With new rules, the Texas GOP seeks to keep its elected officials in line

The state party plans to limit primaries to registered Republicans and keep elected officials it censured off the ballot. It’s unclear if it can without legislative approval.

By James Barragán, The Texas Tribune

Republican voters in Texas sent a strong message this primary season about their expectations for ideological purity, casting out 15 state House GOP incumbents who bucked the grassroots on issues like school vouchers or the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton.

At the same time this spring, the party itself has been making moves beyond the ballot box to keep its elected officials in line.

At its biennial convention last month, the Texas GOP tried to increase its party purity by approving two major rules changes: One would close the Republican primary elections so that only voters the party identifies as Republicans can participate. The other would bar candidates from the primary ballot for two years after they had been censured by the state party.

Jon Taylor, a political science professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said the moves are clear political shots by the increasingly dominant right wing of the party to root out dissenters and shape the party in its image.

“It says something about this battle, this civil war that’s broken out in the Republican Party of Texas that one side has gotten so concerned that they haven't been able to solidify their control of the party that they want to close their primary,” he said.

But the ideas have drawn pushback from inside and outside the party, with many questioning whether the GOP has the power to enact them without action from the state Legislature.

James Wesolek, a spokesperson for the Republican Party of Texas, said the party will be pursuing the policies regardless. He added that “an overwhelming majority” of Republican voters supported the ideas when they were included as propositions in the GOP primary this year.

“We hope the legislature takes action, but we will move forward as our rules dictate,” Wesolek said in an email last week.

Questions remain about how that would work.

Eric Opiela, a longtime Republican who previously served as the state party’s executive director and was part of the rules committee at this year’s convention, said moving forward on closing the primary without legislative action would lead to legal challenges.

Because party primaries are publicly financed and perform the public service of selecting candidates for elected office, they must adhere to the state’s election law, said Opiela, who has also served as a lawyer for the state party.

Currently, any voter can participate in a Democrat or Republican primary without having to register an affiliation. Without a change to state law, the Texas GOP could open itself to liability if it barred voters from participating in its primary elections, Opiela said.

Under the rules approved by the GOP, a voter would be eligible to cast a ballot in a primary if they voted in a GOP primary in the past two years or submitted a “certificate of affiliation with the Republican Party of Texas” prior to the candidate filing period for that election. They also could register with the state party, though the party hasn’t yet unveiled a process to do so.

A voter under 21 could also vote in the primary if it were their first primary election.

But critics are concerned that the party is underestimating the amount of work required to vet a person’s voting history. And Opiela also said that there are concerns about how to provide proper notification to new voters, especially military voters, who might have recently moved into the state and are not covered under the proposal as written. He said such concerns are why these changes should be left to the Legislature, where lawmakers can consider obstacles to implementation and come up with solutions.

“I don’t know that the process was given much thought,” said Opiela. “Those of us who have run an election know that this isn’t easy to pull off.”

Texas is among 15 states that currently have open primaries, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Ten states currently have closed primaries.

Closed primaries are a particularly hot topic in the GOP due to frustration among some in the conservative grassroots over House Speaker Dade Phelan’s primary runoff victory.

Phelan oversaw the passage of major conservative victories including restricting abortion and loosening gun laws in recent years. But he has become a target of the hard right for failing to pass school voucher legislation, appointing some Democrats to chair legislative committees and presiding over the impeachment of Paxton, who is a darling of the hard right.

He finished second in his March primary, but won his primary runoff against right wing candidate David Covey by fewer than 400 votes. Covey and his supporters blamed Phelan’s victory on Democratic voters who crossed over into the GOP primary runoff to vote for Phelan.

It’s difficult to say whether that’s true; Texas doesn’t track party registration. About 4% of the people who voted in the GOP primary this year had most recently voted in the Democratic primary, according to data compiled by elections data expert Derek Ryan, a Republican. But party leaders, such as recently departed party Chair Matt Rinaldi, have pointed to the Phelan race as a reason for a need for change.

“The time is now for Republicans to choose our own nominees without Democrat interference,” Rinaldi said in May.

Taylor, the UTSA professor, said the push to close the primaries was in line with the right wing’s push to force GOP candidates to follow the party line.

“You’re engaging in a form of ideological conformity, you’re demanding 100% fealty to the party,” he said.

But Daron Shaw, a political science professor at the University of Texas, pushed back against those crying foul.

“It is completely unclear to me how it is the ‘right’ of a voter in Texas, particularly one that does not identify as a Republican, to vote in the selection of Republican candidates,” he said. “Ultimately, a party is a private association and if it chooses to select extreme candidates, then presumably the general electorate will react accordingly.”

The rule to bar candidates who had been censured by the state party has also been met with skepticism.

