Rating the GOP's Speaker Candidates
A completely subjective look at the worst job in politics.
It is said that one of the defining characteristics of a neoliberal system is the degrading of even the most prestigious elements of society into disposable husks. Manufacturing workers are replaced with cheap imports. Taxi drivers are replaced with underpaid ridesharers. Stable homes are replaced with overpriced rental properties and Airbnbs. And the House Speakership, it seems, is replaced with an infinite political torture chamber.
There is absolutely no reason to want to be the Speaker of the House in the 118th Congress. Current chamber rules render the position essentially powerless. Decisive leadership is impossible. Democrats control both the Senate and the White House, so you’re never getting a single actual law anywhere close to passage. The only decision to make is either working with said White House and Senate to pass government funding bills, which will cause you to be vilified, or causing a government shutdown, which will cause you to be vilified. Even the possibility that you could lead your party to a trifecta in 2024 isn’t really real—redistricting decisions and strong incumbents have Democrats well on track to win back the majority next year. The odds are far higher that whatever unfortunate soul takes charge of the party will be blamed and kicked out for losing control than that they could somehow become the GOP’s Nancy Pelosi. It is not a place of honor.
But there are still those who want it. And even in the face of everything that makes the position so terrible and risky now, this isn’t really a surprise. The position, even if thankless, is still (relatively) prestigious. These people have been working their whole careers for this title, and they still want it, even if it literally is just the title and nothing else. And it really is just a title and nothing else. For important matters, like government funding, Democrats hold all the cards. The race for the speakership is not a serious pursuit with grave, immediate policy implications. I don’t think it’s worth treating with the kind of foreboding seriousness most outlets are. While there are quite a few distinct and memorable figures vying for the title here, the upshot remains the same for all of them.
So, with that in mind, who are these characters? What are their backstories? What would their ascendence to the Speakership mean at a symbolic level? And what are the respective ratios between their funniness, usefulness (at hurting the GOP) and unpleasantness? All of these questions will be answered here.
Contender #1: Rep. Jim “Gym” Jordan (R-OH)
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