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The GOP's Biggest Problem is its Voters
The hardest truth.
Happy Friday to all my beautiful babies. I hope everyone had a great holiday season and that you all enjoyed the Jackal’s end-of-the year piece, Who are the Grifters? After the coming layoff from Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s holiday, the Jackal will be swinging regularly on January 27th.
To me there are two big things to touch on that are sort of related (and if they aren’t, I’m going to find some way to bring them together):
The insane votes for Speaker of the House.
President Biden also seems to be keeping some classified materials of his own.
Spoiler: The GOP is still insane.
After two thousand rounds of voting, Kevin McCarthy is officially Speaker of the House. After a quick rebellion that ballooned and then fizzled, McCarthy cut a deal with the House members who could operate in good faith. On paper, that seemed to be about 17 or so of the defectors. In the final count, McCarthy failed to capture the votes of six members:
Matt Gaetz of Florida
Andy Biggs of Arizona
Lauren Boebert of Colorado (sorry)
Eli Crane of Arizona
Bob Good of Virginia
Matt Rosendale of Montana
I want to skip past the 17 who changed their minds and just focus on the Sinister Six. To do that, let’s look at a completely wrong, bone-headed take on what happened last week:
To get the easy part out of the way, not everything that happens in Congress is “democracy.” Democracy happened in November 2022, and what is happening in the House is generally called “governing.” You can say that is quibbling, and that the reason the GOP had so many problems electing a Speaker is because of the close results in the Midterms, which is alluded to in the beginning of the post. But there is a major problem with this argument.
The post says that selecting a Speaker of the House “does not look like this because the margins aren’t usually this thin.” Except that is explicitly wrong. Here is the GOP’s governing majority in the House following the 2022 election:
Here is what it was from about January 2021 until January 2023, when Democrats controlled the House:
In other words, Nancy Pelosi had the same exact margins following the 2020 elections, and was not only able to secure the Speakership, but also pass a ton of legislation. So, if you are saying that the reason the Republicans filled their own diapers last week is because the “margins” were so thin, you are conceding at least one of two points:
Nancy Pelosi is a more effective leader than Kevin McCarthy, and manages her caucus much better.
Democrats are more united than Republicans.
While both of these can be true, I think point two is more likely. And the reason for that comes down to the nature of the Sinister Six who voted against McCarthy. Let’s look at an example.
You would assume that a member of Congress would have some work to do in January, even if they aren’t in session (like today). Presumably, they are working on legislation or talking to their constituents. Instead, Congressman Matt Gaetz was hosting Steven Bannon’s podcast while the latter made an appearance in court. His guest? None other than
Guinness World Record Holder WW2 Veteran Speaker of the House Gisele Bundchen’s new boyfriend Tom Brady’s new boyfriend inventor of the spoon Barack Obama’s Dad guy who killed Stalin the new James Bond Baruch College volleyball champion George Santos.
You are probably wondering why Gaetz is hosting a talk show and talking to Santos - who voted for McCarthy - rather than doing things an elected representative would normally do. The real and simple answer is that hosting podcasts and appearing on TV is probably what Gaetz really wants to do, and that same argument applies to the rest of McCarthy’s defectors. It is at least true of Gaetz and Boebert, who make frequent TV appearances.
This isn’t really a big secret in Washington, and Gaetz’s colleagues were not shy about calling him out:
I want to briefly touch on why so many people in Congress hate Matt Gaetz. To answer quickly, it’s because he’s a sex pest.
A little more than two years ago, reporters started noticing a lot of funny things about Matt Gaetz’s public Venmo account. He had a lot of transactions to a close friend named Joel Greenberg for things like “school” and “tuition,” and they all ended up being in the $900 range. Weird. Then, a story broke that Greenberg was being indicted and that he was planning to give prosecutors information about Gaetz. Big News. Greenberg was ultimately charged with 33 criminal counts, one of them being sex trafficking (the judge in Greenberg’s case sort of gave him props for committing so many different crimes in such a short period of time).
Greenberg ended up cooperating, and allegedly told prosecutors about “seven or eight” other men who were involved in sex trafficking, and reportedly one of them was Gaetz. As the story goes, the $900 payments were for prostitutes, and Greenberg and Gaetz arranged the whole thing through Venmo, which - as noted above - Gaetz kept public. In April of 2021, the Daily Beast broke a story about Greenberg’s indictment and Gaetz’s involvement; then Gaetz promptly scrubbed his Venmo account.
Thanks to his extensive cooperation with the Federal government, Greenberg received only 11 years in prison. Here is the kicker: One of the girls who was trafficked by Greenberg (allegedly to Gaetz) was, indeed, a girl; she was 17 at the time, or a minor under Florida law. Pretty gross, and as a bonus “gross,” here is what the judge said about Greenberg at the hearing:
As part of the sentence, Greenberg will need to register as a sex offender when he leaves prison. The judge said Greenberg “is not a pedophile” because the girl he paid for sex was nearly 18 years old (my emphasis).
