There may not be a caning of a fellow congressman in the current session of the United States House of Representatives, but even in the absence of a physical altercation we may face the most unruly House with which America has been saddled since the eve of the Civil War. This historical rhyme rings true. Because the country is more divided by section, race, and creed than the time when a South Carolinian raised his cudgel against Charles Sumner, the events of this Congress may prove decidedly rough.

Brawling has a rich history in American politics. In the first contested presidential election, Founding Fathers Jefferson and John Adams hurled invective at one another that exceeded even Trump’s in vituperative intensity. Later, John Quincy Adams would circulate a partisan pamphlet emblazoned with the outlies of seven coffins–his opponent Andrew Jackson was said to have condemned living men to be corpses encased within the pictured tombs. So, as a perusal of history demonstrates, the more vitriolic Republicans in the House are not historical novelties. They do, however, represent a step deeper into the terrain of demonology than Americans have seen in decades.

Compared to the Tea Party, Speaker (and I roll my eyes at having to bestow this honorific) Kevin McCarty’s caucus bristles with hardline extremists. Our state has characteristically made its own contribution in the person of Representative Dan Bishop. But Bishop himself resides within an oeuvre of fellow radicals led by 9/11 Truther Marjorie Taylor Greene. According to the New York Times, Greene has surfaced as an intimate confidant of Speaker McCarty.

This cohort is likely to instigate controversies more dangerous even than the gung ho bands of Tea Partiers and 1994 political grenadiers. McCarthy, a shameless and rather unimpressive creature of the Swamp, has ensured this tumult will come to pass by deliberate strategic decision-making. In contrast to the last two Republican speakers, McCarthy has chosen to incorporate the extremists into the deepest circles of caucus authority. He sees them not as a disruptive force to be contained, but as a group of equal partners to be consulted and, in circumstances necessary to preserve his speakership, followed into the arena of crisis.

And these people are far more radical than anything America had to tolerate in the Tea-Party era. Consider: Whereas Tea Partiers wanted to repeal important components of the fiscal state, their MAGA successors have proven willing to overthrow an entire election. They have also magnified the influence of conspiracy politics. Even at its feverish height, the most paranoid Tea Partiers such as Sharron Angle tended to be cut loose by Republican leaders. Marjorie Taylor Greene is an ally of leadership.

We will see the first and most ominous test of how nihilistic Republicans have become during the next several months. Like their Tea Party forbears, the MAGA majority has already begun a crisis related to the breaching of America’s nonsensical debt ceiling. I’m nervous. The last time Repubicans used terroristic gambits to coerce spending cuts, the House was led by responsible conservatives such as Paul Ryan and John Boehner. Kevin McCarthy has never shown such forbearance. Fasten your seatbelts.


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