Opiela said that if a candidate turned in an application that otherwise met the requirements for running for office, a court would likely order the party to allow the candidate on the ballot. He also said the provision could open up precinct and county chairs to criminal liability for rejecting applications that met the requirements.

The state party rule tries to cover for that potential liability by stating it would provide legal representation for any party official who is sued for complying with the rule.

Asked by The Texas Tribune to assess the legality of the idea, Rick Hasen, a UCLA professor and election law expert, called it “dicey.”

Taylor, from UTSA, said the move was also a pretty transparent message to elected officials like Phelan and U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales to fall in line. Phelan was censured in February for overseeing Paxton’s impeachment and appointing Democrats as committee chairs. Gonzales was censured for supporting a bipartisan gun law in the wake of the 2022 Uvalde shooting, which occurred in his district, and his vote for a bill that codified protections for same-sex marriage.

The censure rule in particular has been denounced as undemocratic, an increasingly common criticism from the GOP’s loudest critics. At the same party convention, the state party changed its platform to call for a new requirement that candidates for statewide office must also win a majority of votes in a majority of Texas’ 254 counties to win office, a model similar to that of the U.S. Electoral College.

That proposal, which represents the official position of the party but does not have any power of law, has been panned as unconstitutional.

“There’s a very good argument that such a system would violate the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court,” Hasen said.

Under the proposal, the 4.7 million residents of Harris County would have the same voting power as the 64 residents of Loving County.

“It’s basically a tyranny of the minority,” Taylor said. “This is designed to potentially go a step further in nullifying the concept of one person-one vote.”

The proposals come even as the GOP has dominated Texas politics for decades, and the hardline conservative movement continues to grow its influence. Brian W. Smith, a political science professor at St. Edward’s University in Austin, questioned the moves on a political level.

“Texas is already gerrymandered to elect ideologically pure candidates. We’re not seeing a lot of Republicans or Democrats moving to the middle to attract a broad swath of voters,” he said. “The Dade Phelans of the world are not winning because of independents or Democrats, they’re winning because they’re more popular among Republicans than their opponents.”

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Tracking URL: https://www.texastribune.org/2024/06/10/texas-republican-closed-primaries-rule-changes/

Hunter Biden is convicted, but the GOP is still big mad

You might think that Republicans would be thrilled that there’s now a convicted felon in the Biden family, but it’s still not enough for them. From wanting to take down the rest of the “Biden crime family” to calling Hunter’s conviction a Justice Department ploy to make it look like there’s not a “two-tiered system of justice,” the GOP is still angry and thirsting for revenge for Donald Trump’s conviction on 34 felonies.

Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, who can’t stop hilariously failing to impeach President Joe Biden, kicks it off with a tweet:

🚨STATEMENT🚨 Hunter Biden’s sweetheart plea deal was smoked out after scrutiny by a federal judge. Today’s verdict is a step toward accountability but until the Department of Justice investigates everyone involved in the Bidens’ corrupt influence peddling schemes that generated…

— Rep. James Comer (@RepJamesComer) June 11, 2024

Comer’s commentary reflects the sentiments of the Trump campaign

“Crooked Joe Biden’s reign over the Biden Family Criminal Empire is all coming to an end on November 5th, and never again will a Biden sell government access for personal profit. As for Hunter, we wish him well in his recovery and legal affairs,” a Trump campaign spokesperson said in a statement

But it wasn’t long until the campaign retracted its statement and reissued it without the well wishes for Hunter.

The “Biden crime family” and demands for prosecutions are a major theme among the GOP. 

“Now, it’s time to bring Hunter and the Biden Crime Family to justice for the allegations of influence peddling,” Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina tweeted.

“Hunter Biden’s firearm conviction is simply a smokescreen,” says Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana. “What I'm concerned about is how Joe, Hunter, and James Biden have been enriching themselves by trading away America's interests to our enemies.”

On the other hand, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri is accusing the DOJ for not prosecuting Hunter hard enough. 

“Never forget DOJ tried to avoid this trial & verdict by giving Hunter a sweetheart plea deal. Until the judge exposed them,” he tweeted.

Then there’s the conspiracy theorists, like Stephen Miller, who accused the DOJ of “running election interference for Joe Biden.”

“That’s why DOJ did NOT charge Hunter with being an unregistered foreign agent (FARA) or any crime connected with foreign corruption. Why? Because all the evidence would lead back to JOE,” he tweeted.

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, added to that, tweeting: “And yet Dems will now point to Hunter’s conviction as evidence that ‘there’s no lawfare.’” 

But Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia takes the cake for political paranoia: 

Hunter Biden’s guilty verdict is nothing more than the Left’s attempt to create the illusion of equal justice. Don’t fall for it.

