January 28, 2023

GOP is Giving “REHAB” A Whole New Meaning

by Hal Gershowitz

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And it isn’t good.

The Republican Party is laboring to rehab the very malady that inflicts it rather than rehabilitate itself. It’s True. We generally think of Rehab (or rehabilitation) as a restorative process that corrects or reverses a dangerous or ruinous circumstance.

We think of returning a person, a neighborhood, a building, or even a cause to good health or productive purpose.

The leadership of today’s Republican Party is fiercely working to rehabilitate (make respectable) the anti-democratic cohort that is actually enfeebling the Party. Their purpose is the very antithesis of rehabilitation. Rather than rehabilitate the Party that the election deniers might well destroy, Republican leadership has, instead, chosen to rehabilitate (elevate) those who are and have been on the dark side of this tragic and evolving history. They would be well advised to reflect on John F. Kennedy’s warning over a half-century ago, “those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.”

The political cohort of election deniers that the current leadership of the GOP is laboring mightily to elevate threatens a deadly thrust into the heart of the American experiment. This cohort seems dedicated to the proposition that when an election rejects its agenda, the remedy is to reject the election.

Most of these election deniers were, of course, elected or re-elected in the very same election they claim was rigged in 2020. The Republican Party has not marginalized them. They have, instead, been elevated to near-exulted status. These anti-democratic politicians have been rewarded with important committee chairmanships, which, in congress, is akin to being given the keys to the kingdom.  

Who are these newly appointed election-denying Committee Chairs? Take a look. Agriculture, Glenn Thompson (R-Penn); Armed Services, Mike Rogers (R-Ala.); Budget, Jodey Arrington (R-Tex.); Education and Workforce, Virginia Foxx (R-NC); Energy and Commerce, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wa.); Homeland Security, Mark Green (R-Tenn.); Judiciary, Jim Jordan (R-Ohio); Natural Resources, Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.); Science, Space and Technology, Frank Lucas (R-Ok.); Small Business, Roger Williams (R-Tx.); Transportation and Infrastructure, Sam Graves (R-MO); Veterans’ Affairs, Mike Bost (R-Ill.); and Ways and Means, Jason Smith (R-Missouri).

As I reported last week, 13 of the 15 Republicans who Speaker McCarthy has newly appointed to populate the all-important House Oversight and Accountability Committee, the chief investigative committee of the House of Representatives, are election deniers.

Two-thirds of the 17 new committee chairs are among the 147 Republicans who voted against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election. A dozen were signatories to the ridiculous failed amicus brief seeking to have the Supreme Court overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, all states in which a majority of the voters cast their ballots for Joe Biden.

Many who voted to deny the Presidency to Joe Biden were backbenchers or neophytes who followed their election-denying leaders.

But many were political chauvinists who would not hesitate to seize power if their power-hungry leaders gave the signal. These people will do whatever it takes to seize power and whatever it takes to hold onto power. They believe power is the domain of those who take it when the opportunity is at hand. To these political operators, an election is merely an opportunity but not a deciding factor in determining who wields power.

The Republicans will wield power in the House, but very narrowly. So, Speaker McCarthy has embraced (quite literally) the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene, who sarcastically announced that if she and Steve Bannon had been running the January 6th insurrection, “we would have won, and we would have been armed.” Greene, who now sits on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, has become a favorite of Speaker McCarthy. He lavishes praise on Greene and others who have come to Washington to break the china and to cheer on those who came to vandalize and attack the Capitol, to hang Mike Pence, to pledge their allegiance to the maelstrom of Mar-a-Lago and, ultimately, to secure the tiniest of footnotes to the history of our country.

Greene’s ability to wield actual political influence is also a nails-on-the-blackboard moment given that less than two years ago, she was an outspoken fan of QAnon, was dismissive of school shootings, believed that no plane was ever flown into the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001, and claimed that Jewish laser beams caused the California wildfires. “I will never leave that woman. I will always take care of her,” McCarthy told a friend, according to the New York Times.

Speaker McCarthy has paid a high price to secure his place in history, dubious as that place may be. And speaking of history, Republicans should revisit the history of their own Party. They should study how quickly a party out of step with the arc of history can fall from impressive heights to utter oblivion. Today’s Republican Party was born out of the dissension and conflict that tore apart its predecessor Whig Party in 1855.

Philip Wallach, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, could have been talking about today’s Republican Party when he observed of the Whigs, “it is remarkable how fast it all fell apart.”

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