Background: Slim Majorities and Factional Power
One of the more interesting aspects of the recent midterm elections has come from the race for control of the House. Per the most recent results (which are constantly changing), it seems as though Republicans will take back control of the House. The wrinkle comes when we consider the majority they are likely to have: a single seat (+/- 4). When it comes to electing a Speaker, a majority is required. Current Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is slated to become Speaker if the GOP takes over. Since the vote is likely to be partisan, a slim majority gives factions within the GOP majority great power. Where have we seen this before?
A Quick History of the Original #Forcethevote
You may recall a few years back that the Democrats had a slim majority in the House. This gave their factional groups, for instance the Squad, the chance to demand something for their vote. Specifically, activists for #medicareforall demanded that these Congresspeople withhold their vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker until she brought M4A to a vote on the floor. Whether due to pressure from colleagues, not wanting to rock the boat, or whatever BS reason they came up with, the Squad caved and Pelosi became Speaker. You had the chance to expose the corrupt duopoly for what it was and you blew it.
Not only did they not demand anything for their vote, but they also smeared those who then tried to hold them to account for their inaction (Jimmy Dore is a noted example). This showed their political ineptitude, yes, but I am more inclined to use the political science term Institutional Capture. This is where a new member of an institution starts out eager for reform, but is taken in and broken down by the institution. The Squad started out as quite ideological (AOC protested outside Nany Pelosi’s office) but the institution ultimately broke them down. If the recent example of the letter dealing with diplomacy in Ukraine is any example, the Squad has lost any political courage they ever had.
Old Band, New Members: The Freedom Caucus and #Forcethevote, Part One
A useful article from Fox News informs what follows. The article outlines the demands of the Freedom Caucus in this way
The Freedom Caucus is angling to include a provision within the House Rules package allowing for any member to offer at any time motion to vacate the speaker’s chair – a change it will push for assuming Republicans take control of the House.
A curious setup. Essentially, the Freedom Caucus is demanding that McCarthy, as the price for being made Speaker, ascent to a rule that could remove him from that position at any time. Talk about a crown of thorns. It is interesting that ‘any member’ [of the House] can originate such a motion. The question is how badly does McCarthy want to be Speaker? This brings to mind what happened during former Speaker John Boehner’s tenure: a similar group of hardliners held the Speaker’s position in their hands. They were ‘the power behind the throne’ and took full advantage. Boehner would eventually resign because he could not control his troops.
The Fox News article referenced above actually uses the magic phrase ‘force a vote’ in the next sentence
The parliamentary gambit would let hardline members force a vote on retaining the speaker
Interesting, is it not? The hardline members of the GOP potential majority are actually willing to force a vote on McCarthy as Speaker. Force a vote: where have I heard that before? Where have I heard the idea of withholding votes from a candidate for Speaker in exchange for policy/procedural concessions? I cannot place it.
Old Band, New Members; The Freedom Caucus and #Forcethevote, Part Two
There is a saying that power concedes nothing without a demand. These hardliners are likely to get what they want (at least in part), since career politicians obsessed with power will sell their souls to get it. The Freedom Caucus is many things, but politically unintelligent is not one of them. They know McCarthy values power over principles and are exploiting that. Why will the Squad not do the same?
Conclusion: The Lessons for The Squad
The concept that a subgroup of the GOP majority would essentially hold the would-be Speaker of the House hostage is hardly new. Hardline Republican Congresspeople have done this before. The Squad could learn a great deal from this: if you actually show the political spine to stick to your convictions, you can achieve great things. The so-called Progressives of the Democratic Party clearly lack the political spine to, as GOP Representative Andy Biggs called it ‘hold their own leadership accountable’.
In times of slim majorities, small subgroups within political parties can extract considerable concessions. The Freedom Caucus sees this. The so-called Progressives inside the Democratic Party are evidently too scared of getting offside with leadership (who already hold them in complete contempt anyway). Newsflash, you naive numpties: no amount of ‘playing ball’ is going to get you onside with the leadership. Giving them your vote does not earn you ‘brownie points’. They are, in their own minds, very much entitled to your vote. Your job, as far as they are concerned, is to fall in line and vote as Pelosi tells you. No independent thought, no protest, and certainly no colouring outside the lines. Get it through your thick skulls that they are never going to let you ‘in the club’.
Epilogue: Wearing the Inside Out
A question for the Squad: you are outsiders (indeed, you ran as outsiders) so why would you seek to get in the club? You were elected to be the brick through the establishment window, yet we find you doing little aside from useless showmanship (consider the recent letter around diplomacy in Ukraine). To be generous, I suppose it is not entirely your fault: Institutional Capture is a very real issue. But if the Republicans can, in Biggs’ words, hold their leadership to account (or at least threaten to do so – which is more than you did), I see no reason why you cannot do the same thing, Unless, of course, you are afraid.
This piece has probably come across as quite critical of the Squad, and there is some truth to this. The Republicans have set the example (here and in the past) of how to extract concessions from your leadership. The Progressives are either too politically cowardly, or they value their careers too much to rock the boat. It is fitting, I think, to end with a quote from AOC
The Republicans galvanize their base by inciting a lot of fear; they operate on a lot of mythmaking. So we have to have something compelling. We shouldn’t be afraid to be bold.
Indeed is all I have to say to that.
Like what we do at The AIMN?
You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.
Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!
Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.
You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969
3,416 total views, 8 views today