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Reblogged:Obstinate Populists Self-Limit

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Since he became speaker based solely on his loyalty to Trump -- a man who would throw his own mother under the bus on a whim -- I had an extremely low estimate of Speaker Mike Johnson.

After he ignored such luminaries as Marjorie Taylor Greene to pass a military aid package, that estimate is slightly higher: He would seem possessed of enough low cunning or even common sense to know when and how to work with political opponents to achieve a goal.

Writing at UnHerd, Fred Bauer outlines the ways the other Trump loyalists (who are now calling for Johnson's head) screwed themselves by preemptively writing off any and all cooperation with the Democrats:
Probably a RINO, according to Marjorie Taylor Greene. (Image by United States Congress, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.)
... Because of the centrality of Ukraine for the Biden White House's foreign policy, Democrats might well have eventually accepted a legislative package that paired border control measures with Ukraine-Israel funding. Republicans could have passed a broader national security grand bargain in the House and then dared the Democratic-controlled Senate not to act. The precedent would have been the 2023 debt-ceiling standoff, in which House Republicans passed a bill to raise the debt ceiling and forced the White House and Senate Democrats to the negotiating table.

Instead, recalcitrant populists in the House performed judo against themselves. Rather than leveraging the border to get Ukraine funding, they used performative opposition to Ukraine funding to block action on the border. Speaker Johnson put the matter bluntly the other day: "If I put Ukraine in any package, it can't also be with the border because I lose Republican votes on that rule." [bold added]
Just as Bauer accurately describes how the populist kook wing of the GOP got nothing by demanding everything, I believe he pretty accurately foretells the future when he considers the deep reflection this should cause among them, but won't:
... For some populists, this complete sacrifice of legislative leverage may be a policy disappointment but a messaging opportunity. Perhaps the most prized ornament among many Republicans on Capitol Hill is a badge of angry defeat -- won during the shutdowns and failed "Obamacare" repeals of the past. This debacle is another chance to rage against the "uniparty", fret about the betrayal by the Republican "establishment", and sneer at "America Last" foreign policy. [bold added]
The likes of Greene are so blinded by rage at the left that they cannot see how stupid they are behaving or entertain the idea of achieving part of what they want, under the current political makeup of the legislative and judicial branches. I am no fan of Joe Biden, but this is a textbook example of how not to win against a political opponent, and I can't think of a political faction I'd want doing this more.

The silver lining here is that Johnson has shown that there is room for a halfway sane legislative agenda to get passed in a closely-divided House: There will be enough center-left and center-right votes to pass measures that aren't too nutty for every member of either party to block, and that the authoritarian wings of each party can be marginalized.

One cheer for Mike Johnson.

-- CAV

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