Don’t look now, but Dems are in… array. The latest example is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to step down from her leadership post. Pelosi’s exodus looks to be an orderly attempt to pass the torch to a new generation of leaders. Imagine that.
Coming on the heels of a surprisingly good midterm where candidate quality and stability helped Dems, this (so far) seamless transition is another good sign. The troika (Pelosi, Rep. Steny Hoyer, and Rep. Jim Clyburn) who have been running the House Democrats are riding off into the sunset, while a new guard is riding in. Pelosi has set a smooth glidepath for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and a new team to take their place.
Who knows if it’ll work out (in sports, coaches notoriously struggle with picking their own successors), but as the late business and leadership guru Peter Drucker said, “There is no success without a successor.”
Contrast that orderly transition with what is happening in the GOP: Ten Republicans tried (and failed) to oust Mitch McConnell as minority leader in the U.S. Senate, and Kevin McCarthy’s elevation to Speaker of the House is still questionable.
Even if McCarthy becomes Speaker, his tenuous control over the GOP caucus (thanks, in part, to the GOP’s razor-thin majority) will empower the craziest members. McCarthy, for example, is being backed by the fringe Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, presumably because he has cut a deal with her. For this reason, former Rep. Joe Walsh predicts that “[Greene] will have McCarthy by the short hairs every single day of the week for the next two years.”
In case you thought Greene suddenly became an advocate of unity and comity, you’d be wrong. “…I’ve always said I’m not afraid of the civil war in the GOP. I lean into it,” Greene told Steve Bannon last week. And speaking of the “short hairs,” Bannon subsequently said that (according to Greene), McCarthy has committed to investigating Pelosi and “the murder of Ashli Babbitt.” Yeah, things could get interesting.
But while continued Republican craziness could pay political dividends for Dems, it’s also dangerous to root for Republicans to go off the deep end. If we end up with constant government shutdowns, then the consequences could extend far beyond the political realm.
To be sure, although there’s definitely more of a Game of Thrones vibe on the House Republican side, Democrats have their own troubles. There’s no denying that ideological tensions exist in the caucus. We saw what happened when Build Back Better stalled. But when push came to shove, progressives sucked it up, pulled it together, and took what they could get. What they got was the eventual passage of BBB.
It’s also true that sometimes a little messiness is good. Top-down command-and-control systems avoid messy fights, but this strategy is sclerotic and stifling. Competition breeds innovation. Today’s GOP has leapfrogged past healthy competition, however, and entered the unruly chaos phase where the inmates run the asylum.
Democrats, conversely, look more professional and stable. It’s a better look for the party, and it also facilitates more efficient strategic and tactical decisions.
So why aren’t Republicans using this disappointing midterm as an opportunity to get their act together?
It’s at least partly about the absence of Republican leadership. When the Squad tried to push Pelosi around, Pelosi pushed back. Even with a narrow majority, Pelosi never had her majority hijacked by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her small band of far-left progressives. And now, with this smooth transition apparently in the works, Pelosi has elevated Jeffries—one of AOC’s early enemies. In other words, Democrats (unlike Republicans) have not yet allowed their extremists to take over. They may run Twitter, but they don’t run the House.
The closest thing Republicans have to a leader like Nancy Pelosi is Mitch McConnell—the man Donald Trump and 10 Republican senators just tried to knife.
Meanwhile, the nascent GOP presidential primary looks to be a mess, with multiple candidates angling to challenge Trump. While this bloodletting might ultimately be a necessity if the goal is to transcend Trump, the process will be a nasty slog even (especially?) if Trump loses.
While Pelosi is busy paving the way for her successor, I feel certain that Trump would try to bury his.
MTG is rooting for a civil war in the GOP, and she (and her appetite for destruction) might just get it. If a House divided against itself cannot stand, the Republican Party is in trouble. It could be a long time in the wilderness.