The 20 Republicans holding the speakership hostage are employing Trumpian tactics while blatantly ignoring Trump's advice, extremism expert says

  • In Politics
  • 2023-01-05 23:34:49Z
  • By Business Insider
Members of the House Freedom Caucus conferring Wednesday after a day of votes for the new House speaker at the US Capitol.Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
Members of the House Freedom Caucus conferring Wednesday after a day of votes for the new House speaker at the US Capitol.Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images  
  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy has lost 11 votes for House speaker in the past three days.

  • A group of 20 Republicans are wielding an inordinate amount of power as negotiations continue.

  • An extremism expert said the holdouts were employing "Trumpism" without Donald Trump's influence.

January 6, 2023: This post was updated to include the result of the 11th round of voting for House speaker.

A sect of far-right Republicans have taken the new Congress by storm, repeatedly stonewalling Rep. Kevin McCarthy's bids for House speaker in a dramatic display of power and pandemonium seemingly straight from the playbook of a not-too-distant president.

"I think we as a public are beginning to witness what Trumpism looks like without Donald Trump," Eric K. Ward, a senior advisor to the Western States Center who is an expert on extremism, told Insider.

Twenty Trump-loving lawmakers are essentially holding the Republican leadership position hostage, with McCarthy having failed 11 times in three days to secure the speakership.

But these representatives' similarities to the former president go beyond their political identities - nearly all of the holdouts are members of the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus, which has long been a thorn in the side of the larger conference and frequently came to Trump's defense while he was in office.

Ward said coalescing behind a new candidate each day - Rep. Matt Gaetz seemingly jokingly voted for Trump on Thursday during the seventh ballot - and refusing to back McCarthy even after he conceded to many of their original demands were examples of the Trumpian approach, which Ward described as politics as performance and performance over principle.

"The influential part of these 20 votes don't care whether they control the House speakership or not," he told Insider.

Ward accused them of instead seeking the "destruction" of American democracy.

Ward warned that the infighting over the speakership position was likely to be just the first step in the Republican Party's effort to "create a swirl of chaos, inertia, and stagnation" to wear down the American public, continue to pit the country against itself, and keep the masses distracted.

The latest vote came just one day before the second anniversary of the January 6, 2021, attack, in which a mob of Trump supporters laid siege to the US Capitol in an effort to overturn the 2020 election results. The House select committee investigating the insurrection argued in its final report, released last month, that Trump and other Republican lawmakers essentially aided and abetted the rioters by propagating lies and conspiracy theories about the election.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump  

"It should not go without notice that the last time they attempted to destroy American democracy from outside the Capitol, and years later it appears to be taking place from inside the Capitol," Ward said.

While Trump's legacy lives on in the 20 lawmakers' tactics, his power among the group has diminished in the months since he left office. He no longer holds the sway over this sect of lawmakers that he once did, evidenced by his failed efforts to rally the troops behind McCarthy this week, Ward said.

The former president issued a last-minute plea Wednesday morning urging Republicans to set aside their differences and make McCarthy speaker. But his Truth Social request failed to make a difference: McCarthy has lost eight rounds of voting since Trump's post.

Trump switched his approach Thursday, this time suggesting that McCarthy's repeated failures were actually a "Republican victory" that would cement the eventual speaker as "bigger and more important" than if someone had been chosen "the more traditional way."

But on Thursday, there was little indication that a final decision was imminent.

Ward warned that this chaos would be just the beginning should the 20 Republicans ultimately get their way.

"If they receive one more concession, the lesson they will have sent is that a small group of bullies can shut down Congress if they're not getting their way, and their way is exclusion," he told Insider.


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