GOP throws a tantrum, as “my Kevin” becomes their leader and our problem…

Vince Rizzo
4 min readJan 7, 2023

What price glory?

The last few days have been a nail-biting high-wire act for Republicans, but a voyeur’s guilty pleasure for the rest of us. Whatever pleasure we derived from watching House Republicans devolve into their pool of endless recrimination and childlike squabbling will be tempered by what is to come. “There is no joy in Mudville…” borrowing a line from Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s poem, Casey at the Bat because there were no winners this week. G overnance in D.C. will consist of little more than a two-year run of the shitshow we all watched as the GOP debuted their “control” of the House. It had all the markings of a burlesque starring bit players in their one and only chance in the dull flickerings of the MAGA spotlight. There is a good chance that in two years’ time, we will have forgotten their names, but their week of looking silly is destined to be a prelude to two more years of living dangerously. This will be the year that the GOP won the House but lost its mind.

The drama that engulfed Kevin McCarthy’s bid to become the ringleader of the GOP circus revealed how little their crowd cared about anything but themselves. The lingering irony of a party in disarray being given the reins of power is simply disheartening. On the two-year anniversary of the J6 insurrection, an “insurrection in a teapot” was commandeered by election deniers, insurrection supporters, and run-of-the-mill dipshits. While victims of J6 were still recovering from the horrors of that day, twenty GOP “rebels” held their party and the nation hostage- just for kicks.

For his part, McCarthy spent the week like a piñata at a wake. What should have been “family” was happily beating the corpse to find more goodies that could be shaken from his dead carcass. Kevin continued to rain favors on his ungrateful kin until there was nothing left to give. The prize he wanted so badly was wrapped in an empty box. McCarthy’s arch-enemy, Matt Gaetz, appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox soapbox hours before the final vote- after he and his small band of legislative extortionists had bankrupted the speakership with their outlandish demands. Gaetz, under suspicion of a Federal sex-trafficking probe for the past two years, shamelessly proclaimed that he and his cohorts had little or nothing left to pilfer from the party leader- that even having gained all the favors they could possibly want, he bragged:

“I am excited and encouraged, I am grateful that Speaker-designate McCarthy has been so receptive to each and every change that we have demanded. And Sean, we’re at the stage right now where I’m running out of stuff to ask for.”

“Read the bills, have a balanced budget, have a border plan,” he continued. “Kevin McCarthy is agreeing to all these things … It’s never been about him, it’s been about draining the swamp.”

- Newsweek, January 7, 2023

Unconditional Disregard

But Gaetz was neither excited nor encouraged enough to vote for the man whose pockets he helped pick. In a Republican perversion of Shel Silverstein’s children’s parable, The Giving Tree, the point was to humiliate McCarthy even if it meant he ultimately lost the vote and the favors they had extorted were undeliverable. That didn’t happen. In the end, McCarthy was asked for one more favor, to hand over his pride, and when it was gone his opponents allowed him to back into the speakership by voting “present.” Silverstein’s Tree is an apt comparison to McCarthy’s plight, as both McCarthy and his party are victims of their own shamelessness. After McCarthy gave all that he could, and his tormentors took all that they wanted, neither would be happy.

In The Giving Tree, the end of the story-poem is bitter-sweet. After the tree had given the boy its limbs, its fruit, and even its trunk, the boy returned:

“I don’t need very much now,” said the boy.
“just a quiet place to sit and rest.
I am very tired.”
“Well,” said the tree, straightening
herself up as much as she could,
“well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting
Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest.”
And the boy did.
And the tree was happy.

Silverstein’s ending bothered some who saw little satisfaction in the parable’s message about unconditional love. The tree, to them, is a sap (forgive the wordplay.) The grown-up kid has suffered little for his ingratitude. In this case, the result is like Chinese boxes- a narrative within another. The events that both occurred on the same day, but two years apart, describe a smaller insult within a much larger one. The smaller box contains the slight suffered by Kevin McCarthy who motivated by self-aggrandizement and ambition falls victim to far more craven men. The other, the greater affront, is of an undeserving democracy falling victim to a cabal that has attacked its institutions and demands nothing less than its demise. Only one of the above deserves better.

What occurred this week is a MAGA-inspired moral telling the tale of what happens when a dog catches its tail- unbridled ambition has its unique consequences. Some may smile with the realization of how bad the past few years have been for the GOP- slinging a boomerang, forgetting to duck. I believe it was James Carville who wryly noted that the Republican Party had tossed their pin and held onto the grenade. The problem is that the speakership vote was the prelude to a drama that will play out on an international stage. The laughter and schadenfreude will soon grow old as the nation- and the rest of the world- have to wait for this bunch to either grow up or die off.

I know the option I’m rooting for.

Originally published at https://www.dailykos.com on January 7, 2023.

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Vince Rizzo

Former president of the International Association of Laboratory Schools (IALS) and a founder of a charter school based on MI theory.