What Happens When the Dog Catches the Car

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Dogs chase cars. They do so because they live entirely in the moment. They see a car and they chase it with nary a concern for the consequences of their pursuit and no plan whatsoever for what they intend to do once they catch the car.

The dog simply chases because they can and they want to. The House GOP currently appears to be guided by similar impulses.

Matt Gaetz has been dead set on getting rid of Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House. He stood opposed to McCarthy’s ascension from the start, even when other principled conservatives forced McCarthy to give in to demands that made the chamber as a whole move to the right. The fight for appropriations bills, conservatives on the rules committee, and other giveaways empowered conservatives and forced a return to the functions of the chamber as it was meant to be run.

But Gaetz did not appear interested in that fight. He was interested in fighting McCarthy and that was it. That fight continued into this weekend and early this week.

It’s important to note that an earlier attempt at a continuing resolution was a conservative plan that moderates agreed to. We had the chance to pass an 8 percent cut in non-defense spending, funding the border, and not funding Ukraine. That would have gotten us into November with reduced spending and more time for the proper appropriations bills. It was a good plan. But Gaetz scuttled that plan by recruiting some of his colleagues to join him. That all but forced McCarthy to come up with a clean CR that kept spending at current levels and required Democratic support.

Which, incidentally, is exactly what Gaetz said would happen. He made his own prophecy come true and used that turn of events as the basis for his call to get rid of McCarthy. It ultimately worked, and now the House is in a deadlock because there is no Speaker, and they have to rush to find a new Speaker instead of working on the appropriations bills that had been the goal until now.

But even Gaetz has admitted that there was no plan for a replacement. His sole intention was to get rid of McCarthy, and he’s fundraising off it and preparing for his next political venture – a run for Governor of Florida. The dog caught the car, but in doing so, the conservative agenda was stalled and it’s now more likely that the next spending agreement will be without conservative input. But he did what he wanted to do, so congrats, Matt Gaetz.

But, he isn’t the only dog that caught the car.

The now-former Speaker spent his entire political career getting to that chair. McCarthy’s political ascension is thanks to his endless wheeling and dealing, negotiating, handshaking, and more to get the power and influence he wanted. He worked his way up the House GOP career ladder until he got to the top and wielded the Speaker’s gavel. And in historic fashion, it was ripped away from him.

McCarthy caught the car. He got his dream job. But because of the route he took to get there, supporting big government and big government spending, siding with Establishment goals instead of conservative ones, his fate was sealed when he finally got there. His ultimate negotiation – lowering the threshold to motion to vacate the chair – became his undoing. He gave away too much to get the job, and the moment that any conservative felt he wasn’t living up to his promises, he was doomed to be ousted.

In the wake of it all lies a House in disarray, Republicans in chaos, and greater odds that government spending won’t be reduced.

Contrary to popular belief, chaos for the sake of chaos isn’t a strategy. It’s a lack of strategy. It’s a lack of a plan, which is something Republicans desperately need right now. Disruption is all fine and dandy if you have something ready to replace what you’ve disrupted. But we don’t have that right now, which means anything else useful that could be done won’t be. Republicans now have to put out the fire their own members started, and you can bet the moderates aren’t going to be siding with conservatives nearly as much now because they feel burned by Gaetz.

Given recent polling showing that Americans felt more confident in Republicans running things, I am not sure how much worst this whole situation could have been handled by just about anyone. I don’t feel confident we’ll get a more conservative Speaker, though I am hoping that the conversations I’ve heard about people looking at Steve Scalise and, to a lesser extent, Mike Johnson (both from Louisiana, so I am a it biased there) prove to be the direction Republicans will go in. But, I just can’t be confident given that we have legitimate agents of chaos among the ranks who want to disrupt for the sake of disrupting.

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