— Rep. Andrew Clyde (@Rep_Clyde) June 11, 2024

There’s no small amount of cognitive dissonance about the rule of law in this crowd. Like Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri, who intoned that “today’s verdict is a step towards ensuring equal application of the law, regardless of one's last name.”

Except, of course, for the equal application of the law to someone named Trump. 

“The fix was in for this fake ‘trial’ - the George Soros-backed DA and a leftist judge worked to tilt the scales of justice against President Trump,” Smith tweeted

Then there’s the pathetic toadying for Trump from Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good. 

“Hunter Biden is convicted of an actual crime. Donald Trump was railroaded by a political prosecutor and a biased judge,” Good tweeted

Trump has endorsed Good’s primary opponent. 

Yet no one in the GOP is complaining about a "rigged jury" or a “corrupt judge” in Hunter’s conviction. And neither are the Democrats.

“I've not heard a single Democrat anywhere in the country cry fraud, cry, fixed, cry, rigged, cry, kangaroo court or any of the many epithets that our colleagues have mobilized against the U.S. Department of Justice and our federal court system,” Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland said

Similarly, Biden has responded to the conviction with a dignified and loving statement in support of his son. 

"Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today,” Biden said. “So many families who have had loved ones battle addiction understand the feeling of pride seeing someone you love come out the other side and be so strong and resilient in recovery.”

As for the verdict? 

“I will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal,” Biden said.

Donald Trump was convicted on 34 counts of falsifying business records on May 30. What are potential voters saying about this historic news? And what is the Biden-Harris campaign doing now that the “teflon Don" is no more?

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The GOP’s Texas platform is bonkers. You should see the rest of the party

Sure, the Republican Party is overwhelmingly backing a convicted felon, confirmed sexual assailant, business fraud, insurrectionist, and (alleged!) documents thief whose most endearing personality trait is his rascally inability to stop quoting Hitler, but have you seen what’s going on in Texas lately?

The Lone Star State, which has continually returned a criminally indicted attorney general to statewide office, is now looking to be a laboratory of new, exciting ideas, like “what if we shove all these unlabeled lab chemicals in a Hefty bag, light it on fire, and then stand around and see what happens?”

To read the Texas GOP’s recently passed, deeply un-American platform is to hate it—particularly if you’re a progressive ... or a moderate … or a moderate conservative who either has, knows someone with, or knows of someone with a womb.

As Karen Tumulty wrote in The Washington Post:

Just a few of the platform’s planks: that the Bible should be taught in public schools, with chaplains on hand “to counsel and give guidance from a traditional biblical perspective based on Judeo-Christian principles.” That noncitizens who are legal residents of this country should be deported if they are arrested for participating in a protest that turns violent. That name changes to military bases should be reversed to “publicly honor the southern heroes.” That doctors who perform abortions should be charged with homicide. That the United States should withdraw from the United Nations and that the international organization should be removed from U.S. soil.

Holy Mike Johnson! It’s enough to make you swallow your own tongue, assuming it wasn’t cut out years ago by your local Christofascists for uttering the sacred name of Barron Trump. What’s next, thought crimes? It won’t be long before Republicans seek to jail ordinary Americans for looking at pornographic images of consenting adults—or for not looking at pornographic images of Hunter Biden. (If Covenant Eyes hasn’t yet tweaked its filter to accommodate lurid photos of Hunter Biden, it really doesn’t understand its audience and should probably just shut down now.) 

And that’s not all! If you’re gobsmackingly horrified by the above, well, you should see what they want to do to democracy in Texas.

As reported in the Texas Tribune:

Perhaps the most consequential plank calls for a constitutional amendment to require that candidates for statewide office carry a majority of Texas’ 254 counties to win an election, a model similar to the U.S. electoral college.

Under current voting patterns, in which Republicans routinely win in the state’s rural counties, such a requirement would effectively end Democrats’ chances of winning statewide office. In 2022, Gov. Greg Abbott carried 235 counties, while Democrat Beto O’Rourke carried most of the urban, more populous counties and South Texas counties. Statewide, Abbott won 55% of the popular vote while O’Rourke carried 44%

So to review, Texas Republicans wants to jail abortion doctors while ensuring Greg Abbott can’t possibly lose the governorship, no matter how many killer mutant Sea-Monkeys he pours into the Rio Grande.

All of that is suitably horrifying, of course—and Texas Republicans are admittedly pushing the envelope further than other state parties—but Republican extremism and anti-democratic thinking have been running rampant of late, in case you somehow hadn’t noticed. And that’s a big opportunity for big-D Democrats.

First and foremost, the GOP is a party that embraces a literal felon who faces three more felony cases, all of which are arguably stronger than his first one.

