Six weeks ago, Jim Risch, Idaho’s longest-lived political survivor was going back to the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The state’s other senator, Mike Crapo, one of the most senior members of the Senate whose lifetime in political office is entirely defined by his devotion to massive tax cuts that benefit his donors in the insurance and financial services industries, was a lead pipe cinch to become chairman of the Finance Committee. From that august perch Crapo could fulfill his re-election pledge to bash the IRS, which, of course, is coming for his constituent’s guns, er, tax returns.
Six weeks ago, Washington senator Patty Murray was headed for retirement, ushered out of office atop a “red tsunami” that would also swamp Democrats in Nevada, Pennsylvania, Arizona, New Hampshire and Georgia.
No less a beltway gasbag than former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on November 4 that Republicans would pick up at least three and likely five Senate seats, that Murray’s opponent was closing fast and could win, that the GOP candidate “will almost certainly carry New Hampshire” and football star Herschel Walker would win the Georgia Senate seat “without a runoff.”
Gingrich, whose opinion you might want to avoid the next time you head to the parimutuel window, told Hannity that polls were undercounting Republican voters heading into the midterm election. Newt said the GOP could easily pick up 50 House seats, but Gingrich, the man who contributed as much as any living pol to the toxicity of our politics, said he was more certain of a pick-up of precisely 44 seats.
Turns out Gingrich is as good at predicting election outcomes as he is at dumping ex-wives, once talking over divorce while one spouse was hospitalized with cancer. But that is a digression, because this column is about the GOP clown factor. And Gingrich is no, well, wait.
But back to the “red tsunami.” It turned into a one seat pickup in the Senate for Democrats, and while Republicans narrowly reclaimed control of the House of Representatives the GOP majority is so tenuous and the party so fractured that would-be House Speaker Kevin McCarthy should be employing a food taster.
Even if “my Kevin,” as the would-be Mar a Lago felon calls him, avoids the long knives his fellow Republicans have drawn for him and ends up with the gavel he will still wake every morning wondering which one of several nutjobs in his conference will trip him up before lunch.
Any way you slice it, Democrats defied nearly every prediction, including Newt’s, and now have an actual majority in the Senate and a ringside seat to cheer on the House Follies. House Democrats, with an attractive new leader and no responsibility, can hardly lose, while the nation focuses on the antics of the most radical group of House Republicans since, well maybe ever.
Even Gingrich back in 1994 had a plan to try and govern. And by contrast, when Republicans won the House in 1946, ending 14 years of Democratic rule, they actually had a legislative agenda, including a Constitutional amendment to limit any future president to two terms and limitations on the power of trade unions. Those Republicans also approved of the Marshall Plan and reorganized the US military, all stuff that clearly pales in comparison to Hunter Biden’s laptop.
By all rights, Republicans should have owned the Congress after the November election. That they didn’t isn’t really a complex story as the Georgia Senate race illustrates as well as any recent contest.
The Georgia election, decided earlier this week in favor of an eloquent Baptist preacher, Raphael Warnock, who immediately became a national figure by preaching bipartisanship, strangely combined poisonous partisanship, the violence of NFL football and the malicious influence of vast money in our politics. Think of that, if you can, as American exceptionalism.
Who in their right mind could think that Hershel Walker was in anyway qualified, let alone competent to represent Georgia in the United State Senate? Anyone with the experience of a 7th grade student council election would have said Walker was barely qualified to participate in a Capitol tour let alone sit in the world’s greatest deliberative body.
Walker was, after all, credibly charged with sexual abuse, threatening women with firearms or knives, abandoning his children, at least those he knew about, and fabulizing much of his background. Walker’s closing argument to Georgia voters involved a crazy story about werewolves defeating zombies. Look it up.
As David Von Drehle put it in the Washington Post: “It’s one thing for a deeply flawed person to accept admiration for his former athletic magnificence, but it’s quite another for him to seek a role in leading the country. The dirty laundry that Walker kept stuffed into the vault behind his trophy case was hauled into the glare of television lights and packaged into millions of dollars of negative advertising. One of Walker’s sons summed up his famous father this way: He ‘left us to bang a bunch of women, threatened to kill us, and had us move over 6 times in 6 months’ to escape the mayhem of his own making.”
