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Monday, October 12, 2015

It's the outsiders' House

Never mind what Dana Bash and her television cohorts tell you the Speaker's election is not a congressional crisis. This is what democracy looks like. It is messy and contentious and something both parties would prefer to do in backrooms far from public view. Prior to televised national party conventions this sort of thing went on every 4 years. Some conventions were noisier than others but even when the parties were united very little was left unsaid. After the uproarious Republican convention of 1964 and the bloody Democratic convention of 1968 the parties contrived ways to prevent public blood letting during prime time. Both parties expanded primaries eschewing state conventions where frequently the governor arrived as a favorite son candidate with his delegation's votes to be sold for the best offer. The Democrats went further yet by creating super delegates who could see to it that the establishment's view prevailed but both parties go to great pains to prevent any copious outpouring of vitriol that may give the viewing public any reason to think the convention is anything but a love in. The conventions are scripted entertainment productions and partisan differences are resolved in private.
Normally the election of a Speaker of the House is set upon personal loyalties but occasionally, and this is one of those times, it is based upon principles. The battle for the soul of the party is not so much over conservative versus liberal principles. It's also along the lines of establishment versus outsiders and perfectly reflects the Republican voters' preferences. If Ted Cruz is considered to be an outsider then political outsiders are polling 60% of the primary vote. Without Cruz it's still more than half the vote. The Republican base has had it with the House leadership and they want them gone.

The 538 web site produced this graphic. Putting aside the arcane statistical methodology of the DW-Nominate graph, one can readily see that the Freedom Caucus is both more conservative and more anti-establishment than the Republican House and it's a safe bet that Trump, Carson, Fiorina and Cruz all run well in their districts.
It was hoped that the Speaker's gavel could be quietly passed to Kevin McCarthy but House members and the folks who sent them there had other ideas so now the public will get a refresher course in representative democracy and what it looks like. This is a real election. This is the 1964 Republican convention when the conservative western wing supplanted the East Coast, Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javits, Margaret Chase Smith liberal Republicans and it is apt to be just as messy.
The Freedom Caucus while not being able to force one of its own into the Speakership does have enough members who united can prevent any candidate from reaching the 218 vote threshold. It is possible for one of them to win  with some concessions to mollify establishment members but the election is apt to be a protracted and messy process. Take heart. We are winning.

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