Trump Watches While His Party Implodes

Trump Watches While His Party Implodes scaled | ltc-a

Scalise maintained that his physical health left him strong enough to serve. But his political health did not. He dropped out of the race Thursday night after it became clear there would be too many GOP defectors for him to win a formal vote in the narrowly divided House.

There’s a nice consolation prize awaiting him: He doesn’t have to play make-believe, as Kevin McCarthy did during his short-lived tenure, that he is actually leader of the House. His speakership would likely have been a mirage — no authority, no security, no thanks.

There is no real job to be filled.

That is because, for now, Trump is the only leader with a durable following within the modern Republican Party. That’s true even as the GOP is filled with people who quietly wish he would go away and a smaller number of would-be leaders who loudly advocate for that — so far to negligible effect. So far, no Republican has managed to emerge as a genuine leader in the Trump era — not by seeking alliance with him, nor by standing up to him, nor by trying keep a safe distance from him.

If Trump is a would-be authoritarian, the House drama shows that he not the kind who cares much about exercising authority beyond himself. To the contrary, he seemed to regard the turmoil and ritual humiliations — first McCarthy, then Jordan, now Scalise — as a sideshow. In important respects, he is right.

House politics, in both parties, can feel insular and even claustrophobic. That has certainly been on vivid display among Republicans the past couple weeks. The honking insults, the personal rivalries dressed up as matters of principle, the perishable coalitions — they can seem impenetrable and disconnected from the real problems of the wider world.

With a little distance, however, it becomes more clear that the shadow over the House GOP is the same one hovering over the broader Republican Party and the same one clouding all of American politics. There will be no return to regular order, to something that used to be normal, so long as Trump remains the dominant figure in his party and his future is unresolved. Will he be convicted of felonies in 2024 or defeat a politically vulnerable incumbent and return to the presidency? Or perhaps even both?

Until these questions are answered, the most incisive answer to “Who will be the next speaker?” is “Who cares?” The speaker’s race is a fight at the margins, to hold a job that promises scant power or dignity.