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Are Sane Republicans Making a Comeback?



It’s always darkest just before dawn, a proverb that says when times are at their worst they will soon get better. Current events bear that out.

The GOP-led Texas legislature voted to impeach the state’s Attorney General Ken Paxton on corruption charges. President Joe Biden reached a debt ceiling deal with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

These are outcomes that demonstrate even the most MAGA Republicans have a limit; politics can change on a dime, and Biden’s half-century of experience taught him how to find that dime. It’s why we elected him, even if we don’t love him.

The debt deal is still pending a final vote, but odds are good that it will cross the finish line, a big win for Biden because it removes hostage-taking for the next two years. It’s also great for McCarthy, who is handling a big moment well in his shaky speakership.

“McCarthy made sure to put the adults in the room and what emerged is a deal that adults created,” says Barrett Marson, a Phoenix-based Republican strategist.

And in a bonus play for those who want the two parties to work together, the Republican-controlled Texas Senate has shown greater independence and integrity than the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate did during Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial (the GOP was in the minority during Trump’s second impeachment), by stripping Paxton of his attorney general powers as a criminal trial looms and the Texas Senate deliberates on whether to convict Paxton on some or all of the 20 articles of impeachment brought against him for allegations that include bribery and felony-level abuse of power.


In a Senate chamber with 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats, it would take just nine Republicans to join the Democrats to reach the two-thirds threshold for conviction, fewer if Paxton’s wife and conservative ally, two-term state Sen. Angela Paxton, recused herself. No one would reasonably expect her to be an impartial juror, yet there is nothing requiring her to step aside.

One of the articles of abuse of power asserts that Paxton hid an affair he had with a woman by finding her a job with a real estate developer in exchange for providing legal favors and accepting expensive renovations to his home. “I’m not sure if this is policy/political/personal, or a combination of it all. Or heaven forbid, it’s just good government,” says Marson, the GOP strategist.

The picture is clearer in Arizona and other parts of the country where the GOP is waking up to the reality that in competitive races, “the farther right MAGA Republican can get through a primary but can’t win a general election,” says Marson. “When there is competition from a liberal left of center, or even a progressive, then the far-right candidate doesn’t do well in a competitive district in a competitive state. There are many more paths to victory for a sane conservative Republican than the farther-right Republican who can dazzle a primary audience but is a drip, a nobody, in the general election.”

We can hope that the debt ceiling compromise foreshadows an emergence of reasonable Republicans willing to challenge the Freedom Caucus and to stand up to Trump’s diatribes.

For those who follow the House mainly through cable television, it is refreshing to see less of Congress’s Twitter performance artists and more from the serious Republican negotiators on the debt ceiling, namely Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota, a relative newcomer elected in 2018, and Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, a 10-term member first elected at age 29 who chairs the powerful Financial Services Committee.

They worked collegially with the White House and stared down their party’s hard-right flank. They speak well for McCarthy, who could have named Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, or some other bomb-thrower who would have torpedoed the talks. As the objections flowed in from the Right, Johnson dismissed them as from the “most colorful” members who would never vote for any debt ceiling increase even if the GOP got everything on its wish list. “It doesn’t matter if Mother Teresa came back from the dead and called him, he’s not voting for it,” Johnson said of one of the holdouts, adding that he was confident the deal will indeed pass.

For McHenry, this wasn’t his first rodeo. He held steady despite catcalls from the right. When the far right challenged the veracity of Janet Yellen’s assessment that June 1 was a real deadline for the U.S. to default on its debt, McHenry spoke up, calling Yellen a “straight shooter,” the equivalent of sprinkling holy water on the Treasury Secretary. “I followed her service in government. She has the most varied economic experience of any living American in the most important economic positions in our government,” he told reporters. “I don’t think there’s any wiggle room for us.”


The worst appears to have been averted, thanks to enough Republicans responsibly grabbing their share of the reins of government. But does it signal a wholesale return of sanity to a party that has gone off the rails?

“I wouldn’t jump to any premature conclusions,” cautions Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster. “At least people who understand governing, like Patrick McHenry, step up and the Twitter screamers have very little to offer. There are some good people there. When push comes to shove, and a meltdown of the economy is looming, even a system that often looks broken can function.” With that in mind, he adds with a flourish, “There’s hope, don’t be in despair all the time!”

Source: The Daily Beast

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