The Rise of Radical Conservatism and Battle for Speaker: Fractures Within the Republican Party

  On October 3, local time, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 216 in favor and 210 against to pass the “removal motion” proposed by far-right Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz against House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, making McCarthy a historic figure in American history. The first speaker of the House of Representatives to be removed from office.
  In January of this year, McCarthy “survived” after 15 arduous rounds of voting and won the “gavel” of Speaker of the House of Representatives. In just nine months, McCarthy made two histories one after another. His career as speaker of the House of Representatives started in chaos and ended in chaos, which is regrettable.
Trump’s die-hard allies “spoil the situation”

  The initiator of both chaos was Gates, the sponsor of the recall motion. He is a die-hard Trump ally and comes from a “safe” Republican district in Florida. Since he was elected to the House of Representatives in 2016, he has led by more than 30% in four elections. This also prevents him from worrying that his unique actions will have a negative impact on his political life.
  Before the speaker election at the beginning of the year and this recall motion, Gates’s “highest moments” were almost all related to protecting Trump. For example, in October 2019, during the House Democrats’ impeachment investigation of Trump, he led more than a dozen Republican congressmen to rush into the Congressional Sensitive Information Isolation Room (SCIF) and live broadcast the confidential impeachment hearing content to social media. superior. In addition, he has also long attacked the anti-Trump establishment representative and Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney. At the time, McCarthy supported Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, and the feud between Gates and McCarthy was forged.
  Going back to the chaos of the speaker’s recall, the reasons why Gates is so obsessed with removing McCarthy are generally pointed out by public opinion. First, McCarthy failed to include conservative spending priorities when passing the government spending bill; second, McCarthy violated the The promise made to far-right conservatives during the speaker’s election at the beginning of the year relied on Democrats to avoid a debt ceiling deadlock in June and reached an “extension resolution” during this “government shutdown” crisis.
  The above two factors may be said to be just “triggers.” The author believes that the underlying logic of Gates’ move to remove McCarthy includes two points:
  First, the shaping of political game strategies. The biggest feature of Gates’ political game strategy is that it is “ubiquitous in the media.” As he said in his biography Firebrand: “Stagecraft is statecraft.” Privately, he turns politics into entertainment and frequently appears in media interviews and reports in order to attract voters’ attention and retain power; publicly, he uses social media, grassroots fundraising and the intimidation of the Republican MAGA voter base to appeal to Congressional leadership applies pressure to shape policy goals. From this point of view, if we look at his recall motion against McCarthy and the speaker election at the beginning of the year, the related strategies are clearly reflected.
  Second, there was opposition to Republican “money politics” figures headed by McCarthy. Gates has never accepted campaign funds from corporations or political action committees affiliated with advocacy groups such as the National Rifle Association, and has held only one fundraising rally in his past four election cycles. He considers this different from other members of Congress and is proud of it. He once said that “Congressmen are often actors,” reciting “scripts and lines written” by donors and lobbyists.
  McCarthy happens to be the most elite fundraiser in the Republican Party, bringing in tens of millions of dollars each year for the Republican campaign machine. In the 2022 midterm elections, super PACs aligned with McCarthy spent more than $250 million to help a large number of party figures run for or be re-elected as members of Congress. Therefore, in Gates’ view, the tacit understanding between McCarthy and his members was not based on “truth” but on money. This is the swamp that he and his MAGA voters want to “drain.”
The rise of radical conservatism

