Republicans step back from abyss…. for now

Representative Mike Rogers (R-Ala) is restrained from assaulting Matt Gaetz. Chaos ruled the day. That chaos will return in even greater form.

The Republicans stared into the abyss and stepped back…. for now. They watched Matt Gaetz apparently renege on a deal. They watched fellow Representative Mike Rogers (R, Alabama) have to be restrained from assaulting Gaetz. They watched vote after vote with no end in sight. They watched the Democrats thoroughly enjoying themselves. And they convinced Gaetz “not now. Not this time.” Unspoken (amongst themselves) was, “we’ll save the rest for later.”

Republican Party fragmentation
And just as night follows day, “later” will certainly come. Consider what former Republican bomb-thrower Newt Gingrich (of all people) said about Gaetz: “He’s essentially bringing ‘Lord of the Flies’ to the House of Representatives” As far as the Freedom Caucus rebels in general, Gingrich said they’re not interested in “anything that takes longer than waiting for their cappuccino.” The same could be said about those people’s supporters.

But as that same NY Times article explained, “the bitterly partisan stalemates of the Gingrich era may well have metastasized into a state of governance by chaos.” After all, it was Gingrich who had once said “one of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty.”

Nasty is certainly the quarterback of the hour. But “team player”? Marjorie Taylor Greene criticized Gaetz and Boebert: “Matt never goes to (Republican Party) conference, and if Lauren Boebert’s ever there, she’s just sitting there tweeting on her phone.” Greene was frustrated because she feared the backroom deal she’d made with McCarthy might slip through her fingers. Reportedly, she’ll get an appointment to the House Oversight and Reform Committee, from which she can carry out all sorts of “investigations”. Contrary to what she claimed about this fracas being “democracy in action”, it was simply blatant back room dealing that landed McCarthy the job. So much for draining the swamp.

For days on end, it was the most enjoyable show on TV. As Julia Louis Dreyfus said, the show was worthy of an Emmy. But it was also more than that.

Fragmentation of US society
The fragmenting of the Republican Party is a symptom of the fragmenting of US society as a whole. After all, who put people like Gaetz and Boebert (and Greene too, for that matter) into office and what were they thinking? Their voters were simply thinking “I’m mad as hell and I won’t take it any longer…. and I want somebody to express that feeling.” Blind anger, temper tantrums and social fragmentation can only last so long before more conscious social forces take advantage of them. That is exactly what happened with the Tea Party protesters of 2007-8. Republican aligned capitalists built the Tea Party Express and used it as a conduit to the Republican Party and a campaign to cut social spending and similar goals.

In our previous article on the issue, Oaklandsocialist quoted the former chief of staff for a former Republican house Speaker, John Boehner. He said “we fed the beast that ate us.” That’s exactly what’s happened.

Kevin McCarthy grins from ear to ear as he achieves his lifelong dream of pounding the Speaker’s gavel for the first time. How long will he be grinning? NY Times columnist Dana Milbank answers the question.

Coming federal shutdown
Next up will be a vote on increasing the federal debt ceiling. It’s presently set at $31.381 trillion and that ceiling will expire in July of 2023, but that limit will probably be reached before then. When Trump was president, the Republicans made not a peep about deficits or the debt ceiling, but now it’s a good club with which to beat the Democrats over the head. And beat they will. Once the ceiling is hit, the federal government cannot pay its bills and it is expected that that will be reached this summer. Then, if a deal is not reached, the government won’t be able to pay its bills.

Can you say “government shutdown”? The question is not really “if” but “for how long?”

Republicans will be demanding cuts to social services. Biden has already said that he intends to “work with” them as long as they are willing to reciprocate. But how far can he and the Democrats go?

Vacuum opening up
A huge vacuum has developed in US society. The capitalist class has lost a huge portion of its base. That is the only way to explain what has happened with the Republican Party. In our previous article – The House Speaker Crisis and the Transformation of the Republican Party – we documented how the capitalists really lost control over that party. It was not a split in the class. They lost control because they’ve lost a huge measure of influence. Yes, a scattering of capitalists like Elon Musk and Peter Thiel support this chaos, but they are a small minority.

The other side of the equation is the crisis in the US working class. There has been a 75 year campaign to erase all the memories and traditions of a militant labor movement. This coincides with the fact that the majority of the socialist movement has largely retreated into its own echo chamber.

Coming shock and what comes next
A great shock is required to drive a layer of the US working class and working class youth into action, since neither the union leadership nor any other similar force will organize a movement. A prolonged government shutdown could be that shock. It almost was the last time (2018-19). At that time, we actually had a top union leader – Sara Nelson, president of the Flight Attendants Union – talking about a general strike. In retrospect, it seems unlikely that she ever would have really acted, but her talk helped bring about a reopening of the federal government. This time, who knows what might happen, especially since such a shutdown is likely to last even longer.

It is impossible to predict exactly what form a new movement could take. But in general the task for serious socialists would be to first of all listen and be involved and learn. From there, we can start to figure out what will be the next possible and necessary steps, how a working class movement can start to move towards building its own party, one based on socialist principles.

Washington , D.C. – January 6: Mike Rogers (R-AL) is restrained after getting into an argument with Matt Gaetz (R-FL) during in the 14th round of voting for speaker in a meeting of the 118th Congress, Friday, January 6, 2023, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC. The House reconvened Friday night after adjourning earlier for a fourth day of voting after Rep.-elect Kevin McCarthy failed to earn more than 218 votes on 11 ballots over three days.

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