It’s a party that, in newly red redoubts like Ohio, is brazenly attempting to thwart the will of voters on reproductive rights, vowing to do “everything in [its] power” to uphold restrictive abortion laws. 

It’s a party that’s rushed to pass new restrictive voting laws in response to Trump’s insistence that the racist, eternally demagoguing, pro-Putin candidate deserves to win every time.

It’s a party that, to a startling degree, has embraced and protected Putin, as well as openly autocratic Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban

It’s a party that, post-Dobbs, has eagerly passed new, restrictive abortion laws, even as it tries to pretend it’s moderate on the issue. 

It’s a party that keeps hinting it will take an axe to Social Security and Medicare, which remain vital to the well-being of millions of Americans.

It’s a party that elevates ambulant absurdities like South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s dog killing.

And it’s a party that’s apparently eager to ratify every fascist scheme that Trump wants to inflict on the American people. 

In other words, as Hopium Chronicles’ Simon Rosenberg tweeted, the current iteration of the Republican Party is “the ugliest thing any of us have ever seen.”

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg we’re about to crash into at full speed if we’re not careful.

In 2020, the GOP neglected to release a platform in advance of its national convention, perhaps reasoning that Trump’s surpassing charm and wit were all that they needed—or perhaps worried that Trump wouldn’t read it and would wildly contradict its key planks. Or, more likely, they were worried that the GOP’s awful policies—psst, if you want to live a long, healthy life, don’t live in a red state—would actually shake people loose from their tribal fealties long enough to notice that they prefer progressive policies. (Which, to be clear, most of them do. Turns out millions of non-billionaires actually support raising taxes on billionaires. Go figure.)

Of course, despite ample evidence that the electorate as a whole has no use for GOP policy prescriptions—on abortion and a range of other topics—Republicans across the country (not just in Texas) somehow can’t resist saying the quiet parts out loud. 

I say we hand them a megaphone and encourage them to Trump front and center as often as possible. Because every time he talks, an angel vomits into a pail, and there’s only so much mess God is willing to put up with, even from his chosen one.

Daily Kos’ Postcards to Swing States campaign is back, and I just signed up to help. Please join me! Let’s do this, patriots! Democracy won’t defend itself.

Every day brings a new prognostication that is making President Joe Biden's campaign operatives worry or freak out. Is Donald Trump running away with the election? No. Not even close.

House Democrats come hard at GOP in Mayorkas impeachment hearing

Following a contentious 15-hour debate, the House Homeland Security Committee voted in the wee hours of Wednesday morning to approve the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The vote was strictly on party lines, 18-15, and Democrats used amendments and procedural motions to score plenty of hits against congressional Republicans for being the tools of Donald Trump.

One of those motions included having the clerk read aloud all amendments, including one from Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell that blasted the Republicans for using this impeachment to boost the campaign of Trump, “a narcissistic, hateful liar who was found by a court of law to have raped and defamed at least one woman,” and who is “currently facing 91 criminal charges for a wide variety of alleged offenses, including a felony conspiracy to defraud the United States.” 

Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia of California had fun ridiculing Trump for his brilliant border plans, which have included “alligator moats, bombing northern Mexico, shooting migrants in the legs, and electrifying the fence, and putting spikes on them.”

Committee Democrats didn’t just take on Trump. They were having none of the MAGA nonsense from Republican committee members. Here’s Rep. Seth Magaziner of Rhode Island taking on Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene:

Magaziner: It’s pretty rich hearing the Rep. Greene express concern about terrorism when she was selling defund the FBI shirts and hats for $30. The leading agency tasked with combatting terrorism.. I’m not going to take any lectures from her on securing the homeland from terror pic.twitter.com/GUqput7zR8

— Acyn (@Acyn) January 31, 2024

“It’s pretty rich hearing the gentlewoman from Georige express her concern about terrorism when she literally was selling ‘defund the FBI’ T-shirts and hats on her website for $30 apiece,” Magaziner said. “The leading law enforcement agency tasked with combating terrorism in this country and keeping people safe, and she wants to defund it,” he continued. “I’m not going to take any lectures from her on securing this homeland from terror.”

Democrats also pointed out Republican actions to stymie Mayorkas, including lawsuits that hamper him from enforcing the law. “When the secretary and the administration has tried to use their limited authority to change policy to limit the number of people coming to the border, to streamline the process, to make it go through ports of entry, Republicans filed lawsuits to stop the administration from doing it,” Rep. Dan Goldman of New York correctly pointed out

Goldman: The hypocrisy of you sitting here and accusing Mayorkas of failing to enforce the law when you are going to court to prevent him from enforcing the law… pic.twitter.com/YqtEsFsAXk

— Acyn (@Acyn) January 31, 2024

Republicans eventually shut down amendments from Democrats, playing into the Democrats’ hands. Ranking Democratic member Bennie Thompson of Mississippi blasted Republicans in a statement at the end of the night, criticizing them for shutting down debate “of their sham impeachment articles in the dark of night.

