Well, here we are. What I’m calling the quixotic caucus is back at it again.

In case you forget your classical literature, Don Quixote was an ordinary guy who preferred to imagine that he was a noble knight fighting dragons – in his case, windmills – rather than the simple man he really was.

The group of eight hard-line Republicans who voted to oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy last week are quite like that mythical figure. They have a battle without a point, or without a plan.

They’re living in a mythical reality where a different speaker somehow could have passed something more conservative – not only by the House, but also by the Democratic-controlled Senate – and then signed by President Biden.

Let me issue a newsflash to these delusional knights of their own making: That couldn’t have happened.

The job of the speaker of the House is to govern – the entire federal government, in concert with the Senate and the White House – not to appease a lunatic fringe. Sometimes, to do that, you have to (gasp, horror!) work with the other party. In fact, you almost always have to do that, even when you control every single branch of government – let alone half of one.


The fact of the matter is, given all of that, eight lunatics in the House fired the speaker of the House for simply doing his job. McCarthy was able both to successfully navigate a debt ceiling deal and avoid a government shutdown (at least, for now), while slipping in a few conservative priorities along the way.

Unfortunately, McCarthy not only gave away the store to his most hard-line members, but also set himself up for failure in the process – and he knew he was doing it. All he cared about was getting the job.

The first truly powerful speaker of the House, Thomas Brackett Reed, of Portland, Maine, once famously said: “The best system is to have one party govern and the other party watch.”

As deplorable as that attitude might be to those of us who crave bipartisanship, it is an attitude that makes for effective, centralized governing. McCarthy and his lead tormentor, Rep. Matt Gaetz – the Jar Jar Binks of Congress – have effectively reversed that, turning the majority party in to the minority party.

The combined ineptitude of McCarthy and Gaetz has not only empowered the Democratic minority in the U.S. House, but also has completely disempowered the speaker of the House – even more so than McCarthy already has. If you felt a tremor in Portland on Tuesday night, it was probably Brackett Reed turning over in his grave.

To be sure, this wasn’t solely the fault of Gaetz and McCarthy: Democrats, including Rep. Jared Golden, went along with the motion to vacate, even knowing that it would never in a million years lead to Rep. Hakeem Jeffries being elected speaker.


Sure, they might make noises over the next week about reaching out to moderate Republicans who are tired of the drama and want to govern, but that’s an impossible scenario. While it’s played out in a few states over the past few years, it’s hard to imagine it working in the current partisan climate in Washington, D.C. Any Republican who voted for Jeffries for speaker – or even a moderate alternative – would be immediately primaried. You’d not only have to find enough Republicans willing to vote for a Democrat, you’d need to find Republicans who were willing to end their career to do so.

These days, it’s hard to find even one of those, let alone the number needed.

Apart from the chaos of House Republicans, it was striking to see how unified House Democrats were Tuesday. Every single one of them lined up behind the motion to vacate, as dictated to them by their leadership. There was, apparently, little (if any) real bipartisan effort to avoid this mess, again showing how empty that rhetoric is. Indeed, the only bipartisanship on display last week was between Democrats and the far-right Republicans ousting McCarthy: hardly a recipe for functional governance.

It’s vitally important that House Republicans end this chaos and elect a new speaker. Republicans had a plethora of strong arguments against giving Biden a second term; they may have just blown that up last week. Uncertainty in one of the highest offices in the land endangers national security, the national economy and the world at large.

They need to fix this, and fast.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:
Twitter: @jimfossel

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