Feb 4, 2021

The GOP vs. The GOP.

The GOP vs. The GOP.

Republicans' divides spill out into the open.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum — then “my take.” You can read Tangle for free or subscribe for Friday editions. You can reach me anytime by replying to this email. If someone sent you this email, they’re asking you to join the fun.

Today’s read: 11 minutes.

Last night, I made the Mississippi Roast in a slow cooker thanks to a reader suggestion. 9 out 10 — incredible. I appreciate you all. Today, we’re diving into the controversy in the GOP ranks and a question about how to be politically involved.

Kevin McCarthy (left) & Steny Hoyer (right) interviewed on the stage at AIPAC. Photo: Lorie Shaull from St Paul, United States

A year go today…

We were asking “What the hell just happened in Iowa?” after Democrats completed their caucus there and nobody really knew who won — Bernie Sanders or Pete Buttigieg. Also, a reader asked a question about Michael Bloomberg vs. Joe Biden.

Quick hits.

  1. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to a power-sharing agreement to manage the 50-50 split Senate, allowing Democrats to take control of their committee assignments. (Politico)
  2. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) unveiled a plan to provide $3,000 per child to millions of American families, accelerating bipartisan support for President Biden’s plan to expand childcare benefits. (The Washington Post, subscription)
  3. Parler CEO John Matze said he was fired by his board of directors. Matze said he was facing internal resistance to his vision for the company after being shut down by Amazon Web Services in the wake of the January 6th riots. (Fox News)
  4. U.S. employment claims fell to 779,000 last week, down from previous weeks but still well above the pre-pandemic records. (The Wall Street Journal, subscription)
  5. Mexico has stopped accepting Central American families expelled at the U.S. border under a Trump-era agreement, prompting U.S. border enforcement agents to release migrant families into the U.S. interior. (The Washington Post, subscription)
  6. BONUS: The Biden administration has paused a troop withdrawal in Europe ordered under Trump, saying it will review the decision first. (Politico)

What D.C. is talking about.

The Republican fault lines. Typically, this kind of inside-the-beltway story isn’t something Tangle would cover. But I think this is a critical moment for the future of the Republican party, and it has revived an important debate about the state of our politics and where things are going to go from here — so I believe it’s important to unpack.

Every party has its divisions. On the left, you can imagine Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and The Squad being distinct from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and the moderate Democrats who were crucial to the “blue wave” in 2018.

On the right, the fault lines right now are all about former President Donald Trump. Until recently, those separations were kept under wraps — but in the post-Trump world, with members of Congress jockeying for power and positioning for the future, they have become far more evident. This week, they spilled out into the open, culminating in a long GOP conference yesterday that included a secret vote on whether to keep their House of Representatives leadership team intact.

The vote centered on Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the political heir to the Cheney dynasty, who is the Republican Conference Chairwoman, which means she is the No. 3 Republican in the House of Representatives behind Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the Republican leader, and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the Republican Whip. She also just voted to impeach Trump, which was a huge deal: the 3rd most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives voted to impeach the face of the party.

So last night, the pro-Trump wing of the House of Representatives took their swing at Cheney, and forced a vote on removing her from her leadership position. The vote wasn’t close: she won 145 to 61 with one member abstaining. It was also a secret ballot, which is considered the best way to see the truefeelings of members about a person in leadership because members can avoid revealing how they voted.

At the same time, Republicans are also navigating the history of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who was just elected in 2020, and has been the subject of much attention for her past posts on social media, in which she can be seen espousing QAnon views, endorsing violence against Democrats, harrassing high school students who survived mass shoootings, and supporting a whole slew of other conspiracies: that President Obama was a secret Muslim, that JFK Jr. was killed by the Clintons, that a wildfire in California was caused by a “laser” beamed from space that’s controlled by a prominent Jewish banking family, that school shootings were staged and that the Democratic party is a cult of pedophiles.

Democrats are now taking the extraordinary step of moving to strip Greene of her committee posts (she was tapped for the Education and Budget committees). This is unprecedented, and it’s a sign of Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s impatience with her Republican colleagues and the blowback from the January 6th riots at the Capitol.

Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) got in on the action: Last week, he voiced support for Cheney while offering a scathing rebuke of Greene and her “loony conspiracies” that are hurting the GOP (though he never said her name). Remember, McConnell is the leader of the Senate, the upper chamber, so this was a big deal. He was intentionally exerting his influence over the body of Congress he does not control.