“They were either uncomfortable being confronted by the facts or they lacked the stamina to entertain a fulsome debate of a resolution the Committee entertained to buy off Marjorie Taylor Greene and the extreme MAGA Republicans who have taken over the Republican conference,” he said. That is also true—this sham was spearheaded by Greene.

The impeachment resolution is likely to come to the House floor next week, where its passage isn’t assured. There are still at least a few Republicans who have not committed to impeaching a cabinet official over a policy disagreement, and the Republican majority is so tiny that leadership can’t afford much defection. The Democratic conference is as united against the resolution as the committee Democrats are, and the impeachment won’t go anywhere in the Senate.

This isn’t about immigration policy, of course. This is about fighting President Joe Biden on immigration, which is just about the only issue Republicans have working in their favor in this election. Republican lawmakers themselves admit that.

RELATED STORIES:

Republicans admit impeaching Mayorkas is all politics

Republicans would rather campaign on the border crisis than solve it

Congressman shreds Trump's worst 'ideas' for border security

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It is primary season, and Donald Trump seems pretty low energy these days. Kerry and Markos talk about the chances of Trump stumbling through the election season and the need to press our advantage and make gains in the House and Senate. Meanwhile, the right-wing media world is losing its collective minds about Taylor Swift registering younger Americans to vote!

Forget the 2024 doomsayers: Here’s the metric that really matters for Biden

The latest freakout over President Joe Biden's reelection chances stemmed from a pair of polls this week. One suggested Biden's approval rating among Democrats is reaching record lows, while another suggested Biden is running behind Donald Trump by several points in five key swing states: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Arizona, and Georgia (Michigan and Nevada were the outliers).

Donald Trump is leading President Joe Biden in several key swing states Read more: https://t.co/opQj2pZS8z pic.twitter.com/lfBkJHgIJd

— Bloomberg (@business) October 27, 2023

Let's not waste a second dissecting that poll, because it is 100% irrelevant at this point. Why? Because many Americans—if not most—haven't even come to the realization yet that 2024 will likely end up a Biden-Trump rematch.

This is something Focus Group podcaster Sarah Longwell has noted repeatedly in her groups. Voters who are unenthused by Biden and on the fence about voting for him again in 2024 often come around once they are told Trump will likely be the Republican nominee.

"When you tell them, What if it's Trump again, they're like, ‘Oh yeah, no, no, no—I'm all in,’" Longwell said.

So all of these Biden-Trump head-to-head polls are currently asking voters about a matchup that a whole lot of people don't believe is going to happen. In other words, voters aren’t even in the headspace to properly take such a scenario seriously.

The metric that really matters was crystalized nicely by Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher, who noted recently that Trump will likely secure some 47% of the electorate—roughly the same  share he won in both 2016 (45.9%) and 2020 (46.8%). That's his ceiling.

So the real tell is how close Biden gets to securing 51% of the electorate.

"Anything that undermines Biden garnering a majority is how we get 2016 all over again," Belcher said of the third-party spoiler that gifted key swing states to Trump.

"Also note, polls that aren’t bad for Biden get no press," Belcher added, linking to a Marist/NPR/PBS NewHour poll earlier this month that showed Biden running ahead of Trump, 49% - 46%.

The +gap which is often emphasized doesn’t really matter. What matters is how close Biden is to 51% because Trump IS going to get 47%. Anything that undermines Biden garnering a majority is how we get 2016 all over again. Also note, polls that aren’t bad for Biden get no press 🤷🏾‍♂️ https://t.co/tOBHHjyy5M

— Cornell Belcher (@cornellbelcher) October 17, 2023

As I have written before: Third-party candidacies that eat into Biden's ability to reach 50-plus-one continue to be Democrats' biggest obstacle next year.

For now, polls show anti-vaccine activist and “independent” gadfly Robert F. Kennedy Jr. taking more votes from Trump than Biden. But that does not factor in bids by a “bipartisan” No Labels ticket, or left-wing activist Cornel West—or even the latest Democratic primary challenge from Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota, which appears precisely designed to do little more than hobble Biden.

