Searching for a Speaker

Even Spirited Reasoners must admit that Donald Trump has taught us all a few lessons. By testing every seam and corner of our political fabric in order to install himself as dictator, he has forced us to relearn (and unfortunately, in some cases, to learn for the first time) the checks and balances of our constitutional democracy. Following are a few of his creative attempts:

  • Insisting, in advance, that voting machines were systematically changing Trump votes for Biden votes. This became known as “the Big Lie.” (Every lawsuit making this claim of systematic voter fraud was found to be baseless.)
  • Recruiting slates of phony electors, who, with the help of Republican legislatures, could claim they represent the true will of the people of their respective states. (This scheme failed in every state where it was attempted.)
  • Inciting a crowd to invade the U. S. Capitol for the purpose of disrupting the lawful counting of electoral votes, thereby fomenting doubt as to the Constitutional winner of the election. (This attempt almost succeeded, but ultimately failed when members of Congress met later to finalize the counting.)
  • Urging Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to count electoral votes from certain swing states, thus preventing the declaration of Joe Biden as duly elected President. As happened in the election of 1876 involving Hayes and Tilden, Congress could then create a commission designed to make a final determination on how electoral votes should be counted in those disputed states. And presumably, as happened in the election of 1876, the commission could then award 100% of the votes from all disputed states to the Republican candidate. (Sen. Ted Cruz made statements indicating he might support this failed strategy. Fortunately, Vice President Pence refused to play along.)

Having watched Mr. Trump come close to succeeding in try after try to subvert our Constitution, Spirited Reasoners can be forgiven for continuing to watch with suspicion the machinations of Trump supporters remaining in Congress.

Last month, several House Republicans announced that they would refuse to vote for Rep. Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House, this despite his having received a majority of Republican votes at an earlier caucus. See,

Given the razor thin majority by which Republicans will control the House starting in January, these few defectors, if they remain steadfast, could successfully derail Rep. McCarthy’s candidacy. The question would then become, “If not Kevin McCarthy, then who will become the next Speaker of the House?”

Three scenarios come to mind:

  • Rep. McCarthy manages to coax, coerce, or otherwise cause enough of these holdouts to move in his direction. Thus, he becomes the next Speaker.
  • After a series of unsuccessful attempts to elect Rep. McCarthy, Republicans find another candidate to support. Thus, a new candidate becomes Speaker.
  • Democrats manage to convince a handful of centrist Republicans to support someone more to their liking. Thus, a Speaker emerges who can command bipartisan Congressional support.

Of these three scenarios, the third is least likely. But, given the season we’re in, it’s nice to dream.