Even after former Speaker Kevin McCarthy went back on the deal he made with House Democrats, House Republicans expected Democrats to help McCarthy fend off the same nihilist faction he elevated in order to get power.
If you are wondering how the U.S. political system became so dysfunctional, part of the blame lay with the Fourth Estate. The job of the Fourth Estate is to scrutinize the actions of public officials using the lens of the interest of the public.
There is no better current example then some of the political press (and certain cable pundits can without doubt be relied upon to carry this water) finding a way to blame Democrats for Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry tossing Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi out of her hideaway office *while she was at the memorial for Dianne Feinstein*, even though these hideaways are tradition the current speaker offers the predecessor.
This kind of ruthless retaliation is what Democrats get when you don’t do the bidding of Republicans and there is more coming, according to NBC News/MSNBC political analyst Jake Sherman of Punchbowl (previously at Politico, Wall Street Journal and more):
“whether you think it’s right or wrong, Republicans are going to exact revenge for a long while over the MTV vote. yes, it was an internal party squabble. but the GOP thinks Dems shouldn’t have sided w Gaetz. remember: the majority controls the Capitol. Rooms, codels, etc,” Jake Sherman warned above his news that Republicans have *also* kicked Rep. Steny Hoyer out of his Capitol hideaway: “NEWS — HOUSE REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP has kicked @RepStenyHoyer out of his Capitol hideaway. Republicans — McCarthy — are taking revenge for Democrats voting with @mattgaetz to boot @SpeakerMcCarthy
from the speakership. Expect more of this, GOP sources tell us.”
The above Republican narrative will be all over cable news before I even publish this piece, which is meant as an indictment of institutional complicity by the media in the corruption of our political processes due to a failure to rise to the crisis in which we find ourselves, and not about the reporting of an individual journalist (i.e., please do not attack Jake Sherman).
Sure, it can be argued that this is just a fact: We should expect more of this pettiness from the party that laughed when their rhetoric got Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi’s husband’s head bashed in until he required surgery. Donald Trump just made a joke about Paul Pelosi’s brutal attack days ago. A normal party would be at the very least chagrined and try to put a good foot forward to Nancy Pelosi publicly. Not Republicans.
Republicans are mad that after going back on a deal they made with Democrats, while disparaging Democrats and blaming Democrats for the Republican-created shutdown, Democrats saved them once again, but when it came to the speakership that took McCarthy 15 votes to get mere months ago, Democrats demurred.
However, it’s instructive to point out that things Republicans, or anyone for that matter, “think” are not supposed to inform how the Fourth Estate does its job of covering the powerful for the interest of the people. What they “think” is, in fact, wrong and irrelevant. What they feel might be the better way of phrasing their retaliation. So, Republicans make governing decisions based on their feelings. That’s not great for our democracy and that would be informative coverage.
Furthermore, as 1/6, the attack on Paul Pelosi, the armed man arrested outside of Obama’s house and more deadly violence and threats of violence demonstrate, the party with a reputation for revenge also uses rhetoric to provoke their supporters. Republicans have shown no compunction about these facts, and no desire to even stop the election lies inciting stochastic terrorism around the country. So the way they see things, how they feel, has lost the right to be legitimized. It is not the lens through which politics should be covered unless we are actively seeking a country run by political terrorism and corruption.
It’s also troubling to see the idea that because Republicans have shown a propensity for an unreasoning desire for revenge, they should be catered to like children or terrorists.
What Republicans did violated the norms of the House, and they did it for a reason that is patently absurd. Democrats did not get elected to babysit Republicans from their worst impulses; they got elected to do the work for The People.
Could Democrats have gone out of their way to save a man they just used their own political capital to save a day before even as he attacked them? Yes. But maybe that’s not how they “think.” Maybe they “think” that being knifed in the back on the budget deal was bad enough. Maybe they “think” that helping McCarthy out on the shutdown was enough.
After all, the just hours ago backstory here is House Republicans threatened to shut down the government (again) if they didn’t get what they wanted from Democrats, which is another way of saying they backed out on a previous agreement and then held the country hostage to get what they wanted. What they wanted was in large part to punish the poor for Republican tax cuts, which are benefiting mostly the rich, making the debt much worse. In summation, Republicans held the country hostage and demanded that Democrats help them hurt policies that Democrats care deeply about in order that the entire country not be hurt.
