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March 11, 2022

Fighting in the GOP Ivory Tower [TJM]

Note [ace]: This is actually from a couple of weeks ago, but it got lost in the shuffle. Still perfectly relevant.

Last week came news that Trump's patience with Mitch McConnell as leader of the GOP caucus in the Senate had run out to the point where instead of just talking about Mitch not being in charge anymore, he actually approached a sitting senator, his senator in Florida Rick Scott, about actually facing off against Mitch for the position.

A few days later, Rick Scott comes out with an explicit agenda for the GOP running up to the election. Mitch was not happy and denounced the plan, picking on some things (most notably the effort to get everyone to pay income taxes, a politically tenuous position that seems like plenty good policy to me) and just dismissing the whole exercise.

This article at The Federalist mirrors my own thoughts on the matter. Mitch wants to win with nothing promised so that he can claim any mantle he wants and take the caucus in any direction he desires while in the majority. This was always an understandable but poor play in the age of Trump. There's a fight going on for the future of the GOP, and we have two public power centers in Mitch, as the face of the old order, and Trump, as the face of the new. With Mitch refusing to put forward any kind of policy, he was just creating a vacuum.

That wasn't really a problem back in 2010 or 2012 for him. Who else in charge of the party was going to offer up an alternative? W? He was silent because Obama deserved respect from previous presidents to govern as he willed (a respect that, for some reason, was not extended to Trump). Paul Ryan? He was on board with the strategy. The best we could have hoped for was Rand Paul, but he doesn't have any kind of leadership position, happily taking up the position of gadfly that speaks truths but doesn't form coalitions.

2022 is not 2012. The intentional vacuum of policy that the GOPe has created and let fester for the past decade led to the rise of Trump, and the GOPe's effort to rid the party of Trump have failed. Trump still commands enough respect from the base and many members of the Republican caucuses in Congress that he can move things, and he's decided to move things. Rick Scott is his vessel for this particular move.

I don't think Mitch has ever had serious pressure on his leadership position since he took up the position of Leader of the Republican Caucus in 2007. There's always the excuse of those out of power within the party that "there's no one to challenge him." Well, there is now, and he's got the backing of the most popular ex-president amongst Republicans since Reagan.

What does this mean for the next few months? Well, I can't imagine Ketanji Jackson Brown getting onto SCOTUS now. Mitch, despite his protestations, has held the cards on this SCOTUS nomination since Breyer announced his retirement. He could block anything with the Judiciary Committee evenly split (part of the agreement with Schumer last year), whipping votes against her no matter what. Now, with an actual, tangible challenge to his leadership position? Mitch may feel the need to deliver. It should manifest in other ways over the next eight months, but Mitch, old man that he is who obviously sees his end coming since he's reportedly been fixing to get John Thune groomed to succeed him, is not in complete control.

He thought Trump had gone, but Trump went nowhere. He's still got power within the party, and he's flexing it.


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posted by Open Blogger at 05:30 PM

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