No matter your view on whether a primary to Biden is useful, the particular strategy laid about by Schmidt to @TimAlberta of relentlessly attacking Biden is insane. This can only be described as a pro-Trump effort disguised as a primary campaign. https://t.co/DPtpmn3Nfs pic.twitter.com/0lyObncR7h

— Tim Miller (@Timodc) October 27, 2023

The 2024 election cycle promises to play out on one of the most unpredictable political landscapes in modern memory, likely defined by two candidates for whom Americans are uniquely unenthused to vote. The trick for Team Biden will be to recreate the anti-Trump coalition of 2020—but this time around Biden will have a record to defend and a lot more distractions to deal with.

Trust me when I say none of the current polling or hot takes are capturing the complexities of next year's electorate.

For now, the most constructive thing any Democrat who wants to reelect Biden can do is repeatedly remind their anti-Trump friends and family members that casting a third-party vote next year—or even staying home—is a de facto vote for Trump. That is especially true of young voters, who still generally lean Democratic but could be third-party curious or simply too dispirited to get to the polls.

Picking up a theme that's been well documented from our @HarvardIOP polling -- Young voters are less enthusiastic (-10) about the election at this stage in cycle than they were at same point last cycle. They still overwhelmingly prefer Biden -- it's just a different vibe.

— John Della Volpe (@dellavolpe) September 27, 2023

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Democrats sound the alarm about Jim Jordan’s potential interference in the 2024 election

If you need further proof that the GOP is not a serious party—apart from its continued fealty to a disgraced ex-pr*sident who’s roughly 20% evil and 80% Happy Meal—consider that they’re actually thinking about making Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a known insurrectionist, House speaker.

And no, he wasn’t just another of the cow-eyed and craven Republicans who stood by slack-jawed and mute as Donald Trump tried to smother American democracy with a lumpy MyPillow. He was elbows-deep in the shenanigans, and he wasn’t even trying to hide it.

Well, plenty of people have noticed the irony in potentially putting an America-hating coup plotter second in line to the presidency—and they’re not just Democrats. After all, giving this guy the power to finish what he and Custard Cream Caligula started in January 2021 is the height of irresponsibility for a party with any real pretensions of patriotism.

On Oct. 4, former House member Liz Cheney, one of the few Republicans who still thinks the person who won the most electoral votes should get to be president, even if that person is a Democrat, warned that a vote to elect Jordan speaker would be a vote for further undermining the increasingly vulnerable foundations of our democracy.

“Jim Jordan knew more about what Donald Trump had planned for Jan. 6 than any other member of the House of Representatives,” she said during a speech in Minnesota. “Somebody needs to ask Jim Jordan, ‘Why didn't you report to the Capitol Police what you knew Donald Trump had planned?’” 

Cheney also noted—correctly—that if Republicans elect Jordan speaker, it would be tantamount to abandoning the Constitution. 

Jim Jordan was involved in Trump's conspiracy to steal the election and seize power; he urged that Pence refuse to count lawful electoral votes. If Rs nominate Jordan to be Speaker, they will be abandoning the Constitution. They’ll lose the House majority and they’ll deserve to.

— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) October 13, 2023

Well, Cheney’s not the only one who’s alarmed. In fact, Rep. Ted Lieu, an outspoken Democrat, is concerned that a Jordan speakership could grease the skids for Bumblin’ Coup 2.0 following next year’s presidential election.

"Jim Jordan is one of the leaders of not respecting the will of American people in elections, and he will absolutely do everything he can to not certify a Biden victory,” said Lieu. “That's what he did before."

Lieu also noted that Jordan would be as much of a nightmare for reasonable (ha ha) Republicans as he is for the rest of the country.

"I think moderate Republicans should be freaked out with Jim Jordan as speaker," said Lieu, noting that Jordan would likely "push for a national abortion ban" and for the impeachment of President Biden.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, House Democrats’ one and only choice for speaker, echoed Lieu’s sentiments.

“House Republicans have selected as their nominee to be the speaker of the people’s House the chairman of the chaos caucus, a defender in a dangerous way of dysfunction, and an extremist extraordinaire,” Jeffries said on Friday while gathered with other congressional Democrats outside the Capitol. “His focus has been on peddling lies and conspiracy theories and driving division amongst the American people.”

House Minority Whip Katherine Clark has also weighed in, noting that Jordan is an “insurrectionist” who’s currently being blocked from the speaker's chair thanks to blanket opposition from Democrats. 

“He was directly involved in the right-wing coup that sought to overturn the 2020 election,” she said. “Every Republican who cast their vote for him is siding with an insurrectionist against our democracy.”

Yes, Jordan was directly—and heavily—involved in Trump’s America-garroting schemes following the 2020 presidential election.

In case you need a refresher, Mother Jones has the deets:

Many Republicans endorsed Trump’s Big Lie about the election. But Jordan was one of only a handful of congressional Republicans who actively conspired with Trump to overturn the election results. As he runs for House speaker, Republicans appear eager to ignore that. Yet by embracing Jordan they tie themselves further to that attack on democracy and the Constitution.

