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I Still Can’t Understand Why Nobody Wants the Speaker Job



The House Freedom Caucus seems nice:

Yesterday, Politico published the House Freedom Caucus “questionnaire” which it described as pushing for “House rule changes.” The document does do that. But it also does a lot more. It seeks substantive commitments from the next speaker that would effectively send the entire country into a tailspin.

For example, the document seeks a commitment from the next speaker to tie any increase in the debt ceiling to cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.


The government will run out of money on December 11. Unless additional funding is approved before that date, the government will shut down.

The House Freedom Caucus wants the next speaker to commit to not funding the government at all unless President Obama (and Senate Democrats) agree to defund Obamacare, Planned Parenthood and a host of other priorities. This is essentially the Ted Cruz strategy which prompted at 16-day shutdown in 2013. This would now be enshrined as the official policy of the Speaker Of The House.

The House Freedom Caucus wants the next speaker to commit to oppose any “omnibus” bill that would keep the government running. Rather, funding for each aspect of government could only be approved by separate bills. This would allow the Republicans to attempt to finance certain favored aspects of government (the military), while shuttering ones they view as largely unnecessary (education, health).

I don’t think much of Paul Ryan, but I do think he’s smart enough to stay away from this job.

I know that this Green Lanternism is not unique to the right per se.   There are people on the left who thought that Congress could have unilaterally ended the Iraq War in 2007 or that the Democratic minority in the Senate could have serially rejected Bush’s Supreme Court nominees.  There are also people on the left who believe that had Obama demanded single payer Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson would have had no choice but to vote for a Medicare buy-in.   But 1)these are generally obscure People on the Internet Somewhere, not the core of the Democratic caucus in Congress, and 2)they at least support the use of completely irrational tactics to advance desirable ends.   The Freeance Caucus’s reason for being is to threaten to destroy the country unless the president agrees to destroy the country.  (And destroy the country not just in the eyes of Democrats but in the eyes of most Republican voters.)

The lesson, as always, is that Both Sides Do It.  Just ask Ron Fournier:

Which brings me back to the para­dox. Most voters and non­voters are dis­con­nec­ted from both parties be­cause the two-party sys­tem is in­creas­ingly loud, angry, mean, po­lar­iz­ing, selfish, vacu­ous, and soul­less. In­side the duo­poly, Trump is everything that base voters hate about the oth­er party.

So why the ap­peal? Maybe it’s be­cause Trump is the best of worst—an ex­ag­ger­ated re­flec­tion of what’s wrong with a sys­tem that val­ues celebrity and cel­eb­rates in­ci­vil­ity. He’s a ca­ri­ca­ture. A car­toon.

Very profound. It’s hard to imagine two public figures more similar than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And remember when the Democrats couldn’t find anyone willing to be Speaker in 2007 because a majority of the Democratic caucus threatened to shut down the government and default on the national debt unless Bush agreed to nationalize the means of production and appoint Mumia as Attorney General and Bob Avakian as Secretary of the Treasury? I’m not sure how we can ever escape the symmetrical problems of our two-party duopoly.

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