Democrats did, in fact, rescue Republicans from their shutdown, because Democrats found a way to save the programs Democrats care about, which help The People. (None of this should be construed as claims that Democrats are perfect; but they are currently the only functioning, lawful, pro-democracy party.) Democrats failed, however, to secure Ukraine funding from the party run by some loud voices championing Chamberlain appeasement rhetoric about Russia’s expansionism.
It is up to the press not to indulge and excuse this behavior by any politician, party, or party leader. The idea that anyone should give in to further punitive actions by a party led by a man who incited deadly violence in an attack on the U.S. Capitol because worse will happen if they don’t is frankly nothing short of enabling more of the same. It is how we got here.
The oft-repeated suggestion that the press is helpless to do anything about Republicans’ bad behavior so we should all give in to it because they have power is backed up by “ideas” like this: “Asked whether you should give “equal weight to both sides, even when one of them is lying,” @emmatuckerWSJ tells @semaforben: “You stick to the principles of the Journal and you tell the story.”
As NBC’s Ben Collins pointed out, “This isn’t a hard question. Journalistically, when one side is provably lying, you say they’re lying. If you don’t say a liar is lying, you are lying. This is a crisis in our industry. We’re not in the business of protecting powerful liars. We’re in the business of what’s true.”
Perhaps the fundamental issue here is why the political baseball media has different standards for Republicans and Democrats, and how the exploitation of the crisis of “bothsiderism” has brought us to the brink of losing our democracy.
Therefore, when Republicans blame Democrats for Republican dysfunction, the answer is not to point out that Republicans are in power and so this is just the way it is and oh, by the way, expect more. The right answer is to point out that Democrats already helped them and actually, what Republicans are doing is has little relationship to their Constitutional duty to The People and by the way, if retaliation for feelings is fine, the public should be reminded that the same Republican-led House is holding fake impeaching inquiries with manufactured “evidence” against President Biden.
As most adults know, giving in to toddlers’ demands doesn’t encourage better behavior in the future.
Democrats helped Republicans when their dysfunction was going to negatively hurt the military, DOD personnel, millions of women and children using WIC food assistance, free school lunch, Meals on Wheels, and even SNAP and other programs. Democrats did not “help” Kevin McCarthy when his own party passed a motion to vacate. That is to say, they helped Republicans when Republicans were going to harm the American people. Helping Kevin McCarthy is not part of Democrats’ job and it’s not okay that Republicans are violating more norms out of pettifogging vindictiveness.
If Republicans can’t bring themselves to put on their big boy pants and hold themselves accountable for courting conspiracy theorists and elevating election deniers who lie to the American people with the weight of the U.S. House behind their deception, the press should do their job, which, ironically, would also help Republicans in the end.
Had the press held Republicans to the same standards are they do Democrats, we would not be concerned about the possibility of a rabidly dangerous, 91-times indicted, found liable for rape and fraud in two separate cases man becoming president again, let alone running the U.S. House from Truth Social.
Instead, the media goes to bat to defend partisan retribution against Democrats for not saving a Republican from other Republicans, even as Republicans try to — without evidence — impeach Joe Biden and publicly shame, humiliate, and abuse his grown son. Yet we don’t hear the media saying Republicans should have known better than to mess with Democrats. After all, the “power” Republicans have is so slim that they cling to George Santos. They need Democrats. Perhaps this is actually a lesson for them, rather than for Democrats.
The default penchant for holding Democrats accountable for the bad things Republicans do has become a reflexively smug political tic by the majority of media outlets, and it’s one that’s helping to further corrupt our political processes.
Listen to Sarah on the PoliticusUSA Pod on The Daily newsletter podcast here.
Sarah has been credentialed to cover President Barack Obama, then VP Joe Biden, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and exclusively interviewed Speaker Nancy Pelosi multiple times and exclusively covered her first home appearance after the first impeachment of then President Donald Trump.
Sarah is two-time Telly award winning video producer and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.