  Of course, Gates alone cannot unseat McCarthy. Along with Gates and all Democratic members of the House of Representatives, seven other Republican congressmen voted in favor of the recall motion, most of them from the “Freedom Caucus”, the far-right faction of the party represented by Gates. From the speaker election to voting in support of the recall motion, they worked together to choke McCarthy’s “political throat.”
  The “Freedom Caucus” originated from the Tea Party wave in 2010. Its members were very dissatisfied with the inability to check the strict fiscal discipline adopted by the Obama administration and believed that it was necessary to establish a new organization to use the collective influence of right-wing members to put pressure on the Republican leadership. , asking them to restore “fiscal sanity” and constitutional principles and allow lawmakers to actually legislate rather than decide on large government spending behind closed doors.
  The “Freedom Caucus” has always been a “thorn in the side” of the Republican Speaker: In 2015, the “Freedom Caucus” forced the then House Speaker John Boehner to resign because he believed that he was not tough enough on Obama; in 2017, the “Freedom Caucus” tried to pass Its internal members launched a challenge to then-Speaker Paul Ryan, causing the latter to resign early to avoid humiliation. From this point of view, McCarthy’s recall motion from members of the “Freedom Caucus” is just a microcosm of historical inertia.
  To some extent, this also reflects a profound shift in the conservative wing of the Republican Party. American historian Nicole Hemmer believes this shift can be traced back to the 1990s. She believes that Reagan’s sunny, pragmatic “Cold War conservatism” defined the conservative movement in the 1980s. Hard-liners such as Pat Buchanan, Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingram established “a more pessimistic, angrier, even more revolutionary conservatism” that This is the kind of conservatism that Trump, Gates, and even the “Freedom Caucus” pursue today.
  Three factors have led to this shift: First, the end of the Cold War has changed the landscape of American conservatism. Its stance shifted from a Cold War-driven “leaning in favor of more open borders and higher immigration levels” to a stronger nativist appeal. Second, the “Republican Revolution” in 1994 when the Republican Party retook the House of Representatives brought the conservative movement to Congress. This change had far-reaching consequences. After that, whenever a Democrat takes the White House, congressional Republicans will adopt destructive politics, focusing not on legislation but on investigation and obstruction. Third, the rapidly developing media environment has also fundamentally reshaped the conservative movement. The right-wing media machine grew in strength, amplifying radical voices. At the same time, in order to appear “fair and balanced,” liberal media also provide a platform for right-wing figures, which also contributes to the rise of radical conservatism. The rise of this radical conservatism now also creates governance problems for the Republican Party. A small group of hardliners were able to hold the wheels of the Republican Party, but instead gave up the initiative in policy formulation to the Democrats.

Challenges for the new Speaker

  Republicans in the House of Representatives are scheduled to hold a speaker candidate forum on the evening of the 10th local time and hold a closed intra-party election on the 11th. The two candidates are House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan. On the eve of the official vote, more than 60% of the 221 House Republicans still have not publicly committed to supporting Jordan or Scalise, which means that the two are far from receiving the majority support in the party to vote in the full House of Representatives It is more difficult to get 218 votes.
  The election of the new speaker is very likely to be difficult to produce again, and there are three potential trends:
  First, although one of the two won the intra-party election, he was unable to bridge the factional divide, which ultimately led to another round of voting in the whole house in January this year. The awkward sight of voting. The two have advantages over each other in the election. Scalise has the huge institutional advantage of being the current Republican leadership with very staunch internal allies. Jordan was the founding chairman of the “Freedom Caucus” and regarded himself as a “status quo shaker.” He would be supported by a large number of “Freedom Caucus” members and even endorsed by Trump. In recent years, he has also transformed into an “insider” status, holding the powerful gavel as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. But both have struggled to appeal to the Republican Party’s centrist wing. Therefore, even if one of the two wins with a simple majority within the party, he will still encounter opposition from opposing factions within the party when the whole house comes to vote.
  Second, Republicans changed the rules to “close the door” to the embarrassing situation of voting in January. A bill co-sponsored by Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., would require Republican speaker candidates to receive 217 votes in a closed election, meaning they can only appear Only 4 “running votes” can push the candidate to the whole house for election. The purpose of this proposal is obviously to control the chaos that occurred in January within the party’s closed-door elections. Even if there are more than ten or even twenty rounds of voting in the intra-party elections, the blending of interests and factional quarrels will be limited. Internally, the chaos of the Republican Party will not be made public again. If this rule is passed, intra-party elections are likely to be plunged into a lengthy voting process.
  The third is the introduction of a “third person” when factional differences within the party are difficult to reconcile. If the competition between Scalise and Jordan remains unresolved for a long time, the Republican Party will have to consider whether it needs a “third person” to tide over the difficulties. Currently, some lawmakers have written to interim House Speaker Patrick McHenry asking him to consider running for office.
  According to regulations, McHenry can run for speaker while serving as interim Speaker of the House of Representatives, and some Republican congressmen believe that McHenry is the only candidate who can currently obtain 218 votes. However, McHenry has not expressed his candidacy. Another possibility is a McCarthy “comeback.” Some moderate Republicans have said they will renominate McCarthy in a closed election. California Republican Representative Tom McClintock said in his statement: “The only feasible way is to reinstate McCarthy as speaker in accordance with party rules and respect and enforce the right of the majority party to elect him.” In short, no matter who comes
  next Anyone who succeeds McCarthy as speaker will have to face a divided Republican Party and an ideological and political agenda coerced by far-right conservatives. The challenges they face will not be smaller than McCarthy’s.

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