Truth and Consequences
Truth and Consequences
Sometimes the Juice Is Not Worth The Squeeze

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Sometimes the Juice Is Not Worth The Squeeze

House Republicans are in disarray; explaining the GOP's obsession with touting Biden's border success and maybe my best Musical Interlude ever

I’m Michael A. Cohen, and this is Truth and Consequences: A no-holds-barred look at the absurdities, hypocrisies, and surreality. If you were sent this email or are a free subscriber and would like to become a paid subscriber, you can sign up here.

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On Friday, I spoke with Ben Jacobs about his recent article in the New Republic on Never Trump Republicans who are becoming Democrats. You can check out the audio above. (I apologize in advance for the background noise. Ben was in a crowded spot in the House Press Gallery).

The Shutdown That Wasn’t

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I’ll admit I didn’t see it coming, but House Speaker Kevin McCarthy avoided a government shutdown this weekend by calling the bluff of the GOP’s jihadist caucus.

Give McCarthy credit for doing the right thing here, though I suspect he simply made the political calculation that a government shutdown would not only be disastrous for the GOP but would highlight how utterly feckless he is in standing up to his party’s MAGA extremists. (Give McCarthy even more credit for making this move at the last minute, thus putting Democrats in a tough position and forcing them to go along).

As in the earlier debt limit showdown, I assume that McCarthy also calculated that the extremists are more talk than action and don’t have the guts to take him down.

Well … that calculation ain’t looking so hot! This afternoon, the House voted on a motion to vacate the Speakership, brought by Florida Man extraordinaire Rep. Matt Gaetz — and, well, it looks like McCarthy might be out of a job. On the initial vote to table the motion, McCarthy lost, which means the House will proceed to the motion. If it passes (and I assume it will), the House will plunge into chaos — with not enough votes to keep McCarthy in the job and no clear replacement. We could go days, even weeks, without a Speaker.

If McCarthy was hoping that Democrats would help him out, he didn’t do himself any favors by going on the Sunday news shows and accusing Democrats of backing a shutdown when, in fact, they delivered the votes to avert it. Dems were unanimous in refusing to help McCarthy, which is a reflection of how badly he’s burned bridges with the minority party.

Whatever happens, though, the shutdown fight has again highlighted the fragility of the GOP governing coalition — and the utter inability of Republicans to govern the country. The party has empowered a band of political nihilists, who just want to destroy things and pay no price from their constituents for doing so. McCarthy made the situation so much worse by giving in to these folks earlier in the year, though I’m not completely sure what choice he had. This is less a “Kevin McCarthy problem” than it is a “Republican Party is broken” problem.

However this plays out, my guess is that he will spend the next 13 months pinballing from one crisis to another before voters, next November, likely give the House back to Democrats. Even if McCarthy can scrape back his job, I’m not sure why he would want to. The House GOP caucus is ungovernable.

Will Wisconsin Republicans Impeach a Democratic Member of the State Supreme Court?

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a small post laying out a few “Things That Aren’t Going To Happen,” and one of them was this:

  • Biden will not be impeached, and I’m increasingly skeptical that Wisconsin Republicans will impeach the newly elected Democratic member of the state’s Supreme Court.

An eagle-eyed reader asked me to explain why I thought that Wisconsin Republicans wouldn’t impeach Janet Protasiewicz, who was elected to the State Supreme Court in April, giving Democrats a one-seat majority.

The simple explanation is that the juice is not worth the squeeze.

The reason the Wisconsin GOP would even consider this move is to prevent the Wisconsin Supreme Court from undoing a gerrymandered legislative map that gives Republicans a huge political advantage — and has allowed them to maintain obscenely large majorities in the state legislature. However, if the Wisconsin State Assembly impeached Protasiewicz and the Senate convicted her (and the GOP has the votes in both chambers to do just that), Democratic Governor Tony Evers could appoint a new Democratic judge to the Court, and the whole exercise would be for naught.

But Republicans supposedly had a trump card. If Protasiewicz was impeached and the Senate indefinitely dragged its feet on holding a trial, she would be in political limbo. Because of the impeachment, she’d be automatically suspended from the Court, which would then take away the Democrats’ one-seat advantage, thus preventing the Court from overturning the state’s gerrymandered legislative maps.

However, after reaching out to a few Wisconsin political experts, it seems this is not a slam-dunk winner for Republicans either. Allow me to turn things over to Daniel Nichanian at Bolts Magazine for an explanation.

At any moment, Protasiewicz could break the logjam by resigning, allowing Evers to appoint a replacement even if at a personal cost to her. In a bizarre twist due to the particularities of state law regarding the timing of elections (there can be no more than one supreme court seat on the ballot on any given year), if Protasiewicz resigned on or after Dec. 1, Evers’ replacement appointee would get to serve until 2031 without facing an special election (seats on the court are currently scheduled for re-election each year from 2025 to 2030)—hardly an appealing prospect for the GOP. 

If Protasiewicz resigned before December 1, a new election for the State Supreme Court would be held this Spring, on the same date as the GOP presidential primary — which theoretically would be good for the Republican candidate. But if Republicans go through with impeachment and Protasiewicz resigns after December 1, Evers would name a replacement who’d have the job for eight years, and Republicans will have gained nothing.

Theoretically, Republicans could impeach the person who replaces Protasiewicz on the Court, but then we’ll have entered farce territory (and that person could resign, and Evers could replace them). It’s bad enough to impeach Protasiewicz before she’s heard a case, but doing it again would truly highlight the political opportunism of the GOP’s move.

Considering the potential for a substantial political backlash, it’s hard to see Republicans going through with an impeachment unless it’s an absolute slam dunk. Why go to all this trouble and enflame voters for a move that ultimately doesn’t accomplish the goal you are seeking?

There’s also the fact that Wisconsin is not a red state. Earlier this year, when Tennessee Republicans expelled two Democratic members, they could get away with the move because Tennessee is a deep red state, and there was little chance of a severe political backlash. But Wisconsin is different. And while members of the state legislature have gerrymandered the state to avoid political accountability, impeaching Protasiewicz could put members in margin districts at risk and likely undermine any Republican running statewide (and that includes the 2024 election and Donald Trump who is likely to be at the top of the ballot).

This is not to say it can’t happen. Wisconsin Republicans are desperate to protect their legislative majorities, and keeping the current maps in place would undoubtedly do that. But considering the potential for it not to work, I’d be genuinely surprised if they move forward on impeachment. I assume, however, that they will continue to leave the option on the table, hoping that it will get Protasiewicz to soften any ruling that throws out the state’s gerrymandered maps.


I’m fascinated that Republicans keep making these kinds of arguments.

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Truth and Consequences
Truth and Consequences
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