The January 6 insurrection failed, right? The objective of the insurrection was to stop the certification of Joe Biden as president, and in the end, he was certified, so they failed.
But that perspective ignores the insurrection’s longer-term goal.
The insurrection’s purpose was to stop the government from functioning in the normal way. That includes collecting taxes and allocating funds to run government programs. Now that the House of Representatives is unable to select a speaker, there is no House, and so the government has ceased to function. So the insurrection succeeded.
The 20 or so Republican party holdouts who are unwilling to vote for Kevin McCarthy for speaker, including Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert, have no political demands. What will it take to satisfy them? Apparently, they want the ability to vote to recall the speaker at any time, although it’s not clear this by itself would be sufficient.
Consider what happens next — and specifically, what happens with the routine functioning of the government.
Until the House elects a speaker, its members cannot be sworn in. (In the current interim state, the only thing the new Representatives-elect can do is vote for speaker — they cannot do any other business.) The speaker not only conducts the swearing in, he or she also determines what legislation gets voted on. With no speaker, there is no government, and nothing can pass.
The recently passed $1.7 trillion Omnibus Spending package funds the government through September of this year. If there is no Speaker, and no functioning House of Representatives before then, then the government shuts down and there’s no way to pay for anything. That includes for example, Social Security. (My own Social Security checks will start to come due right around the time the omnibus spending bill expires, which I’m sure is just a coincidence.)
If the 20 radicals holding up the Republican party finally get a Speaker they want and the House actually begins to “function” — or perhaps I should say, “dysfunction” — then in September, this same radical group will hold the government hostage. Imagine, for example, that they insist on a nationwide abortion ban in exchange for funding the government. It’s going to be ugly.
Normally the Speaker would broker a deal in which some group of moderates in both parties would fund the government and give the Republicans some of what they want. But the radical group won’t allow that, and would vote to recall the speaker if the that speaker were to proceed with such a deal.
So even if there is a speaker, the government is under threat.
The only way forward
None of the Democratic representatives will back McCarthy. Why should they? They don’t want a speaker beholden in any way to the most radical of Republicans.
But no Democrat will become Speaker. It’s unlikely that any Republicans would vote to give that much power to a Democrat.
The only way forward is for the most moderate remaining Republicans to revolt. Because there is no rule that House members can only vote for a speaker of their own party.
Nominate a moderate with respect from both sides of the aisle, such former Representative Fred Upton (the Speaker does not have to be a House member). Or Ohio Representative David Joyce, who voted with Trump 92% but also voted to establish the January 6 commission to investigate the insurrection.
If all the Democrats and six Republicans — or perhaps, two-thirds of the Democrats and one-third of the Republicans — were to vote for such a candidate, they would become the speaker. The speaker nominee would simply have to promise to run the House in the normal way, including holding votes on bills to keeping the government running.
Are there six Republicans with the courage to put country over party and take this course? Are there 218 members across both parties who would join to save the government from chaos?
In this scenario, the coalition with the power to actually move legislation forward would no longer be the fringes, it would be the middle — moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans.
This is the only path to redemption for the Republican party.
This is the only path to redemption for the House of Representatives.
This is the only way forward for any actual functioning government, and for America as a nation.
The alternative is a government and a nation of constant insurrection and dysfunction. Unless we do this, the insurrection has succeeded, and God help the United States of America.