What the Speaker fight shows about Trump’s lack of relevance – At some point during Wednesday’s three failed ballots to get Rep. Kevin McCarthy the Speaker’s gavel in the House of Representatives, Republican activist Charlie Kirk had an idea.
“Trump needs to fly to DC today and begin brokering a deal,” Kirk tweeted. ‘He gave us Middle East peace, fixed NAFTA, and forced NATO allies to pay. Pro-MAGA Reps are the key to the deal. He could negotiate this mess in 2 hours. Would massively boost his stock across the party right now.”
The tweet was roundly mocked, for a few reasons.
Whatever strengths Donald Trump has, making peace and fostering cooperation and understanding are not among them.
Trump would be very unlikely to find a reason why doing so would help him, which tends to be his primary consideration. And while the Abraham Accords, while a positive development, did entail agreements between Israel and several Arab countries, it did not, in any meaningful sense, “[give] us Middle East peace.”
But it also demonstrates Trump’s waning influence in the GOP, two years after the end of his presidency.
After the first day of balloting, in which a rump of conservatives in the House had refused to back McCarthy, Trump reiterated his earlier endorsement of the California Republican on his Truth Social platform. “CLOSE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY, & WATCH CRAZY NANCY PELOSI FLY BACK HOME TO A VERY BROKEN CALIFORNIA,THE ONLY SPEAKER IN U.S. HISTORY TO HAVE LOST THE ‘HOUSE’ TWICE! REPUBLICANS, DO NOT TURN A GREAT TRIUMPH INTO A GIANT & EMBARRASSING DEFEAT. IT’S TIME TO CELEBRATE, YOU DESERVE IT,” Trump wrote in the mostly all-caps massive.
While Trump had officially backed McCarthy for the Speakership last year, the endorsement was notable because the ex-president has a frequent habit of backing away from candidates who are losing.
The following day, on the fourth, fifth, and sixth ballots, McCarthy got no more votes than he had the first day. There is absolutely no indication that Trump’s word convinced any of the anti-McCarthy block to reassess their positions.
Perhaps the biggest indication of this? Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a leader of the “never Kevin” faction, may very well have been the most Trump-sycophantic lawmaker in all of Congress during Trump’s presidency. But on Wednesday, Gaetz told Fox News that Trump’s endorsement of McCarthy had not swayed him.
“Sad!,” the Florida Congressman said of Trump continuing to back McCarthy. “This changes neither my view of McCarthy, nor Trump, nor my vote.”
Unlike just about every other aspect of Republican politics since 2015, the Speakership fight isn’t really about Donald Trump.
It’s not a fight between Trump loyalists and Trump detractors, because both the pro-McCarthy and anti-McCarthy sides are full of people who were associated with Trump- and very few Trump detractors remain in the Republican caucus in Congress.
The sides, conservative Republicans all, are fighting over things that have nothing to do with Donald Trump.
In the past, many Republicans had been reluctant to cross Trump, first because he was president, and later because he was thought to possess an unbreakable hold on the Republican base, the kind that could force primary challengers on anyone who got on his bad side. That fear appears to have finally receded.
The Washington Post noted this as a sign of Trump’s waning influence.
“In the long run-up to the race for speaker, Trump was the leading character in a bevy of political parlor games — including breathless, overhyped scenarios in which the former president would offer himself up for the gavel and speculation about whether Trump would endorse McCarthy’s bid,” the Post analysis said.
“In the end, Trump supported McCarthy’s candidacy — and his party responded with a collective shrug. The former president and his endorsement, it seemed, were essentially irrelevant.”
The Post also noted that Trump’s name was notably absent during Wednesday’s floor speeches.
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.