that a member may feel called upon to vote on something in a way that is exceptionally important to the people of their district, even if that may put them outside the party line.
But none of that exists in Kevin McCarthy’s world. Let’s not kid ourselves that this is a matter of principled disagreements. McCarthy is now just a minor lieutenant in the Trump inspired gang that used to be the Republican party. Anything outside of 100% loyalty on everything makes you not a real Republican. Imagine that. Your evaluation as a member of that party no longer is evaluated on principles or programs. Its solely based on personal loyalty.
It Has Come to This
Make a joke out of murdering a colleague? No problem if you are with us in an all or nothing struggle to win power. Vote for something for a host of good reasons? Not good enough – you must be punished.
McConnell, I get. He is and always has been a mechanic, doing whatever it takes to win power. He never has had any principles or much in the way of character. He probably has a tattoo of Machiavelli somewhere we can’t see. But McCarthy is something else. At an earlier time, he seemed a reasonable conservative, capable of doing something at the national level. Now he little more than a minor thug, kissing the ring of a disgraced former leader and trying to pretend he is leading a bunch that is typified by Gosar, Greene, et al.
What a sad, sad thing this party has become.
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