And while Rep. McCarthy gave a strong defense of Cheney in the conference meeting, he also gave Greene a chance for redemption. Rather than stripping Greene of her committee seats, which Democrats are trying to do, McCarthy went the “big tent” route and did his best to maintain support for both Greene and Cheney. Greene addressed the caucus, via Politico:

She told a story about a dark point in her life when she apparently turned to QAnon, according to a person in the room. She said that was a mistake, walked back suggestions that 9/11 and school shootings were a hoax and apologized for how her past statements were affecting them all.

She was met with a standing ovation by some members during her address. In other words: Republicans are not going to take action against her on their own, as Pelosi was hoping, but will force Democrats into the position of voting to strip her of her committee seats.

Below, we’ll take a look at what people are saying.

What the right is saying.

The right is, naturally, divided. Few are running to Greene’s defense, though some don’t think she should be stripped of her committee assignments — certainly not by Democrats.

The Dispatch staff celebrated the fact Cheney’s post was preserved and explained the implications for the party.

“Rep. Matt Gaetz and his House Freedom Caucus pals must have never watched The Wire. If they had, they’d know that if ‘you come at the king, you best not miss,’” the staff wrote in its morning newsletter. “At one point, leaders of the effort claimed more than 107 of their colleagues would support removing Cheney if given the opportunity on a secret ballot… Well, the House Republican Conference met for more than four hours yesterday. And not only did they not avoid a vote—Cheney herself was the one who demanded it. The result? The Trump wing of the party’s effort to flex their muscle backfired spectacularly.

“Cheney’s win was also a striking defeat for former President Donald Trump, who had been calling House Republicans in the days leading up to the vote, urging them to cashier Cheney,” they wrote. “Allowing Democrats to take the lead here will provide the GOP ample fodder for their ‘cancel culture’ line of attack and potentially set the stage for a future Republican majority to boot a controversial lawmaker like Rep. Ilhan Omar off her committees. But it also forces most GOP members to take what will be a very tough vote defending the freshman from Georgia.”

In The Washington Post, Henry Olsen made the case that Republicans should gerrymander Greene out of her seat.

“Republicans increasingly worry that newly elected Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene will hurt the entire party in the 2022 midterm elections with her loony and dangerous conspiracy theories,” Olsen said. “Many look to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to punish the flamboyant freshman, but Georgia Republicans hold the most effective tool to get rid of the troublemaker: redistricting.

“Every state must redraw the lines for its congressional districts every 10 years after the decennial census,” he said. “That means the Georgia legislature will have to meet later this year to craft new maps. Since the GOP holds solid control of both legislative chambers and the governor’s office, it could use the old-fashioned techniques of gerrymandering to make it harder for Greene to win reelection.”

In HotAir, Allahpundit mocked the absurdity of Greene’s past posts, but wouldn’t endorse stripping her of committee seats or expelling her from Congress.

“If her Republican and Democratic opponents in the House primary failed to make the case against her using publicly available information, why should McCarthy penalize her for it now?” he wrote. “If she did or said something objectionable to Bush after assuming office, that’s one thing, but we typically don’t go around usurping voters’ choices of their representatives based on old sins that the voters could have considered, and possibly did consider, in making that choice.

“If you’re McCarthy, what do you do with someone who got elected to Congress as a known fellow traveler of people like that?” he asked. “What role does the party as an institution have to police its own voters’ preferences if its voters start electing cranks? None, we might say. In a democracy, the people are entitled to get the representation they want. Here’s what Georgia Republicans wanted, I guess.”

What the left is saying.

The left is hoping to use Marjorie Taylor Greene to bludgeon the GOP, and is supportive of expelling her from Congress or stripping her of her committee seats -- although quite a few people are also worried about giving her any oxygen.

The Washington Post editorial board said “Mitch McConnell seems to be on the right side” of the GOP reckoning.

“What needed to be said — what too many Republicans have been too afraid to admit — was thankfully stated the next day by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell,” the board wrote. “‘Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country,’ Mr. McConnell said in a statement that never mentioned Ms. Greene by name but left no doubt about the subject. ‘Somebody who’s suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.’s airplane is not living in reality,’ he said. ‘This has nothing to do with the challenges facing American families or the robust debates on substance that can strengthen our party.’

“Mr. McConnell’s forceful statement is significant and encouraging,” the board said. “We hope it signals a moral repugnance with the consequences of Mr. Trump’s leadership. But Mr. McConnell is nothing if not shrewd, and presumably his statement also reflects a calculation that Ms. Greene and her type of politics are bad for the Republican Party. That provides some hope — however slim — that this once-proud party might return to its senses.”

The New York Times editorial board asked: “If Marjorie Taylor Greene isn’t beyond the pale, who is?”