Jordan was an early and enthusiastic recruit in Trump’s war on the republic and reality—in public and in private.

Days after the November election, he spoke at a “Stop the Steal” rally in front of the Pennsylvania state capitol. He spread election conspiracy theories within right-wing media. He endorsed Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell’s bogus claims that Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic had robbed Trump of electoral victory. He called for a congressional investigation of electoral fraud for which there was no evidence and demanded a special counsel be appointed. He endorsed state legislatures canceling vote tallies and selecting their own presidential electors. He urged Trump not to concede. He demanded Congress not certify Joe Biden’s victory in the ceremony scheduled for January 6, 2021.

In other words, making Jordan speaker of the House would be a little like checking your local school bus driver’s pupils to make sure he is on drugs. 

But Republicans, for the most part, don’t see it that way. For instance, profile in porridge Mike Pence, who actually did right by the Constitution on Jan. 6, 2021, is nevertheless supporting Jordan’s speaker bid. He was recently interviewed by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, who asked him a very rude question he didn’t want to answer. So he didn’t. Answer it, that is.

COLLINS: “It’s interesting to me to hear you say that, that Jim Jordan would be a great speaker given he was someone who sent a text to the chief of staff on Jan. 5 that outlined for you to violate the Constitution and block the certification of the election. I mean, do you really believe that’s someone who should be third in line [sic] to the presidency?”

PENCE: “I have immense respect for Jim Jordan, he’s a man of integrity, and I’ve known him for many years. I was not aware of his opinion going into Jan. 6. My interaction with Congressman Jordan in December was simply over the legitimate objections that members of Congress were permitted to file under the law. But look, we may have a difference of opinion about my duties under the Constitution that day, but I’m very confident that if Jim Jordan becomes speaker of the House that he’ll lead with integrity.”

Ladies and gentlemen, the Bullshit Bot 9000, new from Ronco! I really wonder sometimes if Pence could pass the Turing test. Something tells me if Trump’s mob had actually succeeded in hanging him, he’d have sputtered his rehearsed talking points to his last breath: “I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a purpling corpse—in that order!”

Meanwhile, Democrats are pushing hard against the notion that Republicans’ demonstrated inability to get out of their own way is somehow the minority party’s fault. 

“It’s really appalling that they can’t even own their mess,” said Rep. Suzan DelBene, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “They’ve been unable to govern from the beginning of this Congress and unable to work with Democrats. All they seem focused on is fighting each other.”

“When I’ve gone through battleground districts across the country, folks want to see governance work,” DelBene added. “All they’ve seen from the Republican side is chaos and dysfunction.”

Uh huh. And that’s all they’re going to see, especially if Jordan gets his wish. Well, that and another big, steaming kettle of coup stew. 

Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE

Republicans suck so bad, some mainstream media outlets are even getting McCarthy’s ouster right

In a refreshing turn of events, House Republicans are putting on such a dazzling display of self-immolation that many mainstream media outlets have been forced to accurately portray the level of pandemonium these so-called lawmakers have unleashed on the institution they supposedly govern and the country they purportedly serve.

A Wednesday morning Politico piece opened with, “There’s no House speaker, Republicans are tearing each other to shreds over Kevin McCarthy’s ouster and another shutdown deadline is less than six weeks away — with no leader in a strong enough position to guide the party through.”

While the reports, analyses, and opinion pieces almost always note that a small band of Republicans "voted with Democrats" to oust Rep. Kevin McCarthy from his post, they still deride Republicans and McCarthy as the root of the problem. After all, it's on the majority party to elect a speaker of the House, not the minority party.  

As The Washington Post’s Paul Kane quipped about McCarthy, “There’s a price to pay for helping set fire to an institution and then asking the fire department to come save your office.”

In a piece satisfyingly titled, "Republicans cut off their own heads," The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote that the eight rogue Republicans led by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida toppled McCarthy "without a plan, a replacement, or even a policy goal in mind."

[T]he House is essentially frozen. The putative GOP majority is weaker, and its ability to gain any policy victories has been undermined. Oversight of the Biden Administration will slow or stop. Republicans in swing districts who are vulnerable in 2024 will be especially wary of trusting the Gaetz faction, and regaining any unity of purpose will be that much harder.

A Politico Magazine piece by editor John Harris declared, "The House GOP is a failed State."

McCarthy’s ouster is dramatic evidence, if redundant, about the state of the modern GOP. A party that used to have an instinctual orientation toward authority and order — Democrats fall in love, went the old chestnut, while Republicans fall in line — is now animated by something akin to nihilism. The politics of contempt so skillfully exploited by Donald Trump is turned inward on hapless would-be leaders like McCarthy with no less ferocity than it is turned outward on liberals and the media.

