We’ve seen for most of 2023 what it looks like when a minority of a narrow majority pulls the strings in the House of Representatives. Because this small segment of the GOP caucus is also among the most voluble, vocal and visible, it’s easy to assume they represent the mainstream of the caucus.
They do not.
Complicating the optics is the role of conservative media, which, to drive advertising dollars, encourages maximum staged drama in on-air appearances. This is not news.
This is theater.
This results in several outcomes, none of them good. First, non-Republicans, from the outside looking in, think all Republicans are angry, combative, and ready to hold the nation’s business hostage for personal agendas while they fundraise over the spectacle.
Second, a certain group of Republican voters, who have opted to only get their political information from conservative media have a skewed view of affairs and an expectation of pugnaciousness from their politicians that has wrecked a lot of primaries.
Third, this appetite for daily conflict enabled Donald Trump to move from reality TV to the Oval Office. And finally, this minority of the majority has paralyzed Congress at the worst possible time.
On the first issue, Americans on both sides of the aisle must stop making assumptions about voters from the other party. I have been married for nearly 30 years to a Democrat. I can tell you he is not a socialist or ready to guarantee minimum income or disarm our military while defunding the police.
He can tell you that I am not a ridiculously populist demagogue, looking to eliminate all taxes, enrich the wealthy further, while ensuring women’s reproductive agency is snuffed out even if they can buy however many fully automatic weapons their hearts desire.
Mostly, we disagree on fine points of fiscal and monetary policy, and Social Security. I don’t want to join his party and he doesn’t want to join mine. But we can and do have conversations. I feel that a lot of us have lost this ability. A conversation is far more useful than trading insulting memes and nasty barbs.
Next is a hard lift: getting back into the habit of watching and reading daily news. I need to make this crystal clear. Tucker Carlson is not a journalist reporting objectively. Rachel Maddow is not a journalist reporting objectively. They are talk show hosts, among dozens of others, providing opinions with a healthy dose of bias. Their audiences tune in because they like their perspectives and bias – they agree with them. This is not the same as watching the news and learning about the day’s events.
I check in with the folks at Ad Fontes Media every couple of months to look at their media bias chart. They place major media outlets on a grid: the vertical axis is reliability of the information from the outlet (accuracy and fact vs. analysis) and the horizontal axis is the political bias (left leaning or right leaning. You want to get your news from sources at the top center. For major network evening news, CBS generally scores the best. It’s just the day’s news, rather simply presented. I find CBS spends a lot less time covering Trump’s latest tantrum, and I also respect that.
When it comes to poorly disciplined politicians, now most on display in the House GOP caucus, there are two answers. One comes from the politicians. One comes from the voters. The House needs to take cues from the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus and move forward to start doing its job. We need a budget. A resolution in support of Israel at the very least is needed: Iran and Russia are delighted at the chaos wrought by Hamas’ evil assault on Israel and will make the most to take advantage of the lack of organization in Congress right now.
The howler monkeys in the fringe GOP minority need to be ignored if they can’t be silenced. Cooperation across the aisle, as took place with the latest continuing resolution could accomplish this with true majority votes on the crucial issues that must be acted upon immediately.
The ultimate answer to this mess comes from voters. If the GOP can’t get it together, they won’t keep the House in 2024. Every year, more Americans get tired of the partisan tribalism and leave the major parties. In New Mexico over the last decade, more Democrats have left their party than Republicans as a percentage of total voters; in the state and nationally, independent voters are the single fastest-growing voting bloc. For either party to pull out a win, they will have to move to the middle. This is a good thing.