When studying the two great revolutionary events in European history, the thing that always jumps out is how revolution was something of an accident. In both cases, the ruling class had chances to avert disaster. The sovereign had people in his inner circle or just on the edge of it who warned about the brewing trouble. In the case of Tsar Nicholas, his ascent to the throne was due to the ongoing unrest. Yet, in both cases the ruling class never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
Dig further into the many unforced errors and the root cause is often a stubbornness on the part of the king, the tsar, or the aristocracy. They looked at every small compromise as a potential slippery slope. Instead of taking advantage of opportunities presented to them by their disgruntled subjects, they dug in their heels and made themselves seem like the unreasonable party. As a result, they left themselves little room to make necessary reforms in order to head off disaster.
We may be seeing something similar in the battle to select a new Speaker of the House, which is now in its third week. Kevin McCarthy was booted from the post to start October because he broke all but one promise he made to secure the job. The one promise he kept was to reduce the number of votes required to bring forth a motion to vacate the chair, as in remove him from the job. Because he broke all of his other promises, this was the avenue to remove him.
The House Republicans are now struggling to find a replacement. The first choice, one supported by the donor class and the Democrats, was Steve Scalise, but he reminded the rebels in the party too much of Kevin McCarthy. Like McCarthy, Scalise owes his existence to his ability to spread donor money around to those who fink on Republican voters on behalf of the donor class. Trading one fink for another would have made the Freedom Caucus complicit in the finkery, so they demurred.
Next up is Jim Jordan, who is not exactly Tiberius Gracchus, but he is a serious man who is a capable political operator. He shares many of the views held by the Freedom Caucus and the back benchers of the party. This is why the people in charge tried to bump him off years ago with a phony sex scandal. They are now trying to revive that smear campaign to derail his Speaker bid. The zombies in the Republican caucus have now been activated against him.
Lost in the jibber-jabber and scheming is the fact that the donor class opposes Jordan primarily due to his politics. The Republicans sell themselves to their voters as a conservative party and Jordan is what you should expect from the sales pitch, but the donors oppose him because he is the sales pitch. They argue that having a Speaker who tries to act on the party platform is bad for business. In other words, they admit the party platform is nothing more than a scam on their voters.
The truth is this is a fight of symbolism, not real policy. A Speaker Jordan will not be substantively different from Speaker McCarthy or Speaker Pelosi. Spending bills will be a bit more transparent, and they will not drop minutes before the vote. The bills themselves will not change. From the perspective of the economic elites who control the political system, they lose nothing with Speaker Jordan, other than a bit of their pride for having had to make this small concession.
That is the core issue. It is the same issue that turned the Trump years from a golden opportunity into an ongoing crisis. The people who are actually in charge could have gotten any deal they wanted from Trump. He would have signed off on amnesty, for example, as long as he got his wall money. The people in charge could not bring themselves to give a rube from the shtetl this tiny concession. Instead, they made war on him and the public as a whole.
We are seeing the same thing in the House. McCarthy’s string pullers were furious that he gave in on those small items to secure the gavel. They were apoplectic when he started to follow through on them. Lost to the mists of time is the fact he promised to release the J6 tapes in full. He gave Tucker Carlson a small taste and official Washington was incensed at this gesture toward transparency. He was forced to fink on the rest of his promises and blow up his Speakership.
Of course, all of this is possible because House elections have no impact on ninety percent of the House members. Only about forty seats are ever in doubt, so the only risk for the other four hundred members is falling out of favor with their party leaders, which means falling out of favor with permanent Washington. Make the donors angry and you get a sex scandal, an N-word scandal or something similar, along with a well-financed primary challenger.
This is what happened to Steve King from Iowa. He was solid on immigration, so the party had him knocked off. Kevin McCarthy colluded with the New York Times to post a fake story claiming that King used the N-word on a call. Immediately, McCarthy stripped King of his committee assignments and sponsored a primary challenger. By the time the truth came out about the call, it was too late for Steve King. Every Republican voting against Jordan has that story on their desk right now.
Of course, there are other issues working against Jordan. He has been skeptical of the Ukraine project. Far too many people in Washington are getting rich off that racket to tolerate skepticism. The reason the neocons have been able to push this project this far is they bolted it too the money laundering machine that is foreign aid. The money goes out to some foreign country and much of it returns in the form of consulting contracts, defense contracts and lobbying deals.
The biggest problem is the oldest problem. Like the ruling elites during revolutionary France and Russia, the ruling elite of the American empire are convinced the state exists solely to guard their interests against the Dirt People. Therefore, any concession, no matter how trivial or symbolic, is a threat to the system. In the hive mind that is official Washington, Jim Jordan leads to Donald Trump which leads to angry mobs erecting a gallows on the Capitol lawn.
History, however, suggests the opposite. Through the nineties, the economic elite got almost everything they wanted, by giving the hoi polloi a few crumbs now and again to perpetuate the myth of American democracy. Then the crumbs were replaced with rat poison, as the ruling class turned increasingly hostile and paranoid. Like the peasants in prior revolutionary eras, the best explanation we have for the behavior of our rulers is they hate us and want us dead.
All of this is a glimpse of what lies ahead in 2024. The people unwilling to budge on the Speaker issue are not going to budge on the Trump issue. The road to ruin for this ruling elite is the same road as that of prior elites. They are becoming increasingly ossified and stubborn. They miss every opportunity to lower the temperature because even small concessions are viewed through the lens of contempt for the people over whom they rule. The end of this road is the gallows.
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