Barf. So, given all of the above, you are probably wondering how a doofus who paid for his prostitutes on Venmo was somehow able to hold the entire GOP hostage. Instead of Nancy Mace calling Gaetz a fraud, why didn’t she simply say that Gaetz is a sex pest who has no place in the House of Representatives? Why didn’t McCarthy do the same from the floor?
The simple answer is because they know they can’t, because Gaetz’s actions were supported by a hefty chunk of the GOP base. I hear a lot of different variations of the same question: “How can someone like Marjorie Taylor Greene get elected to Congress? Who is actually voting for Matt Gaetz? Why do cucumbers taste better pickled?”
Lots of people try to give a myriad of explanations for how people like Boebert - whose husband exposed himself to underage girls at a bowling alley - end up in Congress, and they range from, “they cheated” to “gerrymandering.” But in reality, the answer is really simple: Their districts are heavily Republican and their voters want them there. There are people out there who truly do like Matt Gaetz, even though he paid underage girls for sex. Some of them don’t care (some of his male supporters probably think it’s pretty “cool” or “alpha”). Some of them are brainwashed into thinking every negative thing reported about him is fake news, even though Greenberg’s entire court case is readily available to the public. Greenberg’s own attorney even hinted that he hopes Gaetz is prosecuted.1
This doesn’t apply to every Republican by a long shot, but a majority of the voters are brainwashed. They do not live in reality, and it is something that changed right around the time Trump emerged. A majority of them do not think Biden won the 2020 election. About 40% of them are not vaccinated from COVID, and it is still causing outsized deaths in the Party (which might be a partial explanation as to why they did so poorly in the midterms). It is a Party that is slow-disintegrating into a collective of conspiracy theorists and it’s turning off former GOP voters (as was evidenced in the special election earlier this week).
No one is more familiar with this aspect of the GOP base than McCarthy, which is why he immediately flew down to Mar-A-Lago shortly after January 6th and prostrated himself before Trump, only days after saying the former President deserved some of the blame for the insurrection. McCarthy knows the GOP base believes in nonsense, so he has to put up with Gaetz’s nonsense, because his nonsense voters actually love his nonsense (nonsense).
Biden had classified documents in his garage next to his Tesla that blew up on a highway and killed several chickens.
This ties into the the discovery that President Biden also had some classified documents at one of his private facilities. In MAGA-world, this was a bombshell, because it proved that Trump has been treated unfairly:
Again, this isn’t Donald Trump, Jr., tweeting this out (although he did); this is the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, who hopefully knows the difference between Biden’s actions and Trump’s.
The reason that there was no “raid” of Biden’s facility is because it was Biden’s team that found the documents and turned them over. They are, right now, actively cooperating with the DOJ. Trump, on the other hand, took hundreds of classified documents from the White House (Biden reportedly had fewer than ten), and then adamantly refused to hand them over, and also lied to the DOJ about what he still had. Once the DOJ figured out that he was lying, they went to court to try and get the documents, and then decided they need to take more severe action. The two situations are similar on only a nominal level.
The DOJ was practically forced to do a raid of Mar-A-Lago because Trump was actively keeping highly classified documents at his private residence, and had done so for over a year. At the time, some legal experts speculated that perhaps the DOJ was just engaged in document retrieval. In other words, they just wanted to get a hold of what Trump stole and bring it back to the government where it was safe.
What is happening with Biden is actually a story about what could have happened to Trump if he had cooperated with the DOJ. When you look at how the government prosecutes cases where classified information was mishandled, it almost always involves a malicious intent and not a simple mistake. Take, for instance, Nghia Hoang Pho, who was prosecuted in 2017 for removing classified materials from his workplace and bringing them back to his residence. This wasn’t just a simple mistake; Pho admitted that the took the materials so that he could “work from home and earn a promotion before his retirement.”
In other words, Pho had active intent. Trump’s actions are markedly worse than that by more than a couple degrees, and Biden’s actions are less worse than that by more than a couple degrees. Pho, for example, never proactively sought to return the materials once he realized they were home with him. On the other hand, Biden’s team contacted DOJ and returned the materials.
Maybe you are also thinking, “Well, maybe what Trump did is worse, but Democrats really got out ahead of their skis and freaked out about classified documents too early.” Except that didn’t happen. People forget this, but news broke about Trump taking classified documents in February of 2022, six months before the raid of Mar-A-Lago. There was no media freakout. Democrats didn’t go crazy saying Trump should be indicted. They didn’t ask for a special counsel. In fact, I tried to find public statements from Democrats from around that time and it doesn’t even look like anyone said anything. If you are looking for comparisons between Democratic and Republican reactions, that’s the timeframe you want to look at, not the Mar-A-Lago raid.
