A Unity Speaker? Open Primaries & Hold my beer...
...and why we can't have nice things
A Perfect Storm for a Unity Speaker of the House
Less than a month after the GOP captured the House by a narrow margin, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy has a Herculean task of being elected Speaker of the House. He faces pressures from both his far-right and moderate wings of his caucus and can only afford to lose five votes from either wing.
The personalities and demands on McCarthy’s right have been widely reported and amounts to a massive overreach that does nothing to address the economic issues the GOP ran on during the Midterms. While less well known—because they do not preform stupid animal tricks for the media—there are about two dozen GOP moderates who hail from Blue states or Biden-friendly districts. Districts that could punish these moderates if the political demands of far-right are met.
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Therefore, it should very plausible—almost expected—for at least five ambitious Republicans to align themselves with moderate Democrats and strike a deal with the entire Democratic House Caucus to elect a “Unity Speaker of the House”, giving the Speakership and control of some key committees to GOP moderates.
Imagine what that would be like? Sure, not much would happen—which will be a good thing. No defaulting on our national debt in return for cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits; no Hunter Biden hearings; no impeachment hearings for Biden and half his Cabinet; no Fauci hearings; or no hearings on the treatment of Jan 6th insurrectionists.
In a more perfect democracy, a Unity Speaker could produce some modest, but critical, political accommodations that would soften the deep divisions in the country. Investigating and holding hearings on the origins and response to COVID and US failures in Afghanistan are appropriate, if conducted and controlled by moderate forces and not the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene or Jim Jordan. Ideally, with the moderates running the House, maybe small steps could be made to address immigration, income inequality or Social Security shortfalls. But…
But We Can’t Have Nice Things
So don’t hold your breath for a Unity Speaker. Our election “rules” that evolved from the Constitution (which made no mention of political parties) makes it very easy to punish those who plot to deny their own party control of the House. Just look at the ten GOP House members that voted to impeach Donald Trump for the Jan 6th insurrection — only two of the ten will be returning to Congress this session.
Of the eight “Impeach Trump” GOP members not returning, four retired after facing fierce blowback from local party activists, and four lost to primary challengers. This illustrates how just one rule in our democracy—partisan primaries—create incentives that prevent us from achieving the essence of what a democracy is: Consensus rule.
Which brings us to one of many reforms we need to in order to fix our Republic: A Single Ballot Open Primary system.
A Single Ballot Open Primary(SBOP) is just that: a single primary where candidates from all parties run on a single ballot, with the top two (or more) candidates moving on to the general election. So instead of having separate partisan primaries that cater to political activists on both sides, SBOP will favor candidates that appeal to a broader base of primary voters. Currently, California and Washington have this system (with Alaska having a similar system).
It is not a coincidence that BOTH surviving GOP House members who voted to impeach Trump are from these states. (A third GOP member that voted to impeach was also from Washington and narrowly came in third in the SBOP in which she ran.)
There still is a remote chance that a Unity Speaker could be elected. But the chances are far smaller when partisan primaries dominate the rules of our election systems. There maybe a few GOP moderates elected—and protected—by SBOP elections, joined by a couple other moderate GOP House members that plan on retiring in 2024, and ally with moderate Democrats to elect a Unity Speaker.
It’s a long shot. But if we had more SBOP elections around the country, it would be an easy lay-up.
Hold My Beer, I’m Running Against Trump
On a “lighter” note…a little Trump musing for the weekend. Bottomline is: Buckle up and “enjoy” the show, as it may lead the GOP Civil War many have predicted since 2016.
Based on his announcement speech, Trump is breaking his own cardinal rule: He’s boring and has nothing new to say. But he’s a vicious competitor and you don’t want to be his primary opponent in an electoral cage match.
The first test for Trump is creating the image of inevitability and invincibility for his campaign. So, will he draw big crowds of passionate followers to his events, or will they be looking for the exits after an hour of Trump bloviating his greatest hits from the past? Will Trump’s reality-bending powers be reflected in early polls, or will polls show GOP activists exhausted of his antics and looking for alternatives? If Trump gets indicted, does the base rally around him, like they did when the Feds legally raided Mar-a-Largo? Will there be too many GOP challengers that split the 70 percent of the GOP vote that would rather Trump not run, thereby letting Trump win with his fanatical minority GOP base? Or will their campaigns explode as they maneuver a mind field of Trump-inspired questions from reporters and voters like: “Will you pardon Jan 6th rioters?”; “Do you agree with many members of Trump’s Cabinet and Senior staff that he is not fit to be President?”; “What is your comment on Trump’s indictment?”.
If Ron DeSantis does get a one-on-one shot at Trump, will he be disciplined enough to take Trump’s punches and win the nomination? If so, is there any doubt Trump will mount a third-party run in the general election and spark a GOP civil war? These are just a tiny fraction of the unanswered questions that will determine the course of the GOP Presidential Primary. Each one has big implications for both the GOP and our country. What is certain is events will be unpredictable, with potential disaster around every corner.
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