The GOP Rejects The Culture of Consequences

Plus. Ben Sasse speaks

Indulge me for a moment with a bit of ancient history from the Before Time.

Actually, it’s just two years ago.

In January 2019, House Republicans stripped Representative Steve King (R-Bigot) of his committee assignments, tossing him off the Judiciary and Agriculture Committees.

King had a long history of racism, but had stayed in the GOP’s good graces for years, and had even become something of a kingmaker in Iowa politics.

Mr. King, who has been an ally of President Trump on the border wall and other issues, has a long history of making racist remarks and insults about immigrants, but has not drawn rebukes from Republican leaders until recently. In November, top Iowa Republicans like Senator Charles E. Grassley endorsed Mr. King for re-election even after one House Republican official came out and denounced him as a white supremacist.

But King finally crossed the GOP’s invisible line when he gave an interview to the New York Times and said, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

House Republican leaders, who were anxious “to appear tough on racism and contain damage,” moved fast. Four days after the interview was published, King’s committee assignments were gone, and his political career was effectively finished.

“This is not the first time we’ve heard these comments,” GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said. “That is not the party of Lincoln and it’s definitely not American.”

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I tell the story of King to highlight (1) the contrast with the case of Marjorie Taylor Greene, (2) the political malpractice of last night’s vote, and (3) how rapidly the GOP is devolving.

To be sure this has been a looooong time coming. The 2019 GOP had already spent years indulging Donald Trump’s penchant for racism and conspiracy theories, and rationalizing his birtherism, his lies, and his cruelty.

But they apparently still had some lingering, residual instinct for political hygiene. Two years later, the GOP’s immune system to crazy has been completely destroyed.

Here is a take so obvious it makes my head hurt:

The case of MTG was an easy one. She not only had a long history of bigotry, but had actually promoted the assassination of some of her colleagues.

It is less than a month since the January 6 insurrection that left five dead.

Republicans had a precedent for dealing with toxic members.

They could have cleaned up the mess themselves.

Instead, they gave her a standing ovation, did nothing, and—as Tim Miller writes this morning—allowed a floor vote in which Republicans “voted 199-to-11—in a public ballot—to keep the assassination-supportingschool-shooting-denyingcoup-backinganti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim bigot in her position on the House committees for Education/Labor and Budget.”

This came less than 24 hours after the same caucus “voted 145-61—in a secret ballot—to keep impeachment-supporting, truth-telling, anti-conspiracy neocon Liz Cheney as conference chair the night before.”

The contrast is gobsmacking.

At this point, I defer again to my colleague, Mr. Miller.

In his brilliant Bulwark piece, he argues that the GOP caucus can now be divided into three groups:

1) The Fear Caucus (Floaters)
2) The Kraken Caucus (Freedom)
3) The Milhouse Caucus (Institutionalists)

He breaks it down this way:

When you look at the last two months, it’s pretty clear that the Milhouses [so named for the character in the Simpsons] are a rump. The Krakens are a bit less than a third, but growing. And the Fear caucus is, by far, the biggest; they’re the group McCarthy represents.


Sixty-one Republicans voted to guillotine Liz Cheney even on a secret ballot. This is the uncut Kraken. We don’t know exactly who made up the 61 but we can safely assume that among their number are the “New Republican Men” such as Madison Cawthorn, Lauren Boebert, and Matt Gaetz, as well as the Freedom Caucus holdovers such as Louie Gohmert, Jim Jordan, and Mo Brooks.

When these Republicans voted to overturn the election results they were both literal and serious. They would have supported a MAGA dictatorship without feeling even a tinge of concern. They are already plotting to overthrow McCarthy as party leader in favor of Jordan. A plurality of Republican voters—at least!—are with them, and they know it. So in any votes that take place in the light of day, their numbers will swell to a majority.

The Milhouse Caucus is made up of the small cadre of Republicans who had the courage to stand up to Trump’s attempt to overthrow our democracy and hold him accountable—plus those who, if they had their druthers, would probably put Pierre Delecto back in charge of the party. This group voted to certify the election results and to keep Cheney. How many are there?

