If you’re one of those liberals sitting there exulting over the nasty arguments that have been flying around the House GOP caucus over electing the Speaker, you might want to hold your water and not yet rejoice in what you believe will be a political shipwreck when the Congress convenes on January 3rd.
In the olden days, getting elected to Congress was one thing, getting a leadership slot in the House was something else. If your political ambition were just to represent your district, you traded a few votes, got an earmark for some visible project back home, and then made sure that you didn’t face a serious challenge in the next primary or that your district was gerrymandered out of existence the next time a census came along.
On the other hand, if you had some ambitions to move up and maybe use your House seat as a base for a Senate run, getting into a leadership position was an important way to proceed. Being a House leader meant you were designated as Majority Leader or Whip. Or else you occupied the Chair of an important House committee, like Oversight or Ways & Means.
The important point of these leadership positions, particularly when your party held the House majority, was it gave you access to the media, which in the olden days meant newspapers, radio, and TV. My Congressional District was represented by John Olver for 22 years – a modest guy who never wanted to go beyond his House district which, thanks to the lack of a GOP presence in Massachusetts, basically meant that Olver had a guaranteed seat.
Olver was never a member of the leadership, and I don’t recall ever seeing him speaking on C-Span. When he retired in 2013, they named the local bus station after him. He didn’t even get his name on a bridge.
That was then, this is now. And now means that every member of Congress can promote himself/herself as much as they want thanks to the internet, and you can get your name known all over the United States almost for free. Hire one staffer to stay abreast of Twitter and the other social media sites; send a daily message to the now-endless political-content aggregators like The Daily Beast and make yourself available for interviews on video-based TV.
Remember when Mike Lindell first started selling his pillows on alt-right media, particularly AM shock-jock shows? Now this guy has his own video-TV network called – ready? – ‘The Voice of Free Speech.’ Think he cares whether some alt-right blowhard in Congress has a leadership seat? Yea, right.
Marjorie Taylor Greene was stripped of all her House committee assignments back in February 2021. The result? She doubled down on alt-right internet noisemaking, got re-elected by a big margin and if anything, is more of a media presence and political force than she was two years ago.
It helps, of course, that MTG can always be counted on to say the craziest and most provocative things. In fact, she and several of the other alt-right nut jobs now compete with one another for who can be the most abusive and strident voice in the House.
The point is that when it comes to getting your name out there, social media has basically replaced the political party organization as the primary mechanism for getting known. On the other hand, getting your picture on a Facebook feed is not the same thing as what happens when voters walk into the booth.
If we learned one thing from the last seven years, it’s that sending a tweet to millions of subscribers just isn’t the same thing as getting a bunch of people out there to ring doorbells and make sure that everyone shows up at the polls, or at least drops their ballot off at the local Town Hall.
I’m not all that sure that the Republican House caucus actually needs to elect a Speaker, for the simple reason that the most active members of the GOP caucus couldn’t care less about getting anything done legislatively at all. They can talk all they want about ‘bringing America back’ or ‘making America great’ but all the only thing which matters is who will take over MAGA from Trump.
Which is why I can’t wait for the GOP to start throwing themselves into the toilet when we get to 2024.