After 15 contentious and grueling ballots to determine the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Keven McCarthy (R-CA) stood victorious but frazzled as he looked out to the House body from the Speaker’s podium to give his acceptance speech.
He stated in part, “I hope one thing is clear after this week: I will never give up.”
And thus began his first lie, with undoubtedly many more to come, as McCarthy takes over the gavel. The lie was that he gave up plenty to achieve this long-coveted position.
In addition to sacrificing the minuscule amount of his personal integrity remaining, he made a deal with the far-right fringe element of his party by conceding to the demands of the so-called Freedom Caucus, which has about as much to do with freedom as Donald Trump’s Truth Social media outlet has to do with truth, or, for that matter, with sociability.
The caucus is the outgrowth of the former Tea Party movement within the Republican Party. Foundational to its policy agenda was a call for an across-the-board lowering of taxes, and drastic reductions of the national debt, which included draconian decreases in government spending, including any attempts at government-sponsored universal healthcare.
As a history student and a former longtime resident of the Boston, Massachusetts, area, I was disconcerted by the movement’s misappropriation of the historical Tea Party.
The original direct-action protest on December 16, 1773, by British American colonists, was the culmination of longstanding grievances against the British government under the battle cry of “no taxation without representation.” According to the British Constitution, only Parliament could levy taxes. Since colonists were prohibited from voting for members of Parliament or sending their representatives to serve in Parliament, they considered the series of taxes, including the tea tax, a violation of their rights as citizens of the British realm.
The second incarnation of the Tea Party movement, the Freedom Caucus, contains no well-developed political philosophy other than extreme hatred of what they consider “Big Government;” they view this as the cause of the nation’s troubles.
While the Tea Party activists advocated for small government, by all indications, the Freedom Caucus sees no place for government except in terms of its members grabbing power for the sake of power itself.
In 2010, then Speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), referred to Tea Partyers as “great patriots,” adding, “It’s not enough, however, for Republicans to simply voice respect for what the Tea Partiers are doing, praise their efforts, and participate in their rallies. Republicans must listen to them, stand with them, and walk among them.”
Unfortunately, that was precisely what Boehner did. And where did it get him? Resignation from the House of Representatives and resentment of the political process!
I agree with Tea Party and then Freedom Caucus followers’ contention that significant economic disparities exist and are widening in this country, though not for the reasons they assert. The so-called “Big Government” is not the cause of the problem. The relatively unregulated and unfettered Wall Street, banking, and free market systems constitute the threats.
The Council on Foreign Relations found that within the United States, in 2021, the top 10% of Americans held nearly 70% of the accumulated wealth, up from about 61% in 1989. The following 40% of the population, their share fell congruently over that period. The bottom 50% (approximately 63 million families) owned about 2.5% of the wealth in 2021.
I find it unbelievable that one of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful countries failed to provide quality health care to an estimated 47 million citizens. I also find it incredible that a majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives are so beholden now to the Freedom Caucus and previously to the Tea Party that they were holding the government hostage to defeat the healthcare law.
Because of McCarthy’s weak morals and ethical foundations, and because he sold out the country for a transitory speakership at best, the government is likely to see legislative paralysis.
McCarthy and his Freedom Caucus puppet masters have turned the House into the Bates Motel, where progressive legislation is murdered in a shower of misinformation. It is no coincidence that his election came only minutes following the second commemoration of the Capitol insurrection of January 6, 2021.
The only difference was that this Freedom Caucus insurrection was legal, even though some of its members supported the Big Lie about the election and the attack on the Capitol building by GOP supporters.