One way to look at it is that about 50 House Republicans voted to certify the election and also didn’t sign the Texas AG letter demanding that the Supreme Court overturn the swing-state Electoral College results. These 50 or so may not have been rolling out the red carpet for Joe Biden in November and December but at least they didn’t actively abet a coup….

Which leaves between 97 and 132 Republicans—either a solid plurality or a slim majority—in the Fear Caucus.

Read the whole thing here.

No Fear

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Invoking “Cancel culture” has replaced the culture of consequences.

Speaking of ancient history: conservatives once understood that both words and ideas had consequences. They also used to believe in things like personal responsibility and accountability.

Now they prefer to be victims.

And as victims, any criticism or demands for accountability can be dismissed as attempts to “cancel.” It’s a simplistic, cartoonish notion, but it makes for a handy all-purpose defense in the political ecosystem where cliches have replaced ideas.

But rejecting the culture of consequences also means that the right has destroyed its last antibodies against viciousness.

Speaking of personal responsibility:

And forget contrition. Remorse? Nada.

Exit take:

Agree. Remember each and every one of them.

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Here come the checks. Kamala Harris breaks the tie, and the stage is set for a BIG Covid relief bill.

Passage of the budget bill by a 51-to-50 vote came just after 5:30 a.m. Friday, after an all-night Senate session during which senators plowed through dozens of amendments in a chaotic process known as a “vote-a-rama.” Democrats cheered on progress to address the pandemic, while Republicans complained of partisanship and excessive spending.

Plus, this is going to be an interesting debate:

Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Thursday released a plan to provide families with a monthly cash benefit of as much $350 for each child, embracing calls by President Joe Biden and Democrats to increase the child care tax credit to help low-income Americans struggling during the pandemic.

Romney’s Family Security Act would replace the Child Tax Credit with a $3,000 yearly benefit per child — $4,200 for kids under the age of 5 — spread out in monthly installments that begin four months before a child’s due date, according to a summary of the proposal.

Here is an analysis of the plan by the Niskanen Center, which says that Romney’s proposal would cut child poverty by a third, deep child poverty by half, while also eliminating marriage penalties, and end welfare traps.

We’re going to see some odd bedfellows.

Where has this guy been?

This is just pure fire from Ben Sasse. Watch it. Really, folks, stop what you are doing and watch this.

“You are welcome to censure me again – but let’s be clear about why: It’s because I still believe (as you used to) that politics is not about the weird worship of one dude.”

Who’s reading The Bulwark?

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Quick Hits

1. Trump’s Damning Tweet

Fantastic point highlighted by our colleague Amanda Carpenter:

2. A Defeated 2020 Candidate Asks the House to Overturn Her Loss

Adam White in today’s Bulwark:

The candidate is Rita Hart, who lost the race for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District. Iowa certified the result two months ago, after a recount. Now she is asking Democrats and Republicans in the House to nullify Iowa’s electoral process and run the election themselves.

Hart lost the race to Mariannette Miller-Meeks; they were competing to succeed Dave Loebsack, the retiring Democratic incumbent, to represent southeastern Iowa. When the district’s counties completed their original vote tallies on November 10, Miller-Meeks had won by 47 votes out of 394,383 votes cast.

Cheap Shots

Awesome lawyer alert.

But please don’t call them Deplorable.

Apocalypse Now.

Deep Thoughts

How Biden Can Be the First Post-Post-Cold War President

Ben Waldman in the Bulwark:

President Biden’s first foreign policy address at the State Department Thursday ended with a novel message: He will pursue a “foreign policy for the middle class.” While his speech included its fair share of important policy announcements, the most critical portion was rhetorical. He provided vivid examples of how his approach to the world—and U.S. global engagement generally—will benefit working American families. While talk of acting in the “national interest” isn’t new, the president began today what could be a renaissance of presidential communication on America’s role around the globe.

Biden could be the first president since the end of the Cold War to communicate clear foreign policy goals to domestic audiences. Thursday’s speech should be the beginning of an enduring domestic messaging campaign, aimed at reinvigorating a healthy and realistic national awareness of American global engagement.