Reprinted from The Nation
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House majority leader Kevin McCarthy's abrupt exit from the race for the House speakership, coming shortly after John Boehner's only slightly less abrupt decision to quit the job, confirms that the Speaker's post as defined by the House Republican Caucus is no longer meaningful and that this Republican-led House of Representatives is no longer functional.
These two realities, even if they are rarely acknowledged by political and media elites, tell us more about the sorry state of the Republican Party than anything that is happening in an admittedly awkward and unsettling race for the party's presidential nomination.
A party that once engaged in the hard work of governing -- with a sense of responsibility, and often with success -- is now so at odds with the very idea of functional governance that it struggles to contribute anything more than the word "no."
Boehner's plan to exit at the end of October, and McCarthy's inability even to pick up the outgoing Speaker's broken baton, represents another triumph for an extremist inclination that has redefined the party's congressional and presidential politics. This inclination is more anarchical than traditional, more cutthroat than conservative.
It does not really matter who wins what Congressman Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, calls a "brand new race for speaker." The Republican Party's mayhem has become so debilitating that the mayhem now defines the position more than the occupant.
The Grand Old Party has become the Party of Chaos. And the extent of that chaos--as evidenced by the inability of its House caucus to manage the speakership--offers a profound measure of the extent to which the Republican Party has abandoned its founding promise and its historical mission.
The first Republican Speaker of the House, Nathaniel Prentice Banks of Massachusetts, took charge of the chamber less than two years after the founding of the party and immediately shook up the politics of the country by installing anti-slavery congressmen in key positions. In the most contentious of times, however, he operated as a man of the House, working with all factions, encouraging open debate, and generally making the chamber work. Indeed, former Speaker Howell Cobb, a Georgia Democrat with whom Banks had no agreement on the critical issues of the day, said the Republican was "in all respects the best presiding officer [the House] had ever seen."
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