Consider method first: For its operation, the Constitution’s design presumes legislators who prize national interest over what James Madison called “factious,” local interest. Madison thought that national elections would “refine and enlarge” the quality of national representations in comparison to their local peers. To us, this seems optimistic at best. But politicians are not just the sum of the structural forces acting on them (gerrymandering, dark money, etc.). They have agency, and can make choices. Those on the hard right who precipitated McCarthy’s fall demonstrated an unblinking zealotry and contempt for their colleagues within and beyond the party in ways that exemplify the spirit Madison repudiated. It is a spirit, as McCarthy himself acknowledged in his resignation speech, sharply at odds with the Constitution’s design.
And what of aims? The Framers conducted a “Revolution in favor of government,” to quote the historian Max Edling. They built a government that would work. While the outer contours of federal power have long been contested, the core aim of the Constitution to create a working state to meet the international and economic challenges of the day was never in doubt. Advocates of the hard-right project today deeply misunderstand the Framers here. In effect, they ignore the first four aims listed in the Constitution in favor of an emphasis on “Liberty” (for the select, right-thinking few, at least). Such selectivity is, in its own way, another profound repudiation of the Constitution’s core.
‘The speaker’s chair is vacant because of mistrust and misaligned expectations’
BY BILL SCHER
Bill Scher is a contributing writer to Politico Magazine, the politics editor for the Washington Monthly and co-host of “The DMZ,” an online show and podcast with conservative writer Matt Lewis.
The problem is too many people think American politics is more broken than it is in reality.
In the past three years, broad coalitions have formed to invest in infrastructure, enhance gun safety, support semiconductor manufacturing, aid Ukraine and even shore up the finances of the United States Postal Service.
When Republicans took over the House and far-right nihilists agitated for an economically devastating default on the federal government’s debt obligations, a robust bipartisan majority embraced the budget deal that averted a crisis. Just last week, despite lingering disagreements about spending levels, border security and Ukraine, a similar bipartisan coalition made sure the federal government would not shut down.
And yet, a small number of Republican ideologues and gadflies refused to accept that now-former Speaker Kevin McCarthy had restrained spending as much as politically possible. Meanwhile, as they watched McCarthy strain to maintain Republican unity, House Democrats did not trust him to stick with the spending levels set in the debt limit deal, or continue to keep the government open. The speaker’s chair is vacant because of the mistrust and misaligned expectations of these two groups.
Finding common ground in an evenly divided country will always be challenging. But leaders in both parties have been picking their spots and finding pathways to success. American politics wasn’t broken. Until Tuesday.
‘All three of the Guns have been shot down by their own gang’
BY NORMAN ORNSTEIN
Norman Ornstein is an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
It has been clear for some years that what is broken in American politics is the Republican Party. The roots go back for decades — starting with Newt Gingrich’s arrival in the House in 1979. But the current chaos was triggered, ironically, by the self-proclaimed “Young Guns” — Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy — when they went around the country in 2009 recruiting tea party radicals, exploiting their anger after the financial collapse and the backlash against Barack Obama, promising to blow up the establishment in Washington with the hopes that they could use that anger to catapult themselves into the majority. Their expectation was that once these tea party radicals were in the House, they could co-opt them. Instead, of course, they were co-opted. John Boehner was the first victim of the Young Guns, but now all three of the Guns have been shot down by their own gang. Cantor lost his seat to a tea party radical; Ryan suffered the same fate as speaker as John Boehner, forced to leave by the radical right. And now McCarthy, the last one standing, has been taken out by the same forces in an even more dramatic manner.