News junkies have been captivated by the drama playing out over who will be the next speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Every little twist and turn of Kevin McCarthy’s negotiations are analyzed and criticized: the ranting and raving of Fox News talking heads; the claims of shame and embarrassment; the Democrats’ glee; Newt Gingrich saying “McCarthy or chaos.” We even have Elon Musk weighing in on his choice to stop the chaos. It is wall to wall. We’re riveted!
But as so often happens, we are riveted to something that doesn’t really matter, while what really matters plows forward with no one paying attention.
This entire hullabaloo is about who will be the manager of a whole lot of static nothingness. Whoever is chosen will have the tiniest of margins with which to govern and a caucus far more divided and less obedient than the one Nancy Pelosi controlled. And whoever that manager is will be dealing with a Democrat-controlled Senate and a self-serving statist lapdog Republican Minority Leader and whatever we have in the White House. So, nothing of substance will happen beyond possible hearings and investigations—but even those will be of limited value.
Republicans can run investigations into Hunter Biden, maybe try to bring the corruptocrat-in-chief into the crosshairs, but that means very little because it was the FBI pulling all the strings and covertly engineering an election outcome for the third straight cycle. We have a deeply corrupted FBI manipulating our elections in myriad ways. Consider that sentence. It should knock Americans over. It has been shown to be undeniably true now with the release of the Twitter Files. But who is pushing to do what actually needs to be done: a ruthless offense?
The real problem begins to feel unplumbable. The permanent state remains unscathed and more powerful than ever. The original creator of the permanent state is Congress—yes, the folks who could begin to tackle the problem are the same ones who created the problem. Through legislation over decades that has ceded irresponsibly high levels of discretion to federal agencies in the executive branch, Congress has skated on making tough decisions itself—beneficial for their individual re-elections—and delegated those decisions (and therefore all that power) to unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats.
The entire system of unaccountable bureaucratic mini-tyrants is working about as one might expect. For pity’s sake, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012 with a lousy memo. It took 10 years for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to determine it was unconstitutional while allowing all those who had taken advantage of it to remain legal. Congress created Homeland Security and ceded incredible powers to it. This dynamic is repeated thousands of times in the federal government at all levels.
So all of the endless drivel about a “dysfunctional” House is nonsense. It was well-functioning Houses that put us under the thumb of powerful, untouchable, invisible federal authoritarians. Oh, that we might have had dysfunctional Houses back then!
When Republicans finally controlled both chambers, and had a president willing to shake things up, they did not bother to broach the subject of dismembering the federal leviathan was never seriously broached. In fact, everyone got more money, a lot more money, particularly the IRS, which will now be training its recently funded 87,000 additional agents on the use of firearms and hiring based on a willingness to use them. Awesome. But we should be worried instead about who will manage the House?
Congressional Republicans sometimes talk the good talk about the threats facing America: a rogue FBI; an open southern border; national violent crime surges; a sickening level of debt that will smother our children; a few whispers about COVID authoritarianism. But what will they do?
Andy Biggs, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, and the rest of the “rebels” blocking McCarthy’s coronation are not offering up legislation to dismantle the state. The traditional conservatives are doing nothing to radically downsize spending and gut the state. Moderates are doing their normal nothing without the Democrats to cave to. So this whole made-for-TV drama over who will be the speaker is little more than who will manage the congressional status quo that will be the next two years.
Bad actors in government would not be the significant threat that they are if they hadn’t been given so much power. This is a fundamental principle our founders understood but our Congress doesn’t seem to.
But by all means, let’s be glued to each twist in who will be in charge of rearranging deck chairs for two years.