Skip to content
Politics Without Consequences
Go to my account

Politics Without Consequences

While Joe Biden is gaining momentum, House Republicans can’t even agree to the rules of their own game.

Rep. Jim Jordan speaks during a press conference at the Capitol in Washington, D.C, on October 20, 2023. (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/ Getty Images)

Man, oh man, am I tired of writing about the divisions within the Republican Party. It’s like being a South Florida weatherman in August: “Hot and muggy again today with a chance for a storm to roll through this afternoon …”

And yet, here we are again, sweating through our guayaberas.

As of this writing, Ohio Republican Jim Jordan has just been voted off of Speaker Designate Island by his fellow Republicans. Having now failed with three candidates for speaker of the House—a body their own party controls—Republicans opted to take the weekend to think things over. 

Until there is a speaker, Congress can’t do even that small number of services its members typically are willing to provide. This isn’t just the waffle iron being broken at the Hampton Inn breakfast nook. They don’t even have the bin of moist hard-boiled eggs.

Nada. 

Amazingly, Jordan came back for a third kick of this particular mule the day after President Joe Biden delivered what was, for him, a lucid, forceful speech on behalf of what Republicans would have once called “American exceptionalism,” asking Congress to appropriate funds to support besieged U.S. allies in Israel and Ukraine. 

There once was a time when the opposition party would have been scrambling to outdo the president’s bellicosity or decry it and thereby exploit divisions within his party—and there are serious ones. Instead, Republicans are almost entirely focused on themselves. While their political foe is gathering strength, House Republicans can’t even agree to the rules of their own game.

In the old days, though, the minority party would have been working under the assumption that acting like a bunch of ball hogs and incompetents would have negative consequences with voters. But in a politically deadlocked nation, who cares? If electoral stasis in a well-sorted, polarized nation means the end of “wave elections” and “realignments,” then the consequences for being bad at governing and politics aren’t so scary.

In a little more than two weeks, we will hear from voters in Virginia, right across the Potomac River from the disorder and decadence of a Congress that acts as if there are no consequences to failure. Will Republicans on the state level be punished for the antics of the national party? Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has offered the opposite approach to the members of his party in Congress, and the incumbent Democratic president remains unpopular, so maybe we’ll get a split decision. Maybe the message to politicians in Washington will be that, thanks to the power of negative partisanship, there isn’t a price to be paid for dysfunction.  

That was the lesson Democrats took from the muddled results of the 2022 midterms, in which their party was poised for a thumping and walked away with only scrapes and bruises. 

Change comes to parties when they become convinced that the status quo is not working. Pivot points in recent decades—the Reagan Revolution, Bill Clinton’s third way, Barack Obama’s “audacity of hope”—all came after periods of defeat, sometimes humiliating ones. But if the electorate remains closely divided, where is the motivation for change?


Holy croakano! We welcome your feedback, so please email us with your tips, corrections, reactions, amplifications, etc. at STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. If you’d like to be considered for publication, please include your real name and hometown. If you don’t want your comments to be made public, please specify.


STATSHOT

Biden Job Performance
Average approval: 40.6%
Average disapproval: 54.4%
Net score: -13.8 points 

Change from one week ago: ↑ 1.6 points                        
Change from one month ago: ↓ 0.8 points

[Average includes: Emerson: 42% approve-50% disapprove; Quinnipiac: 38% approve-56% disapprove; Grinnell/Selzer: 41% approve-54% disapprove; Marquette: 39% approve-61% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Maris: 43% approve-51% disapprove]

Polling Roulette


TIME OUT: ‘SCOOP DREAMS’

Intelligencer: “Shams Charania, who is 29 and has been a working NBA journalist since he was a teenager, is an omnipresent figure in the lives of everyone in the league. Earlier this year, Steve Kerr, the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, was so miffed that Charania had leaked a tactical change the Warriors planned to make that he suggested Charania had a mole in the locker room. Kevin Durant once said on his podcast that it seemed like Charania was in the CIA. ‘Shams a creep, yo,’ Durant said of Charania’s ability to gather intelligence. … Charania aspired to write the kind of in-depth, longform stories that had defined sports-media success, but he was getting into the industry at a moment when the relationship between reporters and their subjects was changing. … For most beat reporters, the prize was no longer a probing profile of an athlete or a locker-room-scorching column but nuggets of information gleaned from front offices and dispensed for podcasters and ESPN talking heads to chew up.”


SCOTT HEADING FOR THE EXITS?

