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Amanda Marcotte

Emmer in, out: MAGA cult's death spiral

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, finally bailed out on his bid to be speaker of the House last week, but the crop of contenders that rose up in his wake was not an improvement. Of course, that isn't the biggest surprise in an era when the best way to win over GOP primary voters is to be the kind of man that women cross the street to avoid. Still, the statistics are grim. Of the eight contenders who went in for the nomination Tuesday morning, six had voted to overturn the 2020 election of President Joe Biden. The other two, Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota and Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia, don't deserve any medals, however, because they signed a legal brief in 2020 asking the Supreme Court to steal the election for Donald Trump. 

Despite his vote to certify, Emmer, the House majority ship, was coup-friendly enough to back this fascist scheme so criminal that three of Trump's former lawyers have now pled guilty for their roles in the conspiracy. Still, that was not enough to save him. Despite being elected as their nominee in the GOP conference Tuesday, Emmer's role as presumptive speaker lasted mere hours before he gave up trying to win enough votes on the House floor to make it official. 

And, just to keep things kooky, House Republicans got together and nominated yet another guy with a painfully generic white man name, Mike Johnson of Louisiana. It does not bode well for Mike that he looks like Eric Cantor, a previous House GOP Whip who was defenestrated in a pre-Trump right wing purity purge. 

It's time to update the tired jokes about whether a politician can outlast a head of lettuce. For Republicans eyeballing the gavel, time should be measured in hours, not days. Emmer's time in the spotlight lasted about as long as Martin Scorsese's latest film. Perhaps the next presumptive Speaker will make it a full Barbenheimer

If it's starting to seem like Republicans don't care about reopening Congress, well, you're not paranoid. As Aaron Blake of the Washington Post reported Monday, new polling data shows that, for hardcore MAGA voters, destroying the ability of a democratic system to function is really the point. More than a third of Republican voters polled agreed that they "don’t care if Congress elects a Speaker." That number went up to 40% with people planning to vote for Trump in the primary, and up to 43% with viewers of Newsmax, the most shamelessly pro-Trump cable network. 

The fight is exposing a serious split in the GOP, Harvard political scientist Danielle Allen writes. On one side are those who "communicate no basic regard for the Constitution," because they see democracy as an impediment to their own power and "a desire to impose cultural homogeneity by fiat." Then there are those who, either out of genuine regard for democracy or fear of the chaos that would follow a fascist takeover, are trying to keep basic government functions on the rails. In Congress, at least, the latter group is shriveling into a non-entity. 

The few pro-democracy Republicans keep using the word "embarrassing" to describe the inability of their House caucus to elect a leader. But at least one, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Tex., went further. On ABC, he called the situation "dangerous," and argued "it empowers and emboldens our adversaries like [Chinese President] Chairman Xi [Jinping] who says, you know, democracy doesn’t work."

For MAGA diehards, however, that's all upside. The entire point of Trumpism, to be clear, is to convince Americans democracy cannot work. Because of this, the same forces really don't mind if foreign adversaries run by dictators see this as an opportunity to undermine the United States. On the contrary, empowering enemies of American democracy here and abroad was a clearly articulated goal of the most MAGA members of Congress in the GOP conference, per Politico reporting:

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), for example, asked each contender about whether they would conduct intense oversight of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Attorney General Merrick Garland — the latter over his handling of detainees from the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

“I want to know, which one you have the balls to hold them accountable?” Greene asked the speaker candidates inside the room, according to a source familiar with her remarks.

The eight candidates also got quizzed on their approaches to new aid for Ukraine, which many House conservatives oppose.

Their three priorities are getting out of the way of Russian President Vladimir Putin's illegal war on Ukraine, supporting the Capitol insurrectionists, and trying to force the U.S. to violate its legal obligation to admit asylum seekers. What holds these three issues together is contempt for democracy and for international efforts, post-WWII, to curtail fascism and prevent genocide. 

Even the longstanding belief that Republicans are for "national security" does not hold water in the MAGA era. As McCaul's comments suggest, Republicans have no problem winking flirtatiously at foreign dictators who yearn to see a weak United States that could be defeated in a war. But we also see it in Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., and his war to dismantle the military readiness of the U.S., one blocked promotion at a time. Because of all the other chaos in the news, Tuberville's anti-military campaign isn't really at the forefront of the media radar, but he shows no signs of relenting in his efforts to destabilize the chain of command. Even after the Hamas attack on Israel, Tuberville has refused to let the American military function normally. 

Tuberville's "official" reason for the promotion blockade is that the U.S. military grants leave and financing to service members who must travel for reproductive health care, including abortion. But Tuberville enthusiastically endorsed failed Senate candidate Herschel Walker, despite Walker paying for the abortions of his various mistresses. We can safely say his claim that this is about abortion funding is a lie. He is, however, one of the most rabidly MAGA, anti-Ukraine, and Putin-friendly members of the Senate. Likelier is that he shares Putin's distaste for an American military that is pro-democracy, especially when the commander-in-chief is Biden. We see this in Tuberville's undisguised disdain for any efforts by military leaders to keep the troops loyal to American democracy. Tuberville has complained repeatedly and loudly about military programs to expel soldiers with fascist sympathies, claiming that white nationalists are simply great patriots and "Democrats ought to be ashamed" for believing white nationalists are bad people.

White nationalists, as a reminder, believe that only white people should be allowed American citizenship, and that everyone else should be de-naturalized and even kicked out of the country. It's not just Democrats who see this view as incompatible with military service. Over 40% of Americans don't meet the white nationalist definition of "white." Of white Americans, a huge chunk are non-Christian or liberal, rendering them "illegitimate" to white nationalists. Most, if not all, top military brass wisely believe it's a bad idea to have service members who want to genocide most of the population. 

And, of course, it cannot be restated enough that these MAGA blowhards in Congress continue to back Trump, who has declared every election — even the one he won — to be a fraud. This isn't just about Trump's fragile ego. It's about a larger and ongoing agenda to discredit democracy and pave the way for a strongman-led autocracy. The failure to elect a Speaker isn't just about GOP incompetence. It's the latest manifestation of an anti-democracy movement's efforts to weaken the U.S. government, in hopes it collapses and they can take over without voters threatening to take their power away. 

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