January 22, 2023

The Abnormal New Normal

by Hal Gershowitz

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The two-party system: sagging at the seams.

Traditionally, running for high political office outside of the two-party system has been, more often than not, a fool’s errand. That may be changing. The extremes in both parties are, today, monopolizing much of the discourse, and a growing swath of the American body politic seems to be embracing a plague on both their houses attitude.

A Pew Research study last November found that over 60% of American adults had unfavorable views of the Republican Party, and nearly 60% had similarly negative thoughts of the Democratic Party. Around one in four Americans, according to Pew Research, dislike both parties. According to Gallop Research, between 50% and 60% of Americans believe we need a third party, with about 40% satisfied with our two-party system. In the event the current standard bearers of the two parties (Biden and Trump) wind up with their party’s nominations, No Labels, a Washington-based political interest group, has floated the idea of a unity ticket consisting of a prominent Republican and Democrat, thus avoiding the creation of a third Party.

This is serious stuff because both major parties are embroiled in controversies that threaten to “turn off” much of the American electorate. Today, the leaders of both parties have monopolized the daily news cycle with their respective mishandling of classified documents, the distinction between the two boiling down to Biden being apologetic and cooperative and Trump being arrogant and obstructionist.

While both political parties have, over time, had their share of miscreants, crooks, and ne’er-do-wells, the Republicans are certainly hogging the clown car today. Both parties have had to tolerate their institutional (if not institutionalized) misfits from time to time. Today’s Republican Party, however, is rife with election deniers, attempted-coup apologists, and what former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a popular Republican in a very Democratic state, called an assortment of mixed nuts during his podcast with me earlier this month.

Anyone trying to understand why abnormal has become the new Republican normal need merely look to who House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has appointed to serve on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee. Keep in mind that this is the primary investigative committee of the House of Representatives. Among those appointed to this committee are conspiracy theorists and/or election deniers Lisa McClain (R-Mich.), who famously credited former President Donald Trump with hunting down and killing Osama bin Laden, Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz), Lauren Boebert (R-Col.), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz), William Timmons (R-S.C.), who claimed, “big tech, the media, and pollsters piled on to change the outcome of the election,” and Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla).

Thirteen of the 15 new Republicans who will now serve on this investigative committee either voted to deny Joe Biden the presidency or simply claimed that he didn’t win. This is the new normal in the new Republican caucus

It will be interesting to observe how election deniers such as Jim Jordan, who now chairs the House Judiciary Committee, will tolerate witnesses who are subpoenaed and refuse to testify. Jordan himself thumbed his nose at the subpoena he received to testify before the House committee investigating the January 6th attempted coup. In fairness, Jim Jordan claims he never specifically claimed the election was stolen. Here, specifically, is what he did claim: “I don’t know how you can ever convince me that President Trump didn’t actually win this thing based on all the things you see” (without ever specifying any of the things we are supposed to see that proves that Trump actually won the election). Similarly, Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), who also now serves on the House Oversight Committee, also refused to comply with a subpoena to testify before the January 6th Committee. This is the abnormal new normal.

Think of it. At least three prominent Republicans who stiffed the January 6th Committee by ignoring its subpoenas have declared their intent to subpoena witnesses to bolster their investigations into alleged democratic skullduggery. And this, too, is the abnormal new normal.

And, finally, we have the man who might be the best-known Republican in the 118th Congress, George Pinocchio Santos. It is rumored that Burger King is considering changing the name of its famous Big Whopper to the Santos Burger.

Many are wondering just what deals Kevin McCarthy made to coax the recalcitrant members of his caucus into voting to make him Chairman after fourteen failed attempts to secure the powerful and coveted position. He agreed to make the major mischief makers the bantam kingmakers. Kevin McCarthy did what he had to do to become the ringmaster of the circus that is certain to characterize the 118th Congress of the United States of America.

Norm Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute described the absurdity of Speaker McCarthy’s committee assignments as the equivalent of giving Al Capone the power to investigate Eliot Ness. Welcome to the abnormal new normal.

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