It was when the raid happened that things actually got more serious, because that was (duh) evidence that the investigation had escalated into criminal territory. In direct contrast, Republicans who downplayed Trump’s activity in August are now saying what Biden did is worse:
All of this is why the DOJ is going to prosecute Trump later this year, and it is also why members of Biden’s transition team (who would be the ones at fault here) are unlikely to see any serious criminal charges. And make no mistake about what I just said: The DOJ is going to prosecute Trump. It got slept on this week, but here is what the New York Times said about Jack Smith, the Special Counsel working on Trump’s case:
[Smith] has asked prosecutors to stress-test potential charges related to Mr. Trump’s handling of national security documents after he left office. He has called back key witnesses to scrutinize their accounts and present more information before the grand jury. He has pushed investigators to issue dozens of subpoenas related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election. And he has interviewed players in Mr. Trump’s orbit to try to understand his mind-set when he held onto government records, and whether people connected to him have tried to influence witnesses. […] Some investigators on Mr. Smith’s team believe that any initial charging decisions, expected as early as this summer, will involve the investigation into whether Mr. Trump illegally kept classified materials at his Florida estate and obstructed repeated efforts to retrieve them. That case involves a more discrete set of facts than the sprawling examination into Mr. Trump’s actions leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol (my emphasis).
Assuming the NYT report is correct, the crime here is going to be when Republican voters are shocked and dismayed that “justice” is playing out so unevenly. For years they have asked why Trump is always being investigated and not Hillary Clinton. And what about Barack Obama and his birth certificate? Or Hunter Biden’s laptop (which is under investigation!)? Why do Democrats always seem to get off easy while Trump, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Alex Jones, and (hopefully) Matt Gaetz, always have to get in trouble?
Conservative media would do a great service to their viewers and readers if they simply said the truth: The reason Trump and his cronies get in more trouble is because they commit more crimes. But they won’t do that, and the reason Republican voters will continue to elect people like Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, and Andy Biggs is because conservative media is filling their brains with spiders on a daily basis.
OK, not only is it a new year, but the Jackal also picked up a bunch of subscribers over the holidays, so to give an explainer: I do not do must-reads. They is presumptive, bossy, and rude. I always give out articles I think people “should read,” because I am not a psychopath. The world is your clam bake; read the articles you like at your leisure. And here are some to get you started:
Elisabeth and I are big fans of cooking, which means we like cooking shows, which also means we like eating at fancy restaurants. This piece by Frank Bruni on why the “best restaurant in the world” is closing up shop is pretty great.
Insider broke huge, huge news about Democrats rigging the 2020 election. Just kidding, a Republican candidate’s wife was arrested for trying to vote for him 23 times.
This deep-dive into the fund that helped out Santos’s Campaign is pretty wild.
Josh Barro has the best piece on #StoveGate, a.k.a., the Biden Administration’s trial balloon on banning gas stoves. Even before you read, it’s worth noting that outside of New York, California, Nevada, and Illinois, the overwhelming majority of Americans cook on electric stoves. That said, here is my brief take:
When we moved into our new house, something we truly thought about was swapping out our electric stove for a gas stove. We had a gas stove at our last place and it was just great to cook on. Electric really is annoying to cook on. In addition, I don’t think people who bash gas stoves truly appreciate how much safer they are than electric stoves when it comes to the kiddos. It is pretty easy for toddlers to reach up, turn on an electric stove, and burn their hands (newer ones have addressed this problem). That was one of the reasons we wanted to switch back. But then I did more research on gas stoves and it turns out they really are super bad for you. In homes with gas stoves, kids are 12.6% more likely to develop asthma. That’s a lot! So, to fully tie this back into our appreciation for cooking, a chef I watch has a neat video on why he uses induction stoves, and it came out before #StoveGate, so you know it’s not biased. It fully convinced me, so when we make our switch from our electric stove (it sucks that bad), we’ll probably go with induction instead of gas. Here’s the video:
As I said above, I am off for MLK, Jr.,’s birthday, and will hopefully be back with a regular schedule in February. Much love to you all and happy new year.
There have been conflicting reports on whether or not Gaetz will be indicted. Greenberg’s cooperation agreement officially ended late last year and he was sentenced in December. So, if an indictment of Gaetz is coming it will probably be soon. The latest reports were that prosecutors did not think they had enough to charge Gaetz. I recently asked a former prosecutor what they would do, and when I laid out what they had - Venmo transactions, Greenberg and one of the girls as witnesses - he ultimately said he wouldn’t bring charges. Gaetz could claim anything (Greenberg framed me!) and Venmo, on its own is not enough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s a small lesson in how cautious prosecutors are when it comes to indicting people.