In a Washington Post analysis titled, "McCarthy ouster exposes the Republican Party's destructive tendencies," Dan Balz wrote that Republicans had "brought the legislative body to a halt" and "now risk being returned to minority status by voters in next year’s election."

And NBC News' First Read cut to the chase in a report titled, "Republicans struggle to govern—and McCarthy paid the price."

It all underscores a fundamental point about today’s political dysfunction in Washington: Republicans have had a difficult — if not impossible — time governing, especially when they control at least one legislative chamber but not the White House. And that difficulty has only gotten worse.

Arguably, Republicans have had a tough time governing recently, even when they had unified control of government. For instance, starting in late 2018, then-President Donald Trump presided over the longest government shutdown in history.

But quibbles aside, by and large, these mainstream pieces got it right: Republicans are a menace to good governance and should never be in charge.

Sign the petition: No to shutdowns, no to Biden impeachment, no to Republicans

Brooks and Capehart on why a government shutdown could last a long time

New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post associate editor Jonathan Capehart join Amna Nawaz to discuss the week in politics, including the country barreling toward a government shutdown and the first hearings in House Republicans' impeachment inquiry of President Biden.

What happened during the first hearing of the Biden impeachment inquiry

House Republicans held their first impeachment hearing into President Biden. The Republicans argue there is a real concern about the Biden family, but Democrats say it's an attempt to distract from the criminal charges against former President Trump. Amna Nawaz discussed the hearing and the legal basis for the impeachment inquiry with Frank Bowman.

Motion to vacate: Should Democrats help or laugh?

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is in a Catch-22, and he has only himself to blame for it. He’s got until the end of next week to figure out how to keep the government from shutting down—and save his own political skin. So far, he has proven incapable of doing either and created a dynamic in which one of two things is inevitable: a shutdown or a vote calling for his ouster as speaker. At this point, it seems both are likely.

The solution for averting a shutdown is pretty simple: McCarthy has to accept the reality that the Senate and the White House are in Democratic hands, and there is no way that the demands the hard-liners are making on funding will be enacted. If he doesn’t find a compromise and get Democrats in the House to help him pass a stopgap funding bill by the end of next week, the government shuts down and Republicans will get the blame. Because he’s in charge (at least nominally), McCarthy will get the lion’s share of it.

If he does get Democratic help and manage to keep the nation from looking like a banana republic, the nihilists will try to oust him via Rep. Matt Gaetz’s motion to vacate the chair. Someone wanted to make that threat abundantly clear, leaving a copy of that resolution in a restroom near the House chamber, where a reporter would be likely to find it—and did find it.

“The thing that would force the motion to vacate is if Kevin has to rely on Democrat votes to pass a CR,” Freedom Caucus Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado told Punchbowl News Tuesday. “I don’t think it has legs until Kevin relies on Democrats.” On the other hand, he said, “I don’t see how we can pass the bill [a CR] without Democrat votes.”

Campaign Action

Wheeee!

Where does that leave Democrats? In a position to let McCarthy dangle.

Since the last time House Republicans took the nation to the brink of disaster on the debt ceiling, a group of conservative Democrats in the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus offered to help out by providing enough votes to protect McCarthy from a move to boot him.

That offer is off the table now, Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips told reporters, thanks to McCarthy’s capitulation to the worst people in his conference and his greenlighting a toxic impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden. There’s no condoning or rewarding that, even from the most conservative of Democrats.

As of now, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries is meeting with his various Democratic groups, including the Problem Solvers, and seeing what it is they want. But that will not include capitulating to Republicans. “Leader Jeffries has been very clear,” Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar reiterated Tuesday morning. “They have to get rid of these ideological riders [on appropriations,] they have to fund the government at existing … levels and we need to meet the needs of the Ukrainian people fighting for freedom and the urgent disasters that we have had across this country.”

That’s where Democrats are and that’s where they need to stay so that McCarthy comes to them. They need to leave him stranded and friendless unless and until they extract concessions, like a commitment to realistically fund the government and put any impeachment nonsense on the back burner. McCarthy has a lot more to lose than Democrats do.

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What do you do if you're associated with one of the biggest election fraud scandals in recent memory? If you're Republican Mark Harris, you try running for office again! On this week's episode of "The Downballot," we revisit the absolutely wild story of Harris' 2018 campaign for Congress, when one of his consultants orchestrated a conspiracy to illegally collect blank absentee ballots from voters and then had his team fill them out before "casting" them. Officials wound up tossing the results of this almost-stolen election, but now Harris is back with a new bid for the House—and he won't shut up about his last race, even blaming Democrats for the debacle.