“Ms. Greene does not draw the line at promoting bigotry and disinformation,” they wrote. “Videos and social media posts from before she ran for Congress show her endorsing violence against those she sees as enemy combatants in an ongoing civil war. She has expressed support of social media calls to execute high-profile Democrats, including the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and F.B.I. agents.

“Voters may have just chosen Ms. Greene to represent them, but her Republican colleagues have the leeway to declare that she does not represent them,” the board added. “When Ms. Greene’s statements about assassinating Ms. Pelosi surfaced, Mr. McCarthy’s office called them ‘deeply disturbing’ and said he would have a talk with her about them this week. Mr. McCarthy has an opportunity to make clear that there are standards of decency and duty that transcend partisanship. Others are watching, within his conference and beyond.”

The Los Angeles Times editorial board cautioned Democrats not to remove her — saying it would play right into her hands.

“Greene is a continuation of the four-year abasement that Trump inflicted on this country, and her cheerleading for Trump’s Big Lie of a stolen election is all the more intolerable in light of the deadly Capitol riot,” it wrote. “Yet any punishment meted out by Democrats instead of Republicans may only strengthen Greene, who has turned the recent criticism of her remarks into a fundraising bonanza… If the Democratic majority denies Greene her GOP committee assignments contrary to the will of her party, that could invite future majorities to do the same thing to minority lawmakers for less substantive reasons.

“Indeed, a number of Republicans noted Wednesday the potential targets for retaliation — liberal Democrats whose utterances rankled them. A Texas Republican has already started the tit-for-tat, offering an amendment to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a fierce critic of Israel who has faced accusations of anti-Semitism, from her committees instead of Greene… House Democrats need to wield their power carefully. They may recoil at Greene’s history of ‘loony lies,’ as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) put it, and her hate-imbued social media feed. But the main damage she’s doing is to the Republican Party and to her district.”

My take.

It’s great that Greene apologized to her fellow GOP members, but it’d be nice if she made that apology publicly. So far, Greene’s public posture has been nothing but defiant: “I will never back down. I will never give up,” she said in a statement last week. “If Republicans cower to the mob, and let the Democrats and the Fake News media take me out, they’re opening the door to come after every single Republican until there’s none left.”

None of this is “fake news.” Frankly, I hesitated (and tried my best to avoid) even writing about Greene. I’m of the opinion she doesn’t deserve the oxygen she’s getting. She won a seat in a district she doesn’t even live in, almost entirely because nobody had ever heard of her, nobody thought she could win and she had just enough money to come out ahead in a crowded field that split votes. She is not “curious” — she’s a gullible conspiracy theorist with a rabid hatred of anyone who doesn’t share her extreme views.

But, I preach redemption in this newsletter and I’d be a hypocrite not to offer it to her. That pathway requires some semblance of self-awareness and contrition though, and until Greene offers even a little of it, I’d much rather see her expelled, or at least removed from her committee chairs. Imagine the horror of, say, the parents of Sandy Hook victims, seeing a woman elevated to Congress and put in charge of a committee on education after repeatedly saying publicly she thought school shootings were false flag operations. There are no words.

All of this is far less politically crucial than the bigger picture, which is the post-Trump direction of the Republican party. This was the pro-Trump crowd’s first attempt at flexing their power while Trump-less, and it failed badly. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t significant: for all the talk of Cheney winning, the other side of this is that the No. 3 Republican just had 61 members of her own conference vote to remove her. That’s remarkable, and it could be a sign of where the party is heading. In 18 months, Cheney will face a primary challenge, and I’m not sure she’ll survive.

For now, I doubt Greene or Cheney are going anywhere. And you can expect the divide to grow. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) has started a fund to challenge pro-Trump candidates. Mitch McConnell is distancing himself from the ex-POTUS. Kevin McCarthy took a stand clearly backing Liz Cheney, who voted to impeach Trump. Yet the majority of the House and Senate, and most Republican voters, are still standing with the former president. We haven’t even begun the second impeachment trial yet — which will make some of these lines even clearer.

Trump’s power is still intact, but the future of the party is anything but decided. And while last night’s vote feels like some kind of conclusion to a news story, the truth is this internal struggle is really just beginning.

Your questions, answered.

Q: What can we regular people do to hold lawmakers accountable, address systemic problems, and try to bridge political divides? I've gotten advice about participating in local elections, calling/writing lawmakers, treating people across the aisle with respect/compassion, etc. — but it often doesn’t feel like enough. I guess I'm also asking what the signs of progress are and how to stay optimistic.

— Chloe, Kansas City, Kansas

Tangle: Generally speaking, I think Americans seriously underestimate the impact they can and do have as a collective. Things like petitions, marching, social media campaigns and calling lawmakers actually work. Ask anyone who has ever worked in a Congressional office, and they’ll tell you that being bombarded with 50 calls a minute and millions of social media posts about a certain topic is a good way to exert pressure.