Politico: “The super PAC supporting Tim Scott’s presidential bid is canceling most of its remaining TV spending, reversing course after reserving $40 million in ads for him ahead of the Iowa caucuses. The retreat from TV is the latest sign of how dire the primary has become for a candidate who once anticipated outside help from big donors — but who is now polling in low single digits and hasn’t yet qualified for the third debate. … The super PAC’s reversal of strategy illustrates the continued difficulty anyone but Donald Trump has had gaining traction in the GOP primary. The pivot comes as the South Carolina senator is lagging in both early state and national polling, and as he has been eclipsed by his home state rival, Nikki Haley.” 

DeSantis bets it all on Iowa: New York Times: “Ron DeSantis’s campaign has made it clear that he needs to beat Trump in Iowa, or come very close, in order to make the primary competitive. He is moving roughly a third of his remaining staffers there from Tallahassee and booked $2 million worth of television ads in the state. That is 40 percent of the primary cash he reported having in his coffers at the end of September. … Even with his strong focus on Iowa, DeSantis has suggested that he will be spending more time in New Hampshire and South Carolina, two of the other early nominating states where he has fallen out of second place in many polls. DeSantis visited both states in October for the first time in months.”

Bleeding cash, Pence campaign in dire straits: New York Times: “The former vice president had just $1.2 million in his campaign account, a skimpier reserve than any of the six Republican rivals he shared a debate stage with last month. Mr. Pence has struggled to achieve the goal he announced when he rolled out his campaign in June — to ‘reintroduce’ himself to voters as his own man. … Although Mr. Pence raised $3.3 million in the three months through September, he burned through nearly an equal amount in that period, and his campaign ran up a debt of $620,000. … Mr. Pence’s meager bank account could limit his ability to travel widely or to spend money on persuading voters. After paying $14,400 for digital ads in September, the Pence campaign has bought just $400 of digital ads in October.”

Just four candidates have qualified for Miami debate: Politico: “This time, we’re sure to see fewer candidates on stage as stricter debate qualifications continue to whittle down the pack. Four candidates have qualified for the third debate so far … leaving the rest rushing to get over the finish line before the Nov. 6 deadline. … Candidates must hit at least 4 percent in two national polls, or 4 percent in one national poll and 4 percent in polls of two different early-primary states. Candidates also need to have 70,000 donors. … So far, former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley have qualified for the debate. … Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Vice President Mike Pence have met the polling requirements but still need to hit 70,000 donors.” 

PHILLIPS NEARS BIDEN PRIMARY CHALLENGE

Politico: “Rep. Dean Phillips has begun signaling to fellow House members that he plans to launch a challenge to President Joe Biden. … And he has taken several steps in recent weeks toward launching a presidential run, including calling New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley last week and reaching out to several potential staffers about working in New Hampshire. … Among those he’s approached are Steve Schmidt, a former Republican consultant, and Bill Fletcher, a Tennessee-based Democratic consultant. … A Phillips bid would face steep challenges. … He’s already missed the deadline to appear on the ballot in Nevada, the second presidential nominating state for Democrats. South Carolina, the first nominating state in the new calendar, has a balloting deadline of Nov. 10. … But Phillips may opt to skip the new calendar, focusing instead on New Hampshire.”

Biden, DNC break $70 million in third quarter: NBC News: “President Joe Biden’s 2024 campaign, the Democratic National Committee and a joint fundraising organization that raises money for Democrats’ state parties collectively raised more than $71 million in the third quarter. … The amount is on par with what the operation raised in the second quarter, which was $72 million, when the campaign itself brought in $20 million. … The campaign touted nearly $91 million cash on hand across its fundraising entities as it prepares for a massive re-election effort. … The Biden effort reported over 240,000 new donors this quarter who did not give to the campaign in 2020.”

Poll: RFK Jr. in double-digits, hurts Trump more than Biden: Marist: “In a potential presidential re-match, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump remain competitive with Biden scoring just three points more among registered voters nationally. However, when Robert F. Kennedy Jr. factors into the equation, Biden opens up a 7-percentage point lead over Trump among the national electorate. Kennedy’s presence erodes Trump’s lead among independents and cuts into his support among Republicans. Trump’s loss among his base is double the loss Biden experiences among Democrats. … In a three-way contest with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. running as an independent, Biden opens up a 7-point lead over Trump. 44% of registered voters support Biden. 37% back Trump, and 16% are for Kennedy.” 