Doesn’t that sound like Robert Taft or Howard Baker?
Walker, with all his athletic talent, didn’t graduate from college, then denied that he had repeatedly said he had, even while having claimed he graduated in the top one percent of his class. He was a modestly successful professional player and seems a case study for why the NFL concussion scandal remains a scandal.
That the Republican Party, an unserious collection of loons, conspiracy theorists, shameless opportunists and personality cultists (but I repeat myself) would advance this deeply troubled man as a serious political candidate – not to mention similar cranks in several other states – says pretty much all you need to know about the party that once celebrated Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt and General Eisenhower.
And consider the money. One Atlanta TV station, WBS, pulled in at least $86 million from political ads during 2022. Republicans poured millions upon millions into Georgia to prop up a guy who campaigned on a werewolf versus vampire platform, and it damn near worked. Still, it turns out that all the money in the world can’t overcome too many football hits to the noggin.
Donald Trump promoted Walker, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham debased themselves acting like Herschel was a serious person, Republicans counted on him to secure a chairmanship for Jim Risch and Mike Crapo and send Patty Murray to oblivion, or in their better world back home. In January, by the way, Murray will chair the Appropriations Committee and become Senate president pro tem, third in line to the presidency.
The Gingrich prophesy flopped for one big reason: maybe, just maybe nutjobbery as a political approach has reached its expiry date.
Walker did get one thing right: Werewolves do defeat vampires — see “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.” At the closing of that 1948 film “classic,” the wolfman (Lon Chaney Jr.) spares Bud Abbott and Lou Costello from the clutches of Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi).
When you think about it, you wonder how we kept such intellectual heft out of the U.S. Senate.
A few other items you may find of interest …
Wilma Mankiller, first female principal chief of Cherokee Nation
“During her time as chief, Mankiller provided a foundation for the continued growth of the Cherokee Nation. Enrollment in Cherokee Nation doubled under her leadership. She championed education and secured a US$9 million vocational center. A 1991 Parade Magazine profile described her leadership style as quiet but strong.”
Link here to a good piece of American history.
Gen. Grant’s pending promotion sheds new light on his fight for equal rights after the Civil War
There is a proposal in Congress to promote the Civil War general to an exalted rank – General of the Armies of the US. Only George Washington and John J. Pershing have had such rank.
“Grant served as president from 1869 to 1877 during a time when white Southerners proved hostile toward federal Reconstruction measures that sought equal rights for recently freed enslaved people.
“Grant saw his role of enforcing these policies as an extension of his wartime duty and necessary to protect the gains of the Union victory, especially the newly established rights for African Americans.
“He used the resources of the federal government to crush the Ku Klux Klan, established the Department of Justice to investigate civil rights abuses and signed the Civil Rights Act of 1875.”
Arkansas city elects 18-year-old as youngest Black mayor in US
The young folks are gonna save us, young folks like Jaylen Smith the new mayor of Earle, Arkansas.
“Among his first orders of business after he is sworn in next month, Smith said, would be to move the city’s police department to 24-hour operation. Other policy goals include ridding Earle of abandoned homes, creating jobs for city youth and providing transportation for elderly or infirm residents to grocery stores.”
The Great Canadian Baking Show Is a Pile of Wet Dough
I didn’t know there was a Canadian version of the Brit baking show. Now I know.
And this is a pretty good takedown of why the north-of-the-border knock off isn’t quite so good.
“While the contestants are generally likeable and diverse (although not geographically—50 percent of the contestants have been from Ontario for the past two seasons), many seem, like the country as a whole, as though the thing that unites them most strongly is the happenstance of being in the same place. Rather than showing us what Canada is and what it could become, it reveals profound insecurities about what sticks us together besides maple syrup.”
I love Canada. Read the whole thing.
That’s all I got for you this week. Stay warm. Do a good turn. Read books. Have an eggnog. All the best.