We’ve seen this over and over again in the last few years: politicians, corporations, celebrities and other powerful entities have reversed decisions or positions after major public outcries — whether on social media, over the phone or in the streets.

Examples of this exist on both sides. Protests this summer in the wake of George Floyd’s death led to changes in police departments across the country and are still reverberating. Events like the “March for Life” have consistently applied pressure on conservative politicians to stake out positions in line with their supporters, and this year’s march was attended by President Trump.

I also think part of what you’re feeling — the “where is the progress?” question — is a real consequence of a specific, perhaps intentional, aspect of these movements. One thing I notice in almost every American political movement is an allergy to discussing the progress that’s been made as a result of their work. It’s a bizarre thing. The racial justice movement is a great example. The writer Coleman Hughes has written some excellent pieces on this, including “The Case for Black Optimism.”

For example, Hughes notes that from 2001 to 2017, the incarceration rate for Black men declined 34 percent. For young Black men, it’s more like 72 percent. Black Americans today are healthier, longer-lived and more educated than their parents — and far more educated than even just 20 years ago. “Between the 1999–2000 and 2016–2017 school years, the number of black students who earned bachelor’s degrees increased by 82 percent, from 108,018 to 196,300,” Hughes writes. “Over the same period, the number of associate’s and master’s degrees awarded to black students more than doubled, rising from 60,208 to 129,874, and 36,606 to 89,577, respectively.”

If this isn’t “progress,” what is? But these numbers aren’t familiar to a lot of people in the movement because there is still so much broken about our society — and it seems a lot easier to motivate people when you focus on all the things that are wrong than noticing what’s going well. I personally find that a bit self-defeating. If “nothing has changed” since the 1950s, as some activists claim, what’s the hope? What’s the light at the end of the tunnel? Why believe the same protest actions will work now?

Of course, the truth is a lot has changed, and it’s largely been because of the activism that has willed those changes into existence. As someone who cares a lot about criminal justice reform, I find good news far more motivating, though I understand I may be in the minority. I think there is a lot of space between where we are now and the writings of someone like Hughes to say, “What we’re doing is working — let’s keep pushing.”

Very few movements adopt that position, though, and as a result, I think a lot of their adherents end up feeling a sense of defeat, just as you seem to.

Unifying the country is difficult, obviously, but my advice there is this: take care of your own home. If you can’t talk to that one friend who loves the politician you hate without getting into it, you’re not going to have any success building bridges on social media or with strangers. So start there. Figure out ways to connect, find common ground and discuss difficult, divisive issues with a person with whom you have a rapport — rather than in the comment section on Facebook or in a Twitter spat or with some random person at a bar.

Once you “graduate” from being able to talk across the aisle with a friend or family member, then you can take your talents on tour. It may be a while, though. And that’s okay.

A story that matters.

A congressional report says that many of the products made by the largest commercial baby food manufacturers in the country contain significant levels of toxic metals like arsenic, lead and mercury, which can endanger infant neurological development. The report was released by the House Oversight Committee’s subcommittee on economic and consumer policy. “Over the last decade advocates and scientists have brought this to the attention of the Food and Drug Administration,” subcommittee Chair Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) told The Washington Post. “The FDA must set standards and regulate this industry much more closely, starting now. It’s shocking that parents are basically being completely left in the lurch by their government.”


  • 2.3 million. The number of firearms purchased last month, the third highest one-month total on record.
  • 1 in 5. The number of Republicans or GOP leaners who are willing to align themselves with either Liz Cheney or Marjorie Taylor Greene, according to a new Axios poll.
  • 49%. The percentage of Republicans or GOP leaners who say they don’t know enough about either politician to respond.
  • 30%. The percentage of Republicans or GOP leaners who say their views are not in line with either politician’s views.
  • 16%. The percentage of decline in new coronavirus cases in America over the past week.
  • $573 million. The settlement McKinsey agreed to for the role it played in the opioid crisis.

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Have a nice day.

Since June 1st, 2020, a mental health clinician and paramedic have traversed Denver as a team to handle low-level incidents like trespassing or mental health episodes that would typically fall to patrol officers. The Support Team Assisted Response program (STAR) has responded to 748 incidents, and not one has required police, or led to arrests or jail time. The team handles close to six incidents a day. “This is good stuff, it’s a great program, and basically, the report tells us what we believed,” said Chief of Police Paul Pazen. Denver happened to launch the program in the middle of a movement against police violence that called for just this kind of solution, and so far the city officials behind it are thrilled with the results. (Denverite.com)

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