GOP WINS BACK LOUISIANA GOVERNORSHIP 

Wall Street Journal: “Republicans reclaimed the governor’s mansion in Louisiana Saturday when state Attorney General Jeff Landry won in a crowded field of 14 candidates. Landry garnered about 51.6% of the votes, giving him enough to defeat Republican, Democratic and Independent challengers in a ‘jungle primary’ … With Landry’s win, Republicans ended eight years of Democrat control of the state’s top office. Incumbent John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, will be term-limited out as governor at the end of the year. Landry’s win also gives Republicans a 23rd state where the party controls both the legislature and governor’s office. … A runoff had been anticipated in this race because of Louisiana’s primary system, even though Landry was long a frontrunner there. … The Louisiana Democratic Party put its support behind Shawn Wilson, who earned about 26% of the primary vote.” 

Cameron leans into Trump endorsement as election nears: NBC News: “Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron launched a new TV ad in the governor’s race Wednesday touting his endorsement from former President Donald Trump. The spot appears to be Cameron’s first TV ad since the May primary to mention Trump by name … Trump won Kentucky in 2020 by 26 percentage points, but Cameron is locked in a competitive race against [incumbent Andy Beshear]. … The new ad is the latest sign that Republicans are looking to nationalize the governor’s race. … Beshear’s campaign and Defending Bluegrass Values, an outside group tied to the Democratic Governors Association, have spent a combined $35.6 million on ads. Cameron and his allies have spent a combined $21.6 million.” 

BRIEFLY

Laphonza Butler, appointed to Feinstein’s seat, passes on 2024 run—New York Times

Dems draw top recruit in red-leaning rural Arizona —New York Times

Battleground New Yorkers dodge Jordan votes—Politico

WITHIN EARSHOT: IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN 

“I said, ‘Oh my God, this is a lot of energy and time and effort.’”—Cornel West explaining to Politico that his decision to leave the Green Party presidential ticket owed to the time-commitment required to run for president. 


MAILBAG

“I read and was impressed by your recent explanation of why comment sections and news silos have hurt this country, and I have a question. It seems to me Mr. Trump has been wrapped in Satan’s cloak of protection in order for so many things to go right for him at precisely the right time: one example was the unfortunate timing of the deaths of Rush Limbaugh and Roger Ailes. Do you think these individuals were patriotic enough, and could have influenced events enough, to have a measurable impact on how many people chugged Trump’s Kool-Aid on the election being stolen? Of all the many, many failures of our institutions in recent years the complete capitulation of Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and the rest of your former buds over at Fox News is still the most baffling to me.”—Wayne Seibert, Dillsboro, North Carolina

As former House Speaker John Boehner is fond of saying, “A leader without followers is simply a guy taking a walk.” Many of the people we are tempted to think of as shaping public opinion are much more likely to be following it. There were many at Fox News who tended to agree with the network’s critics on how powerful the network was in shaping Republican voter attitudes. But look at how badly Ron DeSantis has fared despite lots of heavy lifting by the network on his behalf. Fox tried to back a primary challenge against Donald Trump and fell flat. As for Limbaugh and Ailes, by the end of their careers both were on the Trump Train, particularly Limbaugh, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump in February 2020. What Trump exposed, as he did with the Obama birth-certificate business, was the unwillingness of leading figures in right-wing news and entertainment to ever refuse the demands of the most ardent, addicted consumers of political content. The surest path to profits is straight and narrow. It does not lay on a broad audience, but rather a small, intense group of superusers who are unlikely to tolerate any turning. In a world with so many competing platforms, content providers don’t just risk being captured by their audiences, they seek it.  

“As a Californian, old enough to remember when California was a Republican state, I am very unhappy with the general elections being a contest between the top two vote-getters in the primaries. We are now presented with two Democrats for each elected office with not a Republican in sight. I did vote against this proposition when it first arose some years back, foreseeing that this would be the outcome. As usual, I lost. I’m really thinking about moving away from the best climate on Earth and my family’s home for generations over this issue (and others). That sentiment brings up another concern of mine, which I feel has gotten insufficient attention from the pundits, and that is differential political migration. I can’t see how the nation sorting itself into ever more disparate polities is good for anyone. Why don’t you write something on the perils of differential political migration?”—Tom Connolly, Walnut Creek, California

I think it kind of depends on how important the Republican brand is to you, Mr. Connolly. In one-party states, whether it be California or West Virginia, there’s always more than one party in actuality—they’re just factions within the dominant unit. The way the partisan primary system was intended to work was that each of the two major parties would sort out their internal differences and select the candidates that had the best chance of winning in the general election. But in one-party states, the majority party doesn’t have much motivation to choose the best candidate for the general, since a win is all but guaranteed. But, of course, neither does the minority party. If you know your side is likely to lose, what’s the motivation to compromise? Moderate voters drift over to the majority side in hopes of having a say in outcomes and the remaining kooks get to feel virtuous in defeat. The top-two primary system in California, like the jungle primary in Louisiana, acknowledges this tendency and tries to control for it. Let’s say the top two candidates to come out of a California statewide primary are both Democrats, but the top-vote getter is a radical progressive, and the other is a pro-business moderate. In a partisan system, that radical would face a Republican, quite possibly an extremist in her own way, and the Democrat would likely prevail. In the top-two system, however, Republicans and conservative independents can join forces with moderate Democrats and deliver a win. The top-two system is definitely bad for the minority party as it relates to fundraising and brand, but I’m not so sure that it’s worse for the voters in the minority party. Obviously, there are different considerations in states that are more competitive, but if I was a conservative in a deep blue state or a liberal in a bright red one, I might prefer to have a chance to help the least-bad candidate from the other party rather than getting to pick sacrificial lambs every two years. 


You should email us! Write to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM with your tips, kudos, criticisms, insights, rediscovered words, wonderful names, recipes and, always, good jokes. Please include your real name—at least first and last—and hometown. Make sure to let me know in the email if you want to keep your submission private. My colleague, the exquisitely sweatered Nate Moore, and I will look for your emails and then share the most interesting ones and my responses here. Clickety clack!


CUTLINE CONTEST: THE LOOK OF LOVE

Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary Jim Jordan is seen during a hearing with Attorney General Merrick Garland at the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday September 20, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary Jim Jordan is seen during a hearing with Attorney General Merrick Garland at the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday September 20, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

You people have a lot of thoughts about Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, even leaving out the unpublishable ones! This was a tough one because Jordan is not speaking in the photo, and because he is caught in a funny-looking pose. But our winner captured the moment by bringing in the voice of someone off camera.

“Mr. Jordan, how do you feel about former President Trump?”—Scott Brumley, Amarillo, Texas

Winner, Walrus Gumboot Division:

“Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, performs Beatles’ ‘Come Together’ for House Republican Conference”—Linda McKee, DuBois, Pennsylvania

Winner, Superfly Snuka Division:

“I’d be happy to demonstrate the bodylock bear hug. If the ranking member, Mr. Nadler, would stand for a moment …”—Richard Basuk, New York, New York

Winner, Stuart MacKenzie Division:

“… and the alien’s head was THIS big! I swear it!”—Dan Sides, Arlington, Texas

Winner, Rev. Al Division:

“…and with Al Green’s ‘Let’s Stay Together’ blasting on the jukebox, Matt Gaetz and I held each other close, and danced for hours.”—Tripp Whitbeck, Arlington, Virginia

Winner, Yuge Division:

“Sorry, Mr. Jordan, let me clarify.  How big are Trump’s *galas*?”—Mike Wolfe, Prompton, Pennsylvania

Winner, Go Till You Hear Glass Division:

“Back, back, back, back, WHOA! You’re good.”—Michael Baughman, Inola, Oklahoma

Send your proposed cutline for the picture that appears at the top of this newsletter to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. We will pick the best entrants for each week and an appropriate reward for the best of this month—even beyond the glory and adulation that will surely follow. Be hilarious, don’t be too dirty, and never be cruel. Include your full name and hometown. Have fun!


SHUCKS

New York Post: “Turns out the world isn’t her oyster. An Atlanta woman was ridiculed online after posting a TikTok of her downing 48 oysters — with audible slurping and all — followed by a crab cake and red potato entrée while on a date with a man. The fella supposedly had but one drink — as it was his impression that no food would be ordered — only to see her shellfish-ly down dish after dish. He reportedly excused himself to use the restroom before the meal’s end and then just left the rendezvous — allegedly leaving her with a $184 tab. … ‘When the fourth [plate] came out, he was looking at me crazy. I didn’t give a **** … I had to. It was so good,’ [she said]. … The incident in question happened at Fontaine’s Oyster House — and staff were admittedly flabbergasted at how she downed so much of nature’s aphrodisiac. ‘I will say, it had been a minute since I had a single female eat that many,’ [said] general manager Kelcey Flanagan.” 

Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the politics editor for NewsNation, co-host of the Ink Stained Wretches podcast, and author of Broken News, a book on media and politics. Nate Moore contributed to this report.

Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the politics editor for NewsNation, co-host of the Ink Stained Wretches podcast, and author